Running a Work and a Personal planner


Hmmm. For a very introverted and shy person, some of my posts are very long! You wouldn’t think I have that much to say. Perhaps this long-winded writing is part of the reason behind my long gaps between posts in prior years. Because it would take so long for me to make any post, instead of just a simple one. Well, anyway, here’s another long and rambly one!

I strongly believe you should pay attention to how you ARE using your planner(s). Not how you should be.

That said, where do you naturally tend to write things quickly:
when you have an idea,
when you remember something,
you hear a song you really like you want to jot down, or a movie to add to the watch list,
when someone gives you info you need to capture,
you’re on the phone to take a note or a message.

You might have a system for all of the above to which you abide seamlessly.
You might have a system for these, but still grab whatever is nearest.

Whatever place I capture stuff, it’s then up to me to make sure they get migrated to the right notebook or planner in my system.

So happens that I make lots of notes and lists frequently for the various areas of my life. I do NOT want to carry all that information with me everywhere I go. Instead, I currently use several ring-bound notebooks for different areas of my life, but they’re not all actual “planners” as they have no sort of calendar or planning system. I would call them notebooks or containers of ideas and information.

I do have a separate personal planner and work planner. This has been my most-used setup for more years than I can remember, even though I did make an unsuccessful attempt at a combo work-personal a few years back.

Simple Syncing

From other people’s posts or videos, syncing calendars seems to be a common downfall in using two planners.

In my case, the word syncing is a misnomer really because I don’t fully sync the two schedules. You know like when you sync your electronic calendars, everything copies to the other place?  Well, my system doesn’t. My system is simple syncing.

Running two separate books for planning (ones where you are doing actual planning via calendars and schedules), doesn’t necessarily mean you must record all of the timed appointments and commitments in both books.

My use of two planners, particularly when working outside of the home, would only contain ‘schedule overlap’ from the other planner if it impacted the other calendar.

The goal in my system is merely to see what is required of me during the day. Anything overlapping isn’t going to get a lot of data written in the ‘other’ calendar but rather will get a short note or reminder – a placeholder.


Morning meeting at office that requires something be picked up on the way into work also gets jotted in the personal planner since this is not a routine event in my before-worktime mornings.

Offsite work event that I would drive to directly from home and not meet at the office first would also go in my personal planner for that morning.

An upcoming after-hours work meeting would get an entry about working late in the personal planner on that date.

A mid-day personal appointment would absolutely be shown on both planners since it’s prime-time overlap. It gets only a cryptic note in the work planner. So, if there’s a 3:30p personal dental appointment during the working day, I would just put on my work calendar ‘out of office’ or ‘out-dental’ at that time. This serves as the appropriate placeholder for the office work and to make sure I don’t steamroll over that appointment with a meeting or something, and to make sure I inform the management of my scheduled outing.

Something work-related that falls on the weekend, which is normally my time.

Making a recipe for a covered-dish/potluck thingie for work.

I don’t need the 7:00a recycles pick-up day at home on my work planner if my work day starts at 8:30a. Whereas I might want a simple reminder on the work planner reminding me to leave on time if I’ve got a personal plan for that evening.

And the best one of all:

Scribbling OUT OF OFFICE – VACA!!!! on the work planner.

It is worth noting that this system works for me because:

When working for someone else, I don’t want to see their workstuff on my beloved personal planner. This is simply a preference. When I look back at my planners (which I love to do), all I want to see is how we’ve been living our life. The places we traveled, memories of the places we’ve lived – different states, cities and homes, the family and friends we’ve spent time with, our special occasions, and so on. These reviews are a source of personal joy.

