Franklin Covey vs. Filofax: An Important Difference

Franklin Covey vs. Filofax

Franklin Covey vs. Filofax

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I really want to use a Filofax as my planner.  I’ve tried several times but I can’t make it work.  I’ve been wracking my brains trying to figure out what the problem is.  And then it hit me:

I’m not good at creating things from scratch.

When you buy a Franklin Covey, it comes with everything you need.  Everything is there and you just have to learn to use it.  And once you’re comfortable with how it works, you can easily start tweaking it to make it fit your life.  But the basics are already there.  You’re not creating anything new.

With Filofax, you start with a beautiful binder that’s a blank slate inside (it comes with weekly inserts but those aren’t my format of choice).  You pull pieces from here and there to make it exactly what you want.  You’re basically starting from scratch and building a system that works for you.

Apparently I can’t do that.  I actually have trouble starting from scratch on anything.  I’m more of a tweaker than a creator. 

Every time we move into a new house or remodel a room, I panic a little about where to put things.  Right now I’m looking at my brand new kitchen and all those empty cabinets and wondering (okay – stressing) about where to put everything.

So I’m not good at creating things from scratch but I’m really good at tweaking existing systems to make them work better. And that’s why I haven’t been able to use a Filofax.  Every time I’ve tried, I end up with a Franklin Covey wannabe.  And if I’m going to do that, I may as well just use Franklin Covey.

How about you?  Are you a creator or a tweaker?

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Born in Kentucky, I am a wife and mom to 1 son and 2 daughters . I have an ink pen obsession, as well as a love for all things planner. I have been married for 10 years to my high school crush. I am a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

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34 thoughts on “Franklin Covey vs. Filofax: An Important Difference

  1. I’m pretty much the same. I like adjusting what I have instead of starting blank. I started homeschool this year and noticed I needed a curriculum and could tweak from there instead of creating my own. I think that’s why every time I look through the Filofax website it seems intimidating. Plus I have things the way I like them and pages set up that I don’t want to have to do over since the Filofax isn’t as wide.

    1. I homeschooled my kids and was the same way. I started with a curriculum and then modified it for our needs. I can’t seem to follow something exactly the way it’s designed but I can’t start from scratch either.

  2. I’m probably in a third category, and it’s caused me to bounce around planners a lot. I don’t want planner pages that require too much work from me to make them work. I’m not detail-oriented, and I’m more likely to mess up something like filling in dates. Even keeping only three months in a planner and switching them out is too much work. Now I not only have to open the rings and take it out, I have to find the next section, and find a place to put the last section. Too much work becomes toss it in a drawer instead. (Very much a right-brained trait!)

    But I also don’t want the planner to be so structured that it makes me feel like it’s telling me how to use it or that I have to work more to use it. Things like timed slots for appointments, goals sheets, and even monthly indexes. Even blank lined sections are a turn-off!

    When I look at Covey, Filofax, DayTimer, Moleskin and others, I see a lot of the same thing. The formats are a little different, but they’re simply too business-like! They make me feel like I should be using them in a meeting room. The result is that I end up not using them because they’re too business-like, too structured, and too much work. Plus, I feel like they’re telling me how to use it. I don’t even like it when they label a blank section “Notes.” There’s something very annoying about that to me, like it’s telling me “You have to take notes.”

    I ended with a Star Trek desk calendar, which has different pictures throughout so I can have fun with that (most planners have a nice picture on the front and no creativity inside). It’s a simple weekly format — blank sections with just the dates. To one side is a blank area which I can use for notes, or not.

  3. Interesting observation, Patty, and VERY thought provoking. I usually always thought of myself as more of a tweaker but am coming around to realize that I’m really more of a creator; At work, I have been assigned a lot of responsibilities which I always end up totally retooling and reworking. At home I like to set something up and then not mess with it. If it’s wrong, I start over with a clean slate; I rarely just tweak it to make it work better. And I tend to obstinately stick with processes I have developed which work for me, without really wanting to try alternative methods. I’m not opposed to throwing the baby out with the bath water and just starting over completely to use my own method or system.

    As far as planners, I like the Franklin system but I do not use it as it is designed… I bought the inserts and started using them and only later on did I try reading up on the method and realized that I was not using them properly. But I almost never want to use someone else’s design; I have read several time & task management books and take pointers from them all but never adopt any single system, just synthesize the ideas I like into my own system.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Josh. It kind of sounds like you could go either way – tweak or create – whatever the situation called for. I wish I was that versatile.

    2. Hey, Josh, I have followed you through YouTube and find that you and I are a lot alike. I love Franklin Covey pages for how much larger and open they are. I tend to use the pages to work best for me, not necessarily according to the Steven Covey way of doing things.

