Letting Go of the Rings

On Using a Traveler’s Notebook Instead of a Filofax

A Traveler’s Notebook gives you almost as much room as an A5 Filofax, but in a much smaller package. More pictures at the end of this post.

When I bought my Gillio Compagna planner in personal size a few months back I was completely besotted. For a few rosy weeks, as I added dividers and inserts, I actually thought I had nailed my system. However, gradually, the nagging returned — that splinter in my mind, which in moments of low resistance points to greener grass far off in the distance.

Let’s be clear, my Gillio is the perfect ring bound planner in the Filofax personal size. It really is. My issues are with ring-bound planners in general.

While the rings gives you fantastic flexibility, makes it easy to design your own inserts and makes archival a breeze, they also add considerable bulk to the binder. The footprint is so much larger than the actual paper size, which forces me into a lose-lose type of situation. Paper in Filofax personal size is really to small for me. I much prefer paper in A5 size, but when I try binders large enough to accommodate them, I find them to heavy to carry around all day. I’m just not busy enough to justify this kind of effort.

For me, ring-bound planners don’t really allow the right compromise between paper size and planner bulk. So, this summer I’ve chosen to experiment a bit. I bought a Midori Traveler’s Notebook a couple of years back, but it really never clicked with me. I have now decided to give it a second chance. I wrote a version of my diary script for this new format and printed and bound a diary for the latter part of 2013. The larger paper allows me plenty of room for appointments and notes. I can also stick pieces of paper into the binding for extra space, or to remind me of things at a later date. This makes for a nice tickler system, in GTD parlance. I’ve also designed and printed versions of my todo inserts and I’ve set up the leather cover with a few folders, allowing me separate sections, including sheets for note taking. A kraft paper folder somewhat compensates for the lack of pockets.

So far, I like it very much. The pages in this system is the same height as A5, but somewhat narrower. This gives me a lot more room for writing, but since there are no rings the footprint of the binder is actually smaller than that of a personal size Filofax (well, it is taller, but narrower and much slimmer). It hits a sweet-spot for me.

While a ring bound system might be more flexible, the elastic strings that holds the Traveler’s Notebook together actually makes for a pretty adaptable system. I keep my todo section and note-taking section as folded loose-leaf sheets, which makes it easy to add and remove pages as I see fit. The obvious limitation of course is that one sheet makes four pages in the binder, not two as in a ring-bound binder.

I find the simplicity of folded paper held together by string to be beautiful. It is also surprisingly robust. No paper falls out of the binder. Ever. At the end of the year I intend to bind all my loose sheets (which are actually book signatures) into a proper book, with covers and all. There is something special with a bound book.

We’ll see how this goes.

— July 14th, 2013 · Tagged planner, travellers notebook, filofax, binder & stationary porn

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