My work planner is way more than a calendar. It is most common that any place you work is going to have a calendar on Outlook or the like. I do not aspire to recreate the Outlook work calendar in my planner. All of the attendees, details and attachments can stay right there in Outlook. My planner is to plan my work for this week, and for today. All appointments for the week are reviewed each Monday morning. I make a short note of all of them in their time slots onto the paper planner for planning purposes “conf call re: project name,” “HR benefits mtg,” or “covered-dish thingie.” Then I fill in the deadlines and due dates going on that week. From there it’s priority to-do items and getting ready for any of those conference calls or meetings (do I need to prepare something for these, do I need to read any emails or attachments for these, etc.). It is worth noting that many pieces of projects are also tracked in shared project software apps. I am deliberately and intentionally taking the extra steps to copy/rewrite into my planner the pieces I am responsible to do this week or follow up on. It does not replace the project software, it makes my pieces part of MY week’s work plan. There is no way I want to see all of this detailed work week when I am at home, on my time. Likewise, this keeps my focus clear with context clarity. I am at work, focusing on work with less distraction from seeing personal items I can’t work on right now anyway.

I plan with and review my planners often. This point cannot be emphasized enough.

This includes reviewing my personal planner in the mornings at home before I begin work, to see what I’ve got to do that morning, day and evening… trash pick-up this morning?, pay bills?, buy birthday card? Get casserole safely situated into car for the office covered-dish thingie?

Work planner review, with opposite perspective in mind:

Anything coming up tomorrow, this week, next week, that impacts my personal schedule?

This includes looking ahead:

Special upcoming work party in a few weeks and need outfit – loathe shopping, when do I want to do that?

Choose recipe for covered dish thingie at office. And so on.

Work book stays at work whenever possible

In my case, whenever possible, the work book stays at the desk.

There’s nothing personal in it so I am not missing it at home.

Likewise, I am not embarrassed if someone at office sees book contents.

Clearly there are exceptions to bring it with you – any days where you might plan to work from home, or when you absolutely must work outside of your regular hours, or travel.

Alternatively, work book can travel home if you have one of those jobs where you have to work extra a lot. You also have the option to bring it along at uncertain times, just in case, and just leave the planner in the car for the night (knowing it’s there if needed). Like, it might snow and ice tonight and they might want us to work from home tomorrow rather than coming into the office.

Personal book can do whatever doing the workday – I like bringing it along for the day, and it stays in the purse or bag, or car, if needed. Not on the desk – keeps personal info private and minimizes the off-chance it might get left behind for the day.

If you’ve got the kind of job where you can attend to your personal business while you’re at work, and if you’re not going to access your personal planner during the workday for those items, I would prefer to make a small list of those items on a sticky and tack it onto the work planner until those are done (rather than writing them into the work book). That way you’re not leaving your personal notes in the work binder permanently. You can then discard the sticky or put it back in your personal book if you want to keep it.

Other benefits to this separate books system:

If you ever leave the job and have the kind of job that will want to retain the work planner pages, you will not lose your personal info in this exchange.

You can go all out personalizing your personal planner without concern of people seeing all that when you are sitting next to them in a meeting. Or maybe your inner you favors a lot of bling and fluff on your planner and you’re not entirely comfortable with that look in the conference room.

Personal privacy.

In closing, we all know this isn’t for everyone. Some people just prefer a one-book everything. We all have our own preferences. This is my system that suits my mind nicely and I love the fact that we can all personalize our planning exactly the way we like! I am just happy to see anyone, anywhere using a planner at any time. 🙂

If you made it this far… thank you for reading!

Disconnect to Reconnect


Earlier this year I started a new endeavor: breaking up with my smartphone.

Essentially, I’ve come to notice that I spent entirely too much time looking at my phone screen, sometimes for no reason at all. A quiet habit that snuck up on me, I caught myself one day just picking up my nearby phone to wake it up and flip through the screens. Wait, what, why? Realizing I had done this for no reason at all, I began to suspect this was going on more than I realized. So, after paying more attention to this, come to find that I actually had to stop myself from habitually grabbing the phone for this empty ritual. Instead of getting information I needed, information was getting me.

When I announced this finding to my husband, he remembered listening to a podcast series on this very topic. Upon some further reading, I came across plenty or articles and books on the subject of smartphones and information overload in general.

