How I Successfully Downsized My Planner

As I had mentioned in my Blog Break Reflection post, one of my main goals for 2016 was to evaluate not just my planning system, but my planner itself.  At the time, I had been using my Franklin Covey Polka Dot since November. After adding sections, customizing inserts and stuffing in so much that I could be stranded on a desert island and still have everything I need, I realized that I had gone overboard (no pun intended!).  I needed to toss all the irrelevant stuff and go back to basics.  To streamline the process and rid myself of the additional weight I had added to it and keep only what I absolutely, truly need.  In order for me to do that, I realized that I had not only needed to downsize the contents, but the container itself.  Heads up – lots of photos and links to past posts follow!

Downsized planner

(Pictured above – from bottom to top – Franklin Covey Classic Bree in burgundy, Franklin Covey Compact Polka Dot, Filofax Pocket Malden in Ochre)

Let’s be honest – I don’t think I’ll be having a ‘Castaway’ moment anytime soon (though my planner would make a better companion than a soccer ball!)  And as all-encompassing as my planner had become, I had to honestly ask myself, “Do I really need all these pages, sections and information in here?”

During my break, I enjoyed perusing planner videos.  Two of my favorites are Giftie Etcetera. and Rachel Dunaway  Giftie is all about turning your planner into an efficient and functional tool, whereas Rachel creates very detailed and intense inserts, spreads, charts, etc. complete with an intricate color-coding system. She also is very fond of sticky notes and uses them liberally throughout her planner.  It had sparked me to test out a couple of her layouts using the stacks of sticky notes I’d amassed over time.  Although my planner was broken down better into segregated sections, I was rarely using half of them.  On top of that, it added extra weight to my planner, putting additional pressure on my right arm (where I’m currently battling tendonitis in my elbow) as well as on my shoulder from carrying it in my bag.

When Christmas was over and done with, I had removed the Christmas planning pages from my project section to store them away.  They were about the only non-calendar pages I referred to on a regular basis during December.  All of the other new sections I had created at the end of 2015 turned out to be of little or no use.  Here are some examples from my Instagram page:

Actually, it was the last photo that really sunk in. What I thought was a more well-rounded planning system turned out to be something exhausting, repetitive and redundant. That sparked me to narrow down what I actually needed to have in my planner at all times.  What do I need to look at/refer to/update, etc every….single….day?  I just thought back to when I kept things really simple, which was the beginning of my planner journey    Whatever I had in it at the time got me from A to Z and never did I second-guess whether it was working or not. What I only had in it then was what I needed in it now.

  • Weekly inserts
  • A-Z section
  • Notes/ To-Dos
  • Writing instrument
  • Slots for business cards
  • Plastic sleeve for supplies

I then began to pull out anything that was not part of the above list.  What I was left with was just my weekly pages, notes section and supply holder.  My planner had lost about 5lbs! (j/k – but it was much lighter) and contained far less than I needed the 1″ rings of my Franklin Covey Compact Polka-Dot for.  Which begged me to go even a step further and wonder- could I go smaller, planner-wise?

I checked out some pocket planner setup videos and found this one from Kent From Oz to be the one that sealed the deal for me because he had been successful in downsizing to a pocket-sized ringed planner from an A5.  And what intrigued me about the Filofax Pocket Malden was the inside zippered pocket as well as a top pocket that spans the length of the planner when open.  This made me go even another step further with the notion of combining my wallet with my planner, thus removing another item from my bag.

And so……I searched on eBay and won one in a bid for $53


I now understand why this is probably Filofax’s most popular model.  It really is beautiful – even with tiny little scratches here and there.  The feel of the leather is amazing – like it’s wrapped in velvet then dipped in melted butter.  Okay, exaggerating, but I really couldn’t stop holding it. But, alas, I had to let go to set it up.  And since I was going back to basics, I was determined that it wasn’t going to be some agonizing, sleep-consuming process.  So….what made the cut?

