About to move back to GTD on paper - what folder/paper-binding system to use?

David Popely

This is a really interesting thread for all sorts of reasons.

I'm a long time paper based GTD user (since 2011, I think). In that time I've been in and out of most of the digital apps available (both then and now), without finding a solution I really felt comfortable enough to settle into. I've always found coming back to paper very easy, and the immediacy of capture/input really works well for me. I know a lot of digital users who say the same thing in reverse, and honestly - I don't begrudge any of the their success with digital. It's just not for me (I've finally realised).

I think a lot of the time I've been driven to try different digital solutions because I 'thought I ought to', because 'digital is the future', or because of some other version of the above, without really listening to my own thoughts enough.

Before GTD I was a Time Manager user for over 20 years and still regard it as the best put together ring bound system ever (sadly, now defunct).

I use an A5 Filofax, with TimeSystem inserts (very easy to repurpose for GTD), but I've become increasingly dissatisfied with their customer service when re-ordering time ticks around, so now I'm migrating to some custom forms provided by a good friend of mine who is an even more long-term and die-hard GTD user. The whole system works smoothly.

I've never been worried about losing my Filofax (any more than I would about losing my phone or my laptop), and I've only ever had one 'near miss' in other 30 years of ring binder use.

Happy to answer any question about this.



I'm a longtime paper GTDer as well, and I've used both Levenger Circa and Filofax extensively. I'm currently in a personal-sized Filofax Heritage compact, but use Outlook for calendar, contacts, and (of course) email. My Circas tend to be used mainly for longform writing and research projects rather than as traditional planners.

Both ring-bound and Circa have their positives, and some negatives. For me:
- Filofax is best for portability and durability. The smaller personal size is perfect while on the move and holds pages in far better than Circa. I've never had specific problems with Circa pages falling out, but with Filofax, I know they won't. The punched edges of my Circa pages will more readily bend and tear when stored as individual sheets in filing folders.
- Page turning differs between the two formats. Flipping through a Filofax is quicker than a Circa, even when the Circa has the larger punches and smooth aluminum discs, as mine do.
- Circa is best for flexibility, hands down. It accommodates multiple page sizes in a single notebook and easily accepts punched printed documents. With Filofax, printing is a hassle because ISO-sized paper isn't readily available in the U.S.
-Circa will indeed fold back and lie flat under the right conditions. The regular plastic covers and Sliver covers lie flat; I've had less success with the thicker leather covers. For size, a Junior/A5 Circa folded back on itself is about the same size and heft as my open Filofax personal.

Also worth considering is the availability of Levenger outside the U.S., if that applies. I've used comparable European brands such as Clairefontaine Clairing and Atoma, but I have yet to try a Filofax clipbook.