Now being fascinating with this finding, and undertaking a new observation of those around me, it became readily apparent just how engrossed so many people are in their phones – no matter what else they are doing. People driving and texting. People traveling the world seemingly on autopilot routines of taking selfies at every view spot and posting to their social sites instead of even looking at what they’re visiting. On a recent airport trip, we were seated facing two families. Family One had four people who were each staring and swiping away at their phones – silent and not a single smile. Family Two had five phoneless people, all laughing and talking and lighting up the area with their happiness. I am very introverted and using my phone or pad for reading and listening to books when flying or when waiting at airports is very comfortable for me. Although now I think I’d like to look up from reading and at least say hello to the people near me, and to mindfully enjoy my surroundings more.

So, I’ve very purposefully removed almost all of the notifications, news headlines, bells and whistles from my phone, and am treating it once again more like a phone. I rarely use any social sites, so those were not already installed anyway. Turns out I really like email, so it’s still undecided if it will stay on the phone. Having email at the computer seems truly enough in my case, based on my situation. Also, my phone is getting left behind a lot more these days. It’s no longer in my hand or back pocket most everywhere I go now.

If you’re interested in any of the above:

Accepting that these marvels of technology provide numerous useful tools, getting a handle on the habits and the apps that aren’t actually helping me has been a big eye-opener. I’ve used a smartphone since they first became available although right now it’s fair to say it’s being used far less. : )

Surprise! Good news about gappy rings (Filofax mini)


Wait for it… my Filofax mini Bloomsbury has gappy rings – and I didn’t even know it!

Over the past few years, I recall seeing many comments and posts about ring gaps on planners, and I think it was mostly Filofax (?). I hadn’t actually had any notice of such an issue in my use of planners all of this time so I didn’t delve into the topic.

Which brings me to this particularly funny observation of now. I’ve only just swapped this very dear to me mini Bloomsbury (my tiny black book) away from being my main binder recently. Using it now for some work notes (not fully set up).  Anyway, as I was just putting some paper and inserts into the Bloomsbury and I saw it. Gappy ring!  I was like, no, that can’t be. I didn’t have any problems using this binder. Now, please note these rings are so tiny. In order to verify my finding, I had to practically hold this binder right up to my eyeball for visual zoom-in. Then I had to try and focus a camera on it – I’m not great with a camera so it wasn’t easy for me!



So, I spent some time flipping and flicking papers back and forth over those gappy little rings and guess, what? Nothing! Just business as usual – joy! Had I not seen them, I believe I’d still be blissfully unaware of the gaps. No idea how long they’ve been there.

In conclusion, I’m super-happy to report that in this case, the gappy rings aren’t causing any issues. Maybe because it’s so small it doesn’t matter so much. I imagine things are different on different binders although I just had to spread the cheerful word that it most certainly isn’t always a bad deal. 🙂

Tangerine for 2017 (Filofax mini update)


Author’s note: Omilord. This post has grown out of control. It’s long and rambly. You’ve been warned – eeek! 

So I’ve rotated my mini Filofax binder (same system, different binder)!


filofax mini dorset – orange

This lovely little spot of sunshine is a spritely orange Dorset mini. The photo appears darker than the actual orange color. I’ve had this one probably about 4-ish years now. There are a few minis in my regular rotation, including my main mini and scrappy mini (sentimental bits and past calendar pages). So in this case, I am swapping the contents only and putting the tangerine-y Dorset into play as my main for now. Sometimes I like to rotate depending upon mood, situation, season, etc.  Please pardon my repetition, although in case someone new is reading:  It’s no secret that I will always be a one-life-many-planners kind of gal; I prefer having office work separate from my personal planner, and my personal business out of the work planner. I’m a believer in sticking with what works best with your brain and what comes most naturally to you.

I find the Dorset to be one of the nicer models ever produced by Filofax (when these were still in production). All of the Dorsets I’ve seen are a contrasting light tan shade on the interior. For exteriors, there is a black exterior, an orange, and I believe a red as well. Curious if there are others!

Upon opening, the interior left has 4 card slots – the lower of which is a slightly wider and different cut. For comparison, some of my other minis have just 2 or 3 slots in the front.


This tiny Dorset has a particularly sturdy and well-placed pen loop. You will see in the photo that the pen loop rests away from the interior, and is shaped differently than most pen loops.


The Dorset mini also has the full-width wallet-style opening across the top of the binder. This wallet pocket is part of my overall system and use of the mini in general, although I don’t use mine as an actual wallet!

