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Yesterday, at a regional event for a national association to which I belong, one of the organisers was briefing the assembled members on planned events for the near and medium future. As he did so, I took out my trusted ‘Filofax’ (a generic term used by the uninformed for personal planning systems) and entered one such event into the appropriate monthly page for March 2020.

With a well-meaning chuckle, a friend commented, “Your whole life is in there, isn’t it?”

To be frank, not all of my life is in there, but a lot of the planned future events are. Along with planned assembly of materials, menus, referential data, booking references, confirmations and other bumf that might be needed to ensure that the said event goes smoothly. It is also, of course, a diary/record of what I do in a day – contacts and conversations, expenses incurred and (occasionally) bills paid, and notes of meetings that I can transcribe into a fuller form later, for example.

Modernists would quite rightly imply that a lot of what I am describing can equally efficiently be organised on a smartphone, and they would be right. Provided that any task list allows you to set priorities, organise around context (GTD) or roles or other criterion. Provided that your diary can attach small documents to a diary entry (which many can but it’s as fiddly as fish). Provided – and this is a major one in our modern era – you can refer to it in three years’ time when you need an alibi!

(I’m only partially joking, here. As I write, it’s Prince Andrew’s turn in the barrel about whether or not he spent time with a consenting adult (UK)/statutory rape victim (US) in 2001. That’s as I understand it and I take no sides or view on the matter. This is a time management blog, nothing more. I reckon if he had a diary……….I’m surprised no-one’s asked. )

The beauty of paper is that it doesn’t get lost in a drawer when your new 2-year diary/data/texts/calls contract update comes along and you don’t transfer all the old stuff to the new device. And don’t anyone tell me that they routinely do so – I’d happily challenge anyone who relies solely on their ‘phone to look up what they were doing on the 3rd of November 2016. I can.

(Four Daily Telegraph crosswords, a Speakers Club evening event, some shopping trip. And a Brexit decision was delayed in a High Court decision. Gina Miller’s, I expect. I could check.)

Of course, on any device you can keep/store some material related to the events you attend, but with a paper system you can still make a reference to which ‘actual’ computer you keep your source documentation. And the ‘screen’ is often bigger.

In effect, in either case – paper or device – there are compromises to be made. It’s very much a personal choice, and your situation may influence the choice you make.

If it’s to cumbersome a system to carry, you can always do what I do. In the event I am ‘away from my planner’ I have been known to send myself emails from one account to another, as a reminder to enter something important into my planner, when I can. This is actually more efficient than writing a phone note because (guess what?) you probably rarely check the notes you make on your phone. Have a look, now. Any ancient notes that are no longer relevant, that make you go, “Oooh! I’d forgotten that!”

In the final analysis, my advice is – just have a system. A reliable, wide-ranging system that consists of more than an A6 diary. You can design it yourself using free, downloadable advice HERE* and put it into an A4 binder for fourpence ‘apenny. It’s amazing – every letter you receive, any document or email you print, and sizeable record you need to keep, can all be printed onto A4 paper and kept in an A4 planning system.

Today’s homework is to download that free doc – you don’t have to register or anything, I don’t want your email address – and decide, after reading it, if there’s anything there that you can use.

I hope you find it useful. Prince Andrew would have.


*Look for this!

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