iPad/GoodNotes versus The Filofax


Hallo. I am your friendly lifestyle guru, intending to help you make better decisions in life based on information… Naw, it just doesn’t feel right ya know? Let’s try that again.

Hello! I’m your friend on the internet, making everything up as I go because I don’t have any good answers for anything in life, except for maybe ”stay in school and don’t do drugs”. But even that’s not clear cut. Depending on where you are and what your perspective is, everything about schools can be bad and everything on drugs, good! I give up!

Nevermind that because today, we're tackling the age-old question of "To plan digitally or physically?".

On planners in general and Filofaxes in particular

Ever since I first saw the Filofax in real life, I’ve loved them. My older sister got one when I was 12. It was the old school small kind of Filofax. Teensy pages, a week on each page, with a pen holder and zipped back for cash and stickers and photos of your classmates. I got one for myself shortly thereafter.

But in spite of my love for office supplies that started before I knew what an office was, I remember not finding much actual use in it. That’s always been my problem with Filofaxes. I’ve loved them and wanted to organize my life so badly but when I get one, for long periods of time I don’t have much to write down. I still have that old Filofax though, in my box of stuff that I never look at but can't get rid of. It still contains the old planner of the year 2000, with important information like when I met different people and the date that I lost my virginity. If that doesn't make up for all the fruitless time I had a Filofax before that, I don't know what does!

So I used it less than I wanted to because I didn’t have to keep track of anything. As a deadbeat teenager, my life just sort of rolled on under the supervision of the school and my parents. I had calendars on and off during years following too, but… used them too little for it to be worth it. Does that mean I was a deadbeat grown-up as well? Oh. Anyways, I just stopped getting them.

While it was sad for me as a Filofax lover, I guess it at least says I got my shit together without a steady companionship of a planner. Maybe I was an accomplished grown-up anyway! Or I've just repressed the memory of forgetting stuff all the frickin' time. I can't tell.

But… come the year 2014. I spotted the Filofax Malden. Oh man. It was love at first sight. The saturated brown leather, the stitching around the edges, the inserts in brown and beige. The dreams and plans and the future greatness that I could enter into it. Hesitant, I trial-bought another, cheaper, planner. When I felt more confident and when I’d used the trial one regularly, DIY'd pages and loved it for over a year, I splurged on the Malden. It was finally mine and exactly as glorious as it had been on all those review videos, review blog posts, in the stores where I touched it and flipped its pages longingly so many times.

I still love it. Love. It. I've made lists and charts, calendar pages complete with dates and holidays. I've mixed premade pages with my own, to really customize it to my needs. I've made stickers and dividers and worked out a system that would fit me and my way of using the Filofax.

But… all the while I was traveling with it every six weeks. Along with books, pens, notebooks, papers and a laptop and the regular packing, the weight was taking its toll. I lugged things around until my shoulders screamed, shuffling everything onto trains and buses and into lecture halls and to BnB’s and back. After a year of this, while at work, I came upon the iPad. I wanted one to draw on like I watched my tattooer colleague do every day. But what could I do with it apart from that? That story you can read here.

Today, my Malden Filofax sits on my beloved antique shelf, decorating it along with old books and trinkets. I don’t use it since I moved everything over to the iPad two and a half years ago, but the thought of using it again hasn't left me. I'm not traveling for school for ten months, so now is a good opportunity to look over the specs. Let's get into it!

iPad and GoodNotes versus The Filofax!

iPad: The Good!


WTF is that, you’re thinking. Don’t worry, we’ll get to that.

It's lightweight and portable: Having it all in one little flat 10-inch piece of board is quite handy. All the pens and stickers and papers and refills and the Filofax itself weighs quite a bit and takes up room in your bag when you're out and about and having to take it with you.

Ease of use: Everything you need of your planner is available at all times. Laying in bed like a seal and realise you need to make a list of how not to be as much of a seal? Just poke your screen to add pages, either completely new formats or your premade sheets that you painstakingly made in Photoshop earlier and uploaded to the cloud. You want an entirely new notebook for a new purpose? Just import or make it on the spot! Multiple colours? Just change the pen colour.

Ability to edit templates: When making your own pages for GoodNotes, and discovering errors after importing it, you can simply just go into the original file and edit, re-upload and tada! No wasting papers and having to re-print, cut to size and punch holes.

I also know there's a lot of you just like me out there that chugs along, but I don't want to have the patience to wait a year for an entire planner to end before changing it all up to suit my needs and wants. With the PDF-format, I can just edit the stuff I want to be changed and export it all again, without wasting paper and ink, and I save time not printing and formatting it all. Maybe I'm wasting time, but I find it enjoyable, so it's fine.

The ability to freely experiment with formats, pages, colours and styles without waste is nice! I think I've changed things up for reals four times since I got GoodNotes. That's a lot of paper in a paper planner and a lot of time printing.

Ability to edit content: I've rewritten my Level 12 Life pages a couple of times too, changing out the categories and rearranging them, adding and cutting out. Delete whatever, whenever. You can erase everything you've written without a trace and start over. If I want to transfer an entire list of things, I'll just copy and paste, instead of having to rewrite all of it.

Want to add pictures of seals on your list for motivation? Just google, save to your pad and paste onto your pages. Remove and replace without a trace when you realise it's really a sloth you compare yourself with.