My interior setup is generally the same as in prior years, so this post will be a big yawn if you’ve seen my write-up from four-ish years ago. Either way, in case it’s helpful to anyone at all, here is an updated peek inside my mini (surely there is at least one new sticky note or doodle!).

So the basically-same setup is….

Front – clear pocket which is honestly only holding sentimental bits right now, mostly a romantic and Alaska theme. This is where my husband and I got together and got married – so very many fond memories there including our favorite breakfast restaurant and any version of a snowflake!


Monthlies – next up is the monthly sheets! One full year of months stays in the mini full-time.  A colorful paperclip divides the months already past, and takes me right to the current month. The monthly sheets are the key to ALL of my future planning. These are the only sheets that get any advance attention whatsoever. Anything at all that is coming up – next week, next month, or later – gets noted on the corresponding monthly  sheet.

This is the total overview of what is going on in my whole life. I call it the Monthly Enchilada.

These advance plans notes are very small, cryptic, and color-coded. For example, if I would be taking a flight to Phoenix on May 9 at 1:30 pm, I would just jot down “to AZ 1:30p” on that date. All of the other details I am going to get elsewhere, such as my boarding pass and eventually they will be written on the appropriate weekly page. A recurring due date every two weeks on Thursday just gets a circle around that date in the corresponding color. I know full well about this due date, and I just need a small visual reminder without all the extra details.

Every month for as long as I can remember, I tack a very small sticky on the month page of a few things that I really must do that month. This sticky can get applied as far in advance as necessary.

I tend to color a little bit on these monthlies with my silly little theme-of-the-month doodles.


mini monthly – nov 2016

Weeklies – the weekly sheets follow directly behind the monthly sheets. These get really messy! Like so messy! Weekly planning is done as the week draws near. Everything is filtered down from the monthly calendar, as well as anything new of importance that pops up at this time. The things that merit space on the weekly pages are: those which must be done/are important, real due dates, or appointments. This keeps the focus in clear view.


mini weekly

There are some things that are sort of floating for the week – I refer to these as “on my mind right now.” These get written on yellow sheet that I insert right smack in the middle of the week. It’s a simple solution that works for me. While it splits up the entire week view, I do not need to view Thursday’s block all day on Tuesday, for example, because I’ve already planned out what is the focus of today. When I need to see or write something onto the later part of the week, I just flip over the yellow pages.  Since they are yellow, it’s easy to see the line of demarcation between the rest of this week’s white pages and the yellow to-do sheets. Flip, jot, and flip back to today’s sheet! Sometimes there is overflow resulting in more than one yellow sheet.     



to-do stuff on my mind right now

When the new week rolls around, I throughly review the yellow sheet(s). This is Be Serious time. I strongly consider anything that wasn’t done in the prior week. Have I changed my mind about doing this, is it no longer really important, do I need to transfer it to a long-term-maybe-someday list, etc. Having these annoying little sheets in between your weekly view definitely helps keep your perspective. The idea here is to get them off the list and not keep dragging them along. But if they must be dragged along, then the undone sheet just get slipped into the next week! 🙂

Also, I will affix tiny sticky notes to the ruler divider here with a small shopping list for a store (home store, office supply, drug store, etc.). I just grab it off the ruler and take it with me when I go to that store.

I typically only have about 4-6 weeks of weeklies in the mini. I just keep moving out the past weeks and adding in upcoming weeks.

All of this activity in your planner keeps you in touch with your planner. It is a manual, tactile and tangible system that requires ongoing input and processing. The writing and reviewing is good for the mind, stress levels and focus.

Sections/tabs – after the weeklies, there are a few tabs (all blank tabs).

The first tab has a LOT (so messy!).  Topics behind this tab are separated by sheets of colored paper for easier reference – I don’t find it necessary to use tabs for these tiny little sections. Lists of to-do’s and things to research or figure out, business goals, a list of bills for the month (a simple cross-out as they get paid), a list of the annual recurring charges (Amazon Prime, anyone??). Currently about 21 sheets behind this tab plus quite a few sticky notes (did I say messy?) and some blank paper.

