iPad/GoodNotes versus The Filofax

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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!

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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!

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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...

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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.

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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?

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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?

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My fantastic use of Ipad Pro + Pencil and GoodNotes!

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I’m studying at the university, at a distance. Having the perks of not being in school every day gives me the freedom to work and put in my hours whenever I want to. The downside is that I have to travel to school and put up that expense about six to eight times a year. The first time I traveled to school, it was 13 hours away by train. The introduction would last for eleven nights and required bringing books and, since I would be gone for so long, my laptop to do further school work. And then of course, a thousand other things since I was about to be gone for so long.

When I arrived in town at 7.30 AM after having taken the overnight train, I lugged that big red suitcase around all day because my inn didn’t do check-ins before 2 PM, and man, dragging that thing around town and then to the university and back, I was finished. A few days later, I changed rooms from a 6-bed to a single room. And of course, because I had to check out at 8 AM I had to choose between dragging my suitcase around with me another day or leaving it unsupervised in the luggage room until the afternoon.

Uhm. Dragging it is.

Since then, the scheduled visits have been shortened to around four-five nights and I’ve moved closer, so I don’t need to pack as much stuff or travel as far. But I was still carrying too much around with me day-to-day while away. Books, laptop, chargers, notebooks, pens, papers, cellphone, wallet and add to that the days when I traveled and brought everything with me everywhere. It adds up quickly.

Enter; the iPad

One day I was at work when my colleague pulled out a huge, A4 size shiny golden iPad out of her bag. I had seen it before, she usually draws her designs on it being a tattoo artist and all, but it wasn’t until now it had caught my eye. I looked on a little while she sweepingly created things on the screen with the pen, in total control of the line thickness and moving her drawing around with the pinch-motion. An iPad huh. My materialistic side had awoken. I wanted one. But for what?

When I got home, I exhausted Google on all its relevant information about the tech-thingie and its pen which was the selling argument for me. So you can draw it, I knew that. Oh, you can write on it too (well, it’s obvious ya know but I was informed about good apps for it)? Oh, scan papers? Mhmm, read on it. Listen to podcasts? Also, play music of and surf the internet of course.

So that means that I… can surf on it, scan all the school handouts and parts of literature and put them in there to read and annotate on, take notes in class by hand, have my complete DIY calendar with me AND entertain myself at the long boring evenings at an inn with just this little flat piece of technology? OH OKAY.

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Oh, so almost no difference in how much I'll carry around then....

After that realization, having made a few of those trips to school and moved house three times within the last 18 months, in a fit of internal rage I flipped a mental table and mind-threw everything weighing over half a pound in the trash can, yelling “I WILL CARRY MYSELF TO DEATH NO MORE! I’M GETTING MYSELF AN IPAD DANGIT”.

And so it was! Even though I’m not the greatest Apple fan, I think IOS works on a tablet and the UI don’t annoy me like it does on my laptop where I want a more “computery” style of handling things.

I’ve had it now for almost a year, and what do I do with it? Let’s make a list!

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Scan all the things!

The apps I use the most: GoodNotes (annotating, reading, keeping calendars and lists), the podcast app, Procreate (drawing), Genius Scan (scanning papers), and then the usual media; Pinterest, Bloglovin, Feedly, Youtube, Hemnet (SE, for looking at houses), Safari.

I read, write (by hand and by a little bluetooth keyboard), keep a regular calendar and a bullet journal, draw in Procreate, scan pages and papers in order to keep them all in one place, and import existing documents from my computer. I make my own “printables” and import them into GoodNotes so I can track things just the way I want to do it instead of following someone else’s templates. I have made my own calendar and a couple of different templates adapted to what I’m keeping track of, like school, or just things I want to get done. The star of the show is GoodNotes though.

 

GoodNotes

GoodNotes is “a new take on note-taking”. In this sync-between-units-app, you can create new notebooks or import existing PDF’s and images to read, annotate, draw on etc. I use it with everything that regards school and planning my life. We always get the instructions by PDF from school and there are often articles to download and read during the courses. I collect everything in GoodNotes, together with my own DIY getting-my-shit-together-documents in order to keep track of everything I have to do and when the deadlines are.
The times when I have to travel and the instruction calls for a specific chapter of a book being handled in upcoming lectures, I scan that chapter and import it into GoodNotes so I can read it/use it in school without having to bring the entire book with me.

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Take notes and then highlight the actual important stuff

During the lectures I take notes in GoodNotes, on dotted paper that I’ve made, being able to move the text around if I want to add something or create a new page in the middle of pages. When the course has ended, I export everything into PDF’s so I can save all that collected information for later if I need to go over it again.

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I've made my own calendar in Photoshop (not ideal, I know but it's what I've got) with dates and holidays and everything, and I love trying out different layouts and systems. No paper waste if I suddenly get the itch to switch things up! I just saved the thirteen pages with a front page and now that I'm running out of months, I just add one at a time and fill in what plans I have. It's a lovely adaptable way of keeping my shit together. The layout you're looking at now is my third and I find that it's quite suitable for my needs. Further instructions on school assignments and stuff dwell within another document, with check boxes to see that I've gotten through everything I need to do. 

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Sort-of easy to find overview, all the notes and highlights show here so I don't need to search page by page after what I've noted as most interesting.

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My book tracker, it hasn't gone very far yet. This is the front page I made, where I write on the books which one's I've read. On the next page, there's a list of books I want to read.

You can drag-and-drop pictures into your notebooks and resize after taste. And if your handwriting is fancy enough, you will be able to search your own notes and convert your handwritings into text. I on the other hand, cannot. From the pictures it may appear why. Hehe.

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Yeah I'm pretending I'm one of those people that can manage having big goals in life, when really, it's all little tiny steps forward in all categories. Hee hee.

The app costs around 6.50 euros and its worth so much more than that! So, if you’ve ever thought about what the fuck people use a tablet for (I was one of them one year ago), this is my favorite aspect of having one. Just scan it all and use it for the paperless home office! Thank you for reading this ESSAY on this little subject, I tried cutting it down but I couldn't. It's so good, I wish I WAS sponsored. Instead, I'm just a fan. 

Until next time, toodiloo!