An unexpected find

9-ring binder closed
9-ring binder closed

I picked up this item in my local branch of Morrisons’ supermarket this week for the princely sum of £3.00. It isn’t pretending to be a high quality product, but I found it irresisible because of the 9-ring mechanist which looked surprisingly similar to a Filofax Deskfax configuration.

Filofax have made many different sizes of binder over the years and the ever-reliable Steve Morton over at Philofaxy has recorded that the Deskfax size was introduced around about 1992 and only produced for a few years. It uses B5 paper, which lies between A5 and A4. If you’d like to read Steve Morton’s full post, it can be found here.

9-ring binder with Personal paper
9-ring binder – compatible with Personal paper

I have checked and this inexpensive file does seem to have the same ring spacing as the Deskfax which means that the paper inside it would fit a Deskfax and this plastic binder could be used to archive papers from the main Deskfax binder. Of course, that would only be useful if you had a Deskfax binder which I don’t; I bought this purely because it piqued my interest. This ring configuration allows Filofax Personal-sized paper to be inserted, but the rings are not consistent with the punching on their A5 paper.

9-ring binder pen test front
9-ring binder pen test front

The binder comes with 96 sheets of 80gsm, ruled, cream-coloured notepaper. This seems similar quality notepaper to the journal which I bought just before Christmas – not the greatest, but actually pretty good considering the price these items are being sold at. The test page using my fountain pens shows the minimum of bleedthrough and a tolerable level of ghosting/showthrough. I could very happily write on both sides of this paper. Each page has a block at the top left with the initials of each day of the week and then an area to write the date at the top right. The line ruling is quite strong and black, with the lines being a generous 9mm apart, giving 24 lines in the writing area.  The additional bold lines at the top under the date area and at the bottom include little vertical notches which help if you want to draw vertical lines to divide up the page; these are approximately 7mm apart.

9-ring binder pen test back
9-ring binder pen test back

The closure system for the binder is a simple, black elastic treasury tag which slips into notches on the cover, and there is a single plastic flyleaf which, like the cover itself, is slightly frosted. On a couple of the holes in the flyleaf, the punching hasn’t quite removed the centre circle, I think that’s understandable in this level of product.

Does this paper size have a place in my life? Would I, perhaps, think of buying a Deskfax-sized organiser if I found one? Not really. At heart, I am happiest with A5 paper and I increasingly find that an A5 exercise book is just about perfect for portability and ease of writing. However, the B-series paper sizes are gaining in popularity with the planner community, providing a larger writing space than the A-series sizes without feeling like too much of a leap. Many fans enjoy the B6-size planners because they retain the portability of the A6 or Filofax Personal planners but give a bit more writing space. The main advantage to the A-series paper sizes is that they exactly double in size as you go through the scale; so if you divide an A4 sheet in half, you get two A5 sheets and if you divide the A5 sheet in half, you get two A6 sheets. This makes them very adaptable, especially in countries where the A-series paper predominates. If you divide a B5 sheet of paper in half, you do not get two B6 size sheets* (Edited to correct: the lovely Amanda of paperpensink has corrected me – B5 halved does give you two B6 sheets. Thanks, Amanda!)

In conclusion, I think this is an excellent product considering the pricing and the type of shop in which it was sold. Top marks to Morrisons.

Interesting fact – whilst I was writing this, there a plane was flying over leaving a trail in the blue sky and for a good while the clouds it was heading towards were moving at the same speed as the plane.


One book July? I’m in!

01-07-19 One Book July
You’ve seen it all before, but here it is today

Since 2014, some enterprising ladies on the internet have been running a challenge called One Book July. If you’re not part of the “planning” community everything I am going to write from here on in will seem a little odd, or totally crazy, to you, but you may enjoy it all the same.

What is One Book July? Why One Book July? Well, there are an awful lot of different planning systems out there in the universe nowadays, and if you find you have even a slight interest in time management/planning/personal productivity, in a very short time you are probably going to fall down a massive rabbit hole and find you go from owning one little week per view diary that fits in your pocket to one of every type of diary/ring-bound planner/Travelers’ Notebook/Erin Condren Spiral Bound planner/Cocoa Daisy insert….. you get my drift.

Noticing the growing tendency for people to become overwhelmed by the choice available, and by the number of planners they personally own, a group of ladies suggested that for the month of July 2014, interested members of the community should pick one planner and one pen and use them exclusively. Some people managed it, some people found out a lot about themselves but didn’t complete the challenge. Each year since then, the challenge has been issued, but each year it has a new twist and members of the community can choose from a number of options that have built up over the years.

