Latest Update: Correction on the Personal size – as Paulien quite rightly points out in the comments, it’s not the same size as the US Classic organisers at all. I’ve updated the bits about my choice, too, as I’ve switched to A5 since writing this post.
The mini is the smallest size – smaller than the pocket, which is a touch confusing. It’s the only one that really is pocketable. The problem is the size of the paper – it’s very small. If all you want is a few little notes whilst you’re about and about, it could do the job. I think they’re a bit too small, personally, but this is one of the few sizes I’ve never actually owned.
Some of the Mini binders have an extra pocket that wraps right around the outside, like a note pocket around a wallet, making them a good substitute for a wallet or purse.
When they say “Pocket”, I think they mean jacket pocket – these are a bit on the bulky side for a trouser pocket, though mine does fit in my jeans, it makes for a fairly impressive bulge 😉
This is the size I’m using at the moment. The usable size of the paper (ignoring the bit where the holes are) is just a tiny bit smaller than a 3×5″ index card, so if you’re used to a
The Lyndhurst is the only one available in this size with a zipper, or the Executive gives a very slimline option if you don’t want the lines of your jacket to be spoiled too much.
This is the original ‘standard’ size for Filofaxes, and so it’s the size with the most options available for binders and fillings. You get a fair bit more paper area than with the Pocket, but you pretty much give up on being able to fit it in a pocket – though a large coat pocket may still do the job. The paper is quite tall and narrow, and I’ve never found it to be a very useful shape. Good for lists, addresses, and such like, but not as good for mind-mapping and scribbling.
This looks like it’s the same size as the Day Runner Running Mate size, though I’m not certain if the holes are in the same places.
The slimline models are just versions of the Personal size with smaller diameter rings and no closure. They’ll slip away into a jacket pocket more easily, but there’s nothing to keep them shut, and they’re often a bit ‘floppy’.
The A5 models give you plenty of space for notes and scribbling, but at the expense of a whole lot of size. I find them much too big to carry – they’re not subtle, and when I’ve tried them, I’ve found I don’t feel comfortable taking them with me in public – they’re a bit too noticeable. If you don’t mind that, though, there’s a couple of big advantages…
- More space for mind mapping and brainstorming – the A5 is the first size that gives you room to think.
- It’s a standard paper size – over here in Europe, at least, A5 paper can be bought by the ream, so with a hole punch and the excellent forms at D*I*Y Planner, you’ve got an easy system. The D*I*Y Planner forms are available for Personal too, but if you’re in Europe, it’s a lot easier to do in A5. Also, you can just load your printer with A5 paper, and print stuff out to read later.
The real Man-Size Filofaxes – these are very big and hefty to carry about – probably more useful if you actually don’t want to carry it with you. If I didn’t want to carry it with me, though, I wouldn’t be using a Filofax. The other notable feature of the A4 versions is that they’re very expensive. The model I have as a pocket binder, in A4 size would be over Â£100 (almost $200 US).
Styles and Features
There’s a whole range of different styles and features available…
I have a pet hate for things that pretend to be leather. I don’t mind things not being leather, as long as they don’t try to look like leather. PVC with a leather-like grain pressed into it is out for me. I love the real leather models, but if not those, I’m quite happy with the cloth bound ones. The Logic isn’t bad, actually, as it’s PVC without any leather-like patterning, and most of the cover is a microfibre cloth.
The A5 Identity I had for a while just felt cheap and nasty every time I used it. If you don’t like holding the thing, you won’t get the use out of it.
Some have no closure at all, most have a press-stud, and a couple have some sort of elastic strap to hold them closed. If you like the idea of shoving loose sheets in there, or just want the paper inside a bit better protected, the zip-around models might be best.
There’s a couple of drawbacks, though…
- Slower access – zipping and unzipping takes a tiny bit of extra time, so getting to your notes can be a bit slower.
- Bigger size – the overall size of the organiser is increased by the zipper. This also means that the area of paper you get relative to the size of the thing you’re carrying is less than with other closures.
I find the advantages to be worth it, and I love my pocket Lyndhurst. The zip around makes it save to chuck a few loose bits in there, and I know that my pencil and cards can’t get knocked out of the binder and lost.
If you pick a size where you can print on the right size paper, or you don’t mind a little effort with a cutter, you’ll love D*I*Y Planner – they make forms that you can download and print for free (though they’d love a donation to help cover the expense of putting these things together) so you get exactly the system you want.
Personally, I find I get on well with plain or lined paper for the most part – I don’t use many forms. It’s probably for the best, as the Pocket takes a strange paper size that would be tricky to get hold of and print on. The HipsterPDA sized forms would probably do the job quite well, though it might mean a bit of scaling.
At the time I originally wrote this article, I was using a Pocket Lyndhurst, which did very nicely for me for quite a while. Eventually, though, it just felt a bit too small, and I didn’t like having to keep rushing out and buying Filofax paper. I finally spent the alarmingly large amount of money for an A5 Lyndhurst, and apart from a couple of experiments with alternatives, I’ve used it ever since.
You probably want the biggest area of paper you can carry, but if the binder ends up too big and heavy, you’ll end up leaving it behind. The question to ask is how often you want to have it with you. I wanted to have mine with me in the kitchen when making a cup of tea, so I could make a quick note if I had an idea or realised we needed more milk. Even the personal size is big enough that I’d have left it upstairs in the office, so I had my hands free for the tea. The Mini would have been even more pocketable, and easier to carry, but the paper seemed to small to be useful.
If you only really want to keep it nearby, and you don’t mind having to nip back to another room for it, you could get away with something bigger. I finally gave up on the Pocket, and moved to A5. I keep a few blank business cards in my wallet, so I can still make a note about that milk.
If you’re in Europe, another consideration is the standard paper sizes – there’s a definite advantage to using A5 or A4, whereas in America, the Personal size may be easier to print for. Either way, hole punches are expensive – Filofax sell their own, but they’re around Â£25 each. If you only intend to use it very occasionally, a single-hole punch can do the job, but it’s more work than you’d want to do too often.
If in doubt, and you’re thinking of spending a lot, it might be worth considering picking up a very cheap (maybe second hand) binder in the size you’re thinking of, so you can make sure the size is right before spending real money. If you can find a dealer that has all the sizes to play with, though, you can probably work it all out there – the staff of our local Staples are very understanding about me spending hours poking all of their binders.
And yes, I mean hours.