Forgetfulness isn't wasteful: Good if you’re a user that forgets some parts or has nothing to keep in check for weeks at a time.

You can use it in the dark: Good for me, bad if you're a workaholic. I've been up late at night, listening to music and drawing in the gloom of candlelight, without having to turn on lights for visibility. I don't know if you find yourself in dark places that often, but as a person that prefers cosy lighting if I don't need good lighting, I appreciate the backlit function.

It’s flat: A paper planner may not be completely flat and the clasp rings are in the way when you're trying to write. I always find myself writing with a less neat hand on the right page, as I'm left-handed and that's a little annoying.

iPad: The Less Good!


Yeah okay so the quill may be a little boujee and on the nose, but I frickin’ love that pen man!

No real pen to paper feel: The feeling of pen on paper is tactile and surprisingly fulfilling. Like you're actually making something. The pad-pen just isn't the same as having a bunch of lovely coloured pens with carefully selected ink flows. In GoodNotes, you never have to care about ink bleeding through to the other side, but it takes away the joy of staring at and trying pens in store until you notice that the staff thinks you're shoplifting and you have to check out before they say something.

No dividers: The lack of easy to grab and movable dividers make it messier and harder to find what you're looking for in a document. As an aid for that, you can make more notebooks instead and having more tabs open, jumping between them, or specifically add bookmarks. Either way, it's messier.

No stickers: One of the most rewarding fanciful things about paper planners are all the stickers, tapes, post-its and notes you can stick on that thing. All of you office supply lovers out there, you feel me. All of that is completely devoid on the iPad, making the template you're using the one and only decor. It's not necessarily only a bad thing though. For me, too messy and heavily decorated pages confuse my eye (a funny contrast to my home, haha) and make it harder for me to use comfortably. I love seeing all the wonderful intricate spreads people make, but it just isn't for me.

Visibility: Depending on what you use your iPad for, you may not see your planner laying around, reminding you to use it. Also, you miss out on the aesthetic addition most planners make because they're often so pretty.

Electricity: It’s battery dependent. The battery time on devices varies wildly, affecting their ease of use. Fortunately, my unit is really, really good still after two and a half years and the pen is good as well. Battery life is something to be considered in any event and a paper planner doesn't run out of juice when you're trying to schedule your coming month.

Tech is fickle: While the risk of your entire life planner getting stolen accounts for both types, the risk of someone nabbing your iPad may be higher than someone stealing your paper planner. On the other hand, if people steal your iPad, they probably won't be able to access your planner and know everything about you due to security. On the OTHER HAND, a paper planner can't be hacked and has no password to forget.

But! If you have everything in your Filofax and it goes missing, it's all gone. With the GoodNotes system, I'll just export the file as a GoodNotes file and as a PDF so I can at least read what I've written previously. I may or may not have realised the importance of backupping my planner right now when I started collecting my thoughts on this post. Ahem. I'll just go and do that right now...


Yes, I left a mirror on the table the night before without thinking and just so happened to put my iPad on the table the next morning. A couple of hours later, I saw smoke. That was that. It could have been a lot worse. The screen works fine, the stains are just ugly and in the way and our house didn’t burn down.

Fragility: The risk of breaking the dang thing is also much greater with the pad-based planners. If I drop my Filofax on the floor, a page or two may be crinkled, that's it. When I singed my iPad, my partner leisurely told me that repairing it would take four weeks. Four weeks without my planner? All my lists? A bunch of my books? Drawings? Recipe gatherings? My Level 12 Life notebook? Yeah, that's not happening, so I'm sticking with my avocado, that I not-really-lovingly call the burn marks on the screen.


Off topic: It looks innocent and all, but a wrongly placed mirror during the night
can set your entire house on fire in the sun.

You're tied to a format: If I want to have a fold-out a4-page in my a5-Filofax, I can do that. If I want smaller flaps inserted in my weekly overview, I can do that. On my iPad, I can zoom in but I can't make the format any bigger than the 9.7 inches of the screen and everything's full screen or nothing.

The size of your planner is dependent on the size you want on a surf pad and the two may not be the same. Having a smaller pad with a written calendar gives you less oversight and adds to the messy feeling.

Formatting changes with updates: A paper planner is the same format until you decide to change it up. When GoodNotes 5 came out, the pages aren't the same format as before, making my entire old planner not fit as well as having the pens changed, for worse or better. Your digital planner is in the hands of a developer who can make changes or cancel things altogether before you're ready for it. I opted for using GoodNotes 4 and still do, because the 5th version lags on my iPad, hoping it will stay in business for quite a while longer.

The Filofax is analogue, with all the plusses and minuses that follow.

So, what's it gonna be for me then, after all these words?


I don't think I'll be returning to my Filofax any time soon. Maybe later on, when working or having another system in gear, or if I go full analogue aka become a prepping crazy person in the countryside, I'll use it. For now, it's far too much work to print pages in comparison to using my iPad that I use for so many other things as well, so I always have it on hand anyway.
I also have a newish calendar that I’m very pleased with, that goes all the way until January. I’m gonna make more months and weeks as we’re getting closer, and I find it really fulfilling to fiddle with templates and make my own pages. We’ll see if I’ll keep this base or make a new one as the months go on.

So, yeah. Planners huh? It’s a lifestyle?