As a person who has stood on the edge of the rabbit hole, but not disappeared down it, I haven’t previously been enticed by the One Book July challenge, although I’ve often watched videos about it. This year, however, I’m going to break with tradition and take part. That’s because this year the group are putting their focus on The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll and I am still reading this so I think there is a lot of value to taking part in a group reading of it.

My planner/bullet journal set-up is going to be the one I’ve been using the past couple of months – my Filofax Notebook with the Mark and Fold weekly diary pages at the front and lined notepaper behind them. This is a departure from the standard Bullet Journal set-up, particularly in that the optimal paper suggested is always dot grid. I love lined paper and hate any kind of grid so I’m following my own heart on that particular point. I find the pre-formatted diary pages work well for my future logging and as a repository for upcoming events but I hope to put into practice a better way of processing information on the collections and longer-term lists side of the equation, and learn a lot about the goal-setting and reviewing area which I am poor at, to say the least.

Just a word, before I depart, about the one pen part of the original challenge. Really? One pen? No way! One book, all the pens – that’s the way to do a challenge!

For the expert information about this year’s One Book July challenge, check out Dispatches From The Frat House or search for One Book July on YouTube for a plethora of videos.

Planning – a new experiment

*For a better view, click on any photo to see the full-size image.

As I mentioned in my wrap-up post from National Stationery Week, I was unlikely to continue using the ring-planner I had set up due to size issues and personal preferences. The more I think about it, the more useful I find that experiment was – it forced me to consider what does and doesn’t work with the planning set-up I have been using this past couple of years.

My very strong preference has always been to use an A5-ish size page which hits the sweet spot of portability and ease of use. For a while now, I have been eyeing the Filofax A5 Notebook which offers minimal ring intrusion coupled with the ability to move pages at will and, with the correct punching, to add your own items. I was loath to try one, though, because of my experience with the paper quality in Filofax’s other notebook system – the Clipbook – which I tried a few years ago. I had a couple of big problems with that design:

  • The cover felt unpleasant, particularly where it bulged around the 6-ring mechanism and I found it awkward in use.
  • The paper was thicker than the standard Filofax used for their traditional ring-planner inserts, but the quality wasn’t up to using fountain pens and inks. There was feathering and bleed-through a-plenty.

Whilst many users had said the paper in the Notebook products was fountain-pen friendly, I wasn’t sure if I should trust that. However, this design did seem to offer the potential to incorporate my diary and notebook in one very portable cover, so yesterday I trotted off to my local department store’s stationery shop* and purchased the Vista Blue notebook. I must say, so far I am very impressed with it and it scores highly on the following points:

  • The paper is really good as the above pen test photos illustrate. The only pen to bleed through was the Pilot CD marker which is not a pen I would ever use on paper anyway. The wet-writing Parker 51 with a medium (?) nib produced the most show-through, but my regular pen and ink combinations were perfect, I certainly wouldn’t have any trouble using both sides of the paper.
  • I like the cover which is a stiffened plastic with a very pleasant feel and lays completely flat when open. When required, the cover folds back on itself allowing you to write easily with it held in one hand. There is an elastic band attached to the back cover to hold the notebook securely closed when you have it in your bag.
  • Because the wire binding is almost completely covered, it is a lot less likely to squash than a standard wire-bound notebook; I think it also gives a very neat look to the book.
  • You get 56 sheets of 6mm ruled paper – I’d prefer it a bit wider ruling, but it’s still practical, plus an additional few sheets of plain and 5mm grid paper to try out. You can buy replacement paper pre-punched from Filofax in various designs.
  • The notebook includes four dividers which seem to be made of a slightly plastic-feeling card – one of these is designed to form a pocket which is useful.
  • The size is just perfect, giving plenty of space to write easily on either side of the paper but in a format that slips easily into a handbag to carry out with me. It’s nice and lightweight, too, which increases the portability.
  • There is a good choice of covers online, but availability locally will be dependent upon the retailer.

I have just a couple of very minor negative points:

  • The plastic ruler/page marker included with the notebook is very flimsy and doesn’t stay securely attached to the rings. I have now covered mine completely with washi tape on both sides and re-cut the holes which seems to make it a bit more secure. I can see good reasons to keep the marker as thin as possible, but having it detaching from some of the rings as I’m turning it is a slight irritation.
  • From watching a few review videos on YouTube (I can recommend the bullet journal one from Goldspot Pens), I could see that it can be difficult to turn the pages if you have the notebook stuffed. I’ve gone for a minimal layout, incorporating three months of week on two pages diary and 25 sheets of lined paper, with three of the dividers.
  • The replacement paper packs are not badly-priced, but they only appear to have 32 sheets of paper which is rather meagre and I envisage I’d be buying more than one pack at a time – a lot of plastic wrap could be saved if there were 50 or more sheets to a pack. The pastel and marble papers Filofax offer appear to have 60 sheets per pack which is better.