Calendar pages.  I’ve always been a week-on-two-page gal.  But recently I had abused the space by cramming in everything I needed and wanted to do on a specific day, even though it didn’t need to get done that day.  The WO2P that came with the pocket Malden are poorly designed, IMO.  When you have precious little space to write on, you don’t want to cut into that space with having the day of the week imprinted on it in five different languages!  Even if they weren’t, they are really teeny.  So I took a page out of Kent’s video and purchased a Moleskine Pocket-Sized Weekly Diary that has the week on one page with notes on the other.  But rather than have the entire diary (cover and all) hole-punched like he has, I pulled out my scissors and snipped the threads to remove the individual pages for punching.


The pages are not only larger (and are a perfect fit in the pocket), but now with having a WO1P will encourage me to put only what must be done specific to that day (preventing the crammed look), while anything that I’d like to do that week can get listed –  bullet journal-style – on the adjacent notes page.













On several days you may notice I have an arrow pointing to a #__.  Because I’m now dealing with a smaller planner, I needed a solution to when I had an extremely packed day which warranted a daily page.  That’s where my Markings Journal came into play.  For instance, in the first photo for Jan 22nd – Jan 24th, I have arrows marking off the days with #88-89.  That signified that I had transferred my schedule for the entire weekend to pages 88 & 89 of my journal.  However, I have come up with a more convenient solution for that so that everything stays in my planner with taking up as little room as possible, which is…….

Daily Page Booklet:  Bullet journal.  Commonplace book.  Notebook.  Whatever you want to call it, I wanted to be able to have a daily page within my planner for such days.  I didn’t want to put a piece of paper in between the W01P and notes- I wanted to keep everything attached and contained rather than have random loose pages.  And since my intention was to put it into my planner, it had to be thin enough to not only hole-punch, but not add too much bulk.  So I decided to make my own from some leftover notecards I got from the Target Dollarspot and grid paper from my old Aqua Markings journal.  The notecard matched up in size perfectly inside the Malden.  I then folded the paper in half, cut, stacked then trimmed to fit inside the open notecard. I then placed everything face down and put three staples along the spine, closed, pressed it flat and……done!


Supplies:  I’ve never been into decorating my planner pages nor color-coding, so my essential tools are minimal.  One pen – currently, my ultra-fave Bic Cristal – which happens to be slim enough to fit into the very narrow pen loop.  I had been using a retractable Sharpie, but had to hook it on the outside of the loop as it was too fat to fit inside, however, it was beginning to curl the edges of the pages. Also the plastic top-loading sleeve that came with the planner used to hold return address labels, postage, thin page flags and a paper clip.


A-Z Tabs:  These were essentially the heart of my planners of the past.  Of course, this was before cell phones.  Even after I invested in my first cell where I was able to pre-program phone numbers, I had already been on auto-pilot  when it came to whipping out my planner and flipping to the letter of the alphabet.  And not just for numbers and addresses.  I kept our checking and savings account numbers under the letter our bank begins with, federal and state tax ID#s for mine and my husband’s businesses, cryptically-coded login information for certain websites, etc.  I had recently learned just how valuable it is to keep certain things in your paper planner when my cell phone got taken the week before Christmas.  A bookkeeping client was waiting for my text as to when she could drop off her work.  Not only did I not have my phone to text her, but I didn’t have her cell # committed to memory to call her from a land line to let her know what happened.  Never, ever, ever again.   I took the small 1-6 dividers that came with the planner and made A-Z labels for them. I now have all my client’s, physician’s, bank, QuickBooks, family as well as any reference information (a list of my hub’s and parent’s med list and doctors) filed in my A-Z tabs.  Basically, if I’d be lost without that information if my phone ever got stolen again, it goes in that section


Receipt Holder:  One of my 2016 goals is to keep track of any discretionary spending – meaning, anything that comes out of our household checking account that isn’t a normal, overhead expense (mortgage, insurance, utilities, etc).  Groceries, fuel, mani/pedis, Goodwill finds, stationery – stuff I have control over (better than, say, turning down the thermostat or shutting off all the lights) are now being kept track of.  I found this little, gusseted pocket folder I had purchased a long time ago buried in my junk drawer.  It had a magnet on the back to affix it to a fridge or filing cabinet.  Again, I was giddy to come across something I didn’t have to buy that fit the pocket size perfectly. I pulled the magnet off, hole punched it and – voila!  I stuff my receipts in here until I can either record them or check my Ibotta app for rebates


Pocket Notebook:  And this is where all those receipts get recorded.  Rather than have individual, loose pages, I wanted them in a bound book for the year.  And if I run out of room, then I really do have a spending problem!  This is a kraft pocket notebook from Eccolo that (yep, again!) fits perfectly into the back slot of the planner.