Next tab – the happy place! Life goals, areas of focus, inspirational thoughts, creative thoughts, notes about family and friends, enjoyable stuff. The same old drawing from the tag on some handmade knit gloves remains as the first sheet for this section. Currently about 9 pages plus a few small love notes, and some blank sheets.


love | life | happy tab section

The last tab is info. A few phone numbers and addresses for immediate family and closest friends. Some important numbers like car repair shop, directions to a few places I visit infrequently, and a very few notes of things like HVAC filter size, account numbers and telephone numbers for my bank. Pages of password clues for the zillions of logins. Stuff like that. Currently about 10-ish sheets.

Full-length wallet-top – the wallet section doesn’t get too stuffed, it’s usually got receipts if something must be returned to the store and sometimes a nice photo of a friend or family member. Basically it’s stuff that isn’t included in the ring binder.


full-length wallet top

I think that just about says it all. No exciting changes here really except for the binder swap. I use a very similar system in my work planner. Once you get the planner groove that works for you, it is likely you can apply it to other planners you might be using (such as if you run one for home and one for work).

Thank you for reading and best wishes to you and yours for a Happy New Year! 🙂

FYI re: vanilla folders site (updated 12/26)


Just a note to let you know I’m in the process of transferring my domain to another provider! Based on the way things are currently set up, I believe my blog (which is hosted at wordpress at should not be affected during the transition. So please be advised if you do experience any errors when visiting my site domain directly during this time, all should be sorted out as soon as the transfer is complete. 🙂

12/26 Update: site migration is complete – situation normal again. Yay!



Tips for using a mini Filofax tiny planner


I love, love, love my tiny mini Filofax planner. It makes me smile as well as anyone who sees it!

Here are a few ideas if you are trying to squeeze into a mini (these might even help folks who are aiming for the pocket size, too!).

Sticky notes – if you are a user of sticky notes (I’m an avid user), there are two sizes that work very well in a mini right out of the box. One is the super-cute, square 2″ x 2″ and  the other is the 1.5″ x 2″ size (which I refer to as the pat-of-butter format, especially because I favor the light yellow ones). Another option is to slightly trim down the larger square 3″ x 3″ size. They will fit the height of the page (up and down) as is, although they will hang off the side of the page if you don’t trim them down.

Writing – it really makes a difference if you use fine-point pens or pencils. I have excellent results with fine ball points, although I make equal use of fine mechanical pencils, Sharpie fine pens, and Le Pens.

Sheets – there are 20-ish lines on a Filofax-branded mini sheet. Some packets might have another line at the bottom, depending on where the paper was cut. So, 20-ish lines plus the empty space at the top margin.  Sometimes when I am making long lists or writing from my stream of thought, I remove the sheets from the mini and just write on the page. This makes the paper feel much larger!  I also keep a packet or stack of the empty sheets nearby in case I just need to grab one from there to start writing. Sadly, I don’t believe there are any Filofax notepads in this size.

Abbreviate – I can be really OCD about writing things out but oddly I have over the years come up with some abbreviations that stuck with me and I like them. Some are silly and some are just utilitarian. I like to jot, say, “hair 11a” on the day I have a haircut at 11:00a. An old boss of mine liked to use “HC” for his haircut appointments in his pocket-friendly planner.  I also have a 2-4 letter code for all names of my bills or banks. Other codes I use frequently: “can” (cancel), “mtg” (meeting), “cc” (credit card), “dc” (debit card), “reg’n” (registration) and “wkg” (working).

Further to abbreviating, think about what details you really need to include – are you writing down extra info that you really already know in your head? If it’s redundant, keep it as short as it can be to remain useful.

Hacks – Some talented folk have gone so far as to make card holders for their mini Filofax planners. Even if you don’t use yours as a wallet, you might want a card holder insert for bits and bobs or stamps!  Check out this tutorial from Jamie, one of those clever crafty souls who has been kind enough to make a guide for others.

Insert a sheet for overflow – if you are needing to squeeze in a little more info in your week or month, you can always stick another sheet in there. It’s funny how on a larger size planner that doesn’t appeal to me, but it is completely perfect to me in my mini. I think it’s because I know I am only putting what I truly need in my mini, and so it’s worth putting the extra sheets in if they have earned their place.