Filofax sell a punch to cut holes of the required size and shape to suit the notebooks and I think that would be a useful tool to buy in the fullness of time. The ability to punch different papers and other items to slot into the notebook is one of the primary selling points of these notebooks. Whilst I have the A5 size, they also do this design in a pocket size and an A4 – the hole spacing is uniform across the different sizes and the hole punch will work for any of them. However, you don’t have to have the special punch – it is possible to use a standard hole punch and cut slots into each hole, which is how I have incorporated the pages from my A5 Mark + Fold diary into this cover:

10-05-19 Diary FoFN

I shall be very interested to see how this notebook holds up over time, but my first impressions are positive and I am more likely to use this long-term than the ring-planners I have used before, or than a bound bullet journal style of book.

Hope this has been of a little interest to you. I feel next week it would be nice to get away from the stationery theme and share something different – we shall see. Until then, I hope you all have a good weekend and find some time to enjoy yourselves.

Jarrolds is a department store based in Norwich with a long history of stationery and art products, not to mention a decent book department. They have gone rather up-market over recent years and have recently moved their stationery from the ground floor up to the third floor, but I am trying not to hold that against them.


You know it’s coming

Kikki K & Filofax binders
Personal size planner/organiser binders: Kikki K – Filofax – Kikki K

Oh, so it’s that time of year, is it? The time when even monogamous me gets the pretty, flitty thoughts and starts digging about in her planner patch. In keeping with the general story of my life, I am in limbo at the moment and I need something to happen before I can make a decision about exactly how I will be planning/organising/keeping a diary for 2019. It seems that everyone has a different word for pretty much the same concept so I’ve offered a few options there.

I haven’t used a ring-bound planner this year, and I might not next year. Then again, I might, and if I do, it is likely to be in one of the above three binders, which are all the ‘personal’ size. For a couple of months now I have been thinking that I would really like a navy blue A5 Filofax Original, but Filofax don’t sell such a thing in Great Britain and I’m not going to break my habit and order one from abroad. The ‘why no navy blue?’ is a lament I have been singing for a few years (I would settle for cobalt blue if navy were too much of a stretch) and Filofax have indeed added navy blue options in a few of their styles, but not in the Original which is, as you will guess, the style I really like above all others – it is so sleek and minimal. I love my fuchsia patent Personal size shown.

A couple of years ago, I finally took the opportunity to visit a Kikki K stationery shop in London and I bought the mint-green binder with silver speckles which I used a fair amount. However, not so long after my visit they came out with their ‘Creative’ theme which is all navy blue and red and I was finally able to buy a navy blue leather binder, albeit not quite as sleek as the one I had in my imagination. I didn’t use this very much at all, mainly because carrying anything not absolutely essential to my continued existence on an everyday basis became impossible from July 2017 to July 2018 due to the location of my workplace and the rigmarole of getting there and home again. Plus, of course, this year I have been so happy using my bound diary from Mark + Fold that I haven’t really been tempted by my ring-binders.

So, there I was yesterday, unearthing my binders and first off I took the mint green one out of its box and, oh, it brought joy to my heart – you know, that joy that Marie Kondo bangs on about? Then, when I got the navy one out, I felt a bit ho-hum, so clearly most of the time I have no real grasp of what I want at all. This is helpful, though, as it means I can stop obsessing about navy blue Filofaxes – well, for a few days at least.

After I looked at each binder, I worked on the more serious part of the process – removing all the inserts, separating them into used and unused, weeding out ones to be kept from ones to be disposed of, putting like with like. As a result of this, I know I can easily set up a binder for next year without needing to buy anything new – just need to print dated inserts – and that the binder would definitely be the mint green Kikki K, at least for part of the year. Finally, I got the completed years in order and stored in an accessible way in with my journals which is a big improvement. Although I regularly go back and forth between digital and paper for my planning/organising/diary, I have pretty comprehensive Filofax-style pages for 2014-2017 inclusive and that rather surprised me. I think I may be more on the paper side of things than I thought.

Once I have made my firm decision on how the planning/organising/diary will go next year, I will let you know.

I would also like to note just how much I am enjoying my Advent Calendar this year – the Milkybar one has proven to be a great choice. Here is a gratuitous desk shot of my coffee/Advent Calendar break yesterday (the calendar doesn’t live here – I brought it over to open it).

Coffee break 04-12-18
4th December 2018 – Coffee break with Advent Calendar

Do you plan/organise/keep a diary? Is it paper or electronic?