In the top loading back slot, I just keep a few sheets of the colored-lined notepaper as well as these stickers that were in the back pocket of the Moleskine Weekly Diary.  Although I’m not a sticker person, I thought they were pretty interesting and came in 3 different colored sets.  Who knows – they may just wind up on my planner pages someday!


That completes the planner portion.  As for how I incorporated my wallet, it was a lot easier than I thought.  Because I keep the bulk of my non-cash store/reward cards on a ring which slide into an inside pocket of my bag, all I needed to transfer over to the Malden was my debit card, insurance card, license, two store credit cards, paper money and change. One of the drawbacks of the pocket Malden, however, is the lack of vertical card slots.  From some of the setup videos I’ve watched, a lot of planner folks expressed frustration over their cards sliding around in that long slot.  But by keeping three on each side, they stay nice and snug and don’t move around from opening and closing it all the time.


In the slot between the zippered pouch and card slot,I keep any business or dr. appointment cards and the very back slot contains a list of numbers I still have to store in my phone (so I have them in both places!) as well as a lovely note my husband wrote to me back in 2008.  It’s been transferred to every planner I’ve used after that and is pretty much the consistency of a paper towel, but I’ll keep it with me until it falls apart!

And…….that’s it!  That’s my planner/wallet setup in my Filofax Pocket Malden.  And although it’s a slippery slope to go announcing ‘planner peace’, I will honestly say that I’m quite ‘content’.  Whether I’ll always stay with this size, well, that depends upon any drastic changes to my life that may warrant me to ‘upsize’ again. Or maybe my little DIY notebook won’t be enough and I’ll go back to bullet journaling in a larger notebook while the Malden serves as my wallet and place to forward plan. Right now, everything is pretty settled and uneventful. This setup not only fits my current needs, but I’m also really enjoying using it.  When I get home from work, I pull it from my bag and lay it open on my desk in the little nook area in our bedroom.  I do a sweep through the pages before I go to sleep and see it when I wake up.  Because of it’s size and lovely texture, it’s a pure joy to hold in my hands.  I’m drawn to it, which his important.  I need to be pulled towards not just using it, but using it efficiently with as less fuss as possible.

If anyone is considering downsizing to a pocket-sized planner, I hope this post gives you some ideas on how you can incorporate what you need so you can successfully transition without losing it’s base functionality.

Until next time…….

Elena 🙂


19 thoughts on “How I Successfully Downsized My Planner

  1. Well done! I just moved into a pocket too. It’s my first time and not sure if it will last but I didn’t have a choice because the weight of my bag was seriously causing back problems, just like you. I feel much better. My pocket set up isn’t as elaborate as yours though. I’ll be doing a post about it soon.

    • Look forward to your setup post. Elaborate – lol!! I think my planner is quite conservative compared to some I’ve seen. I hope downsizing has given you some relief in your back. Thanks so much!

      • Lol. By elaborate I meant neat and well thought out. 🙂 I feel much better now. Thanks. I hope you’re recovering too.

  2. Brilliant! I have an aqua pocket Chameleon Filofax that I’m using sort of on the same basis with the follow exceptions: Instead of a calendar, I have a bullet journal and my credit/debit cards are in a separate RFID case in my purse. However, instead of just one planner I also have an A5 that stays at home which is my main diary/journal system. Your setup is perfect for the one planner to rule them all concept. I love love love it!

  3. […] My entire year’s worth of appointments, events and dated tasks/due dates are all logged in my Filofax Pocket Malden planner/wallet (you can read a more in-depth article on how I use it here) while the details of […]

  4. […] My Filofax Pocket Malden is always with me, so I thought incorporating some personal tidbits, memorabilia, bits & bobs of this & that, etc. would be a way to punch up my non-decorative pages without distracting from my written schedule.  It could be something as little as a flower doodle, a scripture that spoke to me, gratefulness, an achievement, or feeling bogged down by stress.  Other items were little bits of paper, documents, mini lists, etc. that I hole punched and inserted into that specific week.  Here are some examples of how I did this in 2016: […]

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