Routine review and cull –  If you’re tight on space, look carefully at what you are toting around with you in that tiny planner! A mini Filofax is not a file-it-and-forget-it system. Some items worth keeping might be kept at home, maybe they’ve become not-necessary at this moment but will again, or maybe they’ve fallen out of date or use right now. I keep a ‘scrappy mini’ (very scrappy) in my room where I love to keep an overflow of past items that bring me joy to see but are not part of my current planning. I actually keep lots of my old sheets and ticket-stub-type things although I don’t keep them in my main mini.

Rotate and refill – Add and remove upcoming weekly or daily calendar pages instead of trying to put them all in the mini. Philofaxy had a post about an on-deck binder to record more advance items on sheets that are not ready to move into your main planner yet. You could also record them as a note or sticky at the end of your current calendar sheets and make the transfer when you rotate in your new sheets.

Transferring to smaller binders – When moving down in binder size, if you have something that is just too large for your new smaller planner, consider using a color copier to reduce the image and then trim it down to size. You can do this with handwritten lists (instead of rewriting), photos, sticky notes, and possibly even some calendar sheets if you can hole-punch them. I had several items I wanted to squish into my mini (a sticker of the state of Alaska, a mall photo booth printout, handwritten sentimental notes, etc.) and was able to assemble several items onto the copier glass, then reduce them down to color copy onto one sheet of paper, which I then cut out for my tiny planner.

Mine is not a super-cute planner with photo-worthy, beautifully decorated pages, yet my planner is super-cute to me. It’s quite messy sometimes yet as long as I can read and understand everything in there, then it’s doing its job. If I write something in once, I have to leave that note in tact; if I rewrite it again elsewhere just to make it neater it will lose the original impact it had in my mind. Strange, I know! But it’s a helpful observation.

Using the size planner that works for you is clearly the most important factor in choosing your format. If for any reason you’ve decided to downsize there will be an adjustment period. Happily though, there will be a day when your eyes see the planner size in a new light. At first, against the stark contrast of your larger binders it can certainly seem a stretch. Although once I cast a critical eye to my larger binder pages and realized that my content was not filling up the pages inside it was the push I needed to give the smaller format a go.  The reward was a delightfully small compact planner that is easy to keep with me and doesn’t weigh down my purse or travel bag (and always makes me smile!).

I hope you find something helpful in all that tiny planner enabling. 🙂

Thank you for reading!


Still using my Filofax mini :)


Ok, so I don’t post very often (hardly ever!). Although I have had a wonderful last few years! I’ve moved out of state – twice – once up to amazing Alaska and then all the way to nearly-Florida. For the move down, it was a glorious, summertime road trip in a 1993 motorhome through Alaska and Canada and then across the US visiting family and friends along the way. The reason for the moves is the best news of all – I married the most amazing guy I’ve ever known and he was one of my best friends for many years before!

During all of this time, my beloved mini has been onboard.

The last time I posted about planners, I was using a personal size for my daily use in a combination of some work I was doing from home and my own personal stuff. It was worth a try, and the system worked fine, although it didn’t last long because I’ve never liked seeing any work stuff blended with my personal stuff! Even now, I still have a beautiful personal-size Siena that holds a lot of things that I don’t need as a daily planner but more like a reference book for some stuff.

One of the nicest things about my beloved mini is how every time I see it or pick it up I am delighted. I think  this is in part because it’s dedicated to being a personal book rather than a work book.

I’ve got a few minis that I can use to rotate between, or as a place to store any archive pages, etc. It is hard to believe Filofax has stopped making these joyous little planners. Thankfully, they can still be found through other means although not as readily.

Even though the mini pages are very, very small, I am consistently amazed how much a sheet can contain. Mini pages may not be suited to lengthy note-taking, yet they can hold a good bit of information!

Anyway, I love reading or hearing how others use their minis as planners. I’ve got plans, calendars, to-do lists, ideas, and important (select) contact info in mine, along with a mess of assorted stickies, papers, receipts, stamps and some sentimental sparkly bits!

Thank you for reading! : )