      I have read a lot of time management/process books. I have evolved into a system that is a blend of David Allen, Steven Covey, and Brian Tracy. Having this blend and being flexible with the Franklin Covey pages makes my system sustainable because I can tweak it to how I need it to be any given day/week/ or other time period. For example: I started back to college and changed departments at work. These changes make my previous way of using my day-on-2-pages obsolete. But I still need a D2P to manage the new areas of my life.

  4. I was okay with the published planners while I was working, but I am retired now, so I now pretty much make my own pages on the computer and print them out as needed.

    It isn’t that I have any more or less time available (sometimes I do wish for more…) so much as my time is used differently and what I do in the time just does not fit the pre-fab planners. I use a desktop publishing program to create my own pages and print them out. I work with them for awhile (test phase/) and make changes, if needed, and go on from there.

    I also print out pages for friends who are likewise situated. They are “not creative” — their words; not mine — and I can customize their pages according to their wishes. They simply reimburse the expense and we get a “bonus” of a coffee klatch when they come over to pick up their pages.


    1. It’s funny you should mention creating pages for others. I can create pages for others and myself – I just can’t seem to use them. I don’t know if I don’t trust myself or if I need the structure pre-printed pages provide. But the pre-printed pages really don’t work for me. I end up modifying them so much that I really would do better to use my own creations.

      Love that you can create pages for your friends. That sounds like so much fun!

  5. O.O Who has time to re-invent the wheel? Hell, I don’t. Like all those who say, “just print out the files from…” I’m already done. Um…no, I don’t think so! It either comes put together properly or I’m done.

    1. You sound like my husband. When I ask his opinion, he always says, “Why would you want to make your own? Just use what’s there. Making your own is too much trouble.”

      1. lol Prolly one of the big reasons I’m done with FF. Putting stuff together and trying to force it to work wore me out. For 2014 I am actually custom ordering a Midori insert exactly like I want it. WIN! Wish I’d realized I could do that a couple of years ago before I spent so much money on FF binders!

        1. I never have really looked at the Midori products. I guess I should take a look sometime just so I know what all the fuss is about. A lot of people use them.

          I hope that works great for you this year.

  6. I love that you always post about planners. I have messed up or abandoned planner after planner and I had pretty much given up on every trying to use one again. However every time I see your posts about planners I get the idea that I might be able to venture into the world of planners once again. Thank you!

  7. I’m not sure, Patty. Is tweaking the same things as slowly evolving? I think I absorb a lot of ideas from others, pulling what works for me and ignoring what doesn’t. It’s not that I create from scratch, but my system has evolved in a very personal way. I am not in love with the design of the FF pages, but I’ve managed to make them work for me, especially since I’ve learned things from other bloggers. Their little tips and tricks are very helpful in making small adjustments that suit me.

    1. Evolving is a bit different because it happens regardless of whether you’re a tweaker or creater. I think we all evolve the longer we use our planners and as we deal with life changes.

      It almost sounds like you’re a combination tweaker/creator. That’s definitely the best of both worlds.

  8. Patty, I love that you post about planners and Franklin Covey. I was taught how to use FC “back in the day” when I worked for a corporation that actually bought one for every employee after training them. Fast forward 25 years. I had stopped using it when I became a stay at home mom, because they looked too “corporate.” I started making my own planners, and pulling together hybrids of all kinds of other planners purchased in store or found on someone’s blog. And when I started consulting, I just used electronic schedulers, etc., to match my client. Then my life totally unraveled. It wasn’t until I found your web site that I realized my mistake was thinking my “corporate” FC planner shouldn’t get muddy with my home and life management. I realized I like to “create” because the process is stress-relieving for me. It makes me think, when this is done, I will be in control again. But when I found you, and pored over every post you wrote about planners and the FC system, I went back to my “first love” (the Franklin Covey system) and tweaked a few things, You helped me let go of thinking I had to use it exactly like that workshop 25 years ago when I was trained how to use it in business. And those tweaks I’d picked up from you made the FC work for me. Suddenly, things got back on track.

    I do stress still because I use Classic size, 2 page per day. I like how you can use Compact. But I don’t have neat, small handwriting and seem to need the bigger pages and spaces to write in. Plus I love being able to fold an 8-1.2 x 11 inch piece of paper, cut it, punch it, and fit it right into my planner. It’s just a lot to carry around. Guess I still need some help with that one, with wanting better portability but liking bigger pages to write on. Any advice on how I can “tweak” some more? (I keep trying to create in a nice little Moleskine notebook, and wasting time and money…..)

    1. That issue of wanting better portability but bigger pages to write on is something all of us planner folks struggle with, myself included. I’d say you should look at your classic size and see if you’re using it fully. If you are, you probably need it. If you aren’t, maybe you could downsize. But seems like people gravitate toward one size and no matter how much they try, they usually end up back in that size. Not always, but often.

      I’ve been using FC for 20 years but never in a corporate environment. I always used it as a full-time homemaker. I actually think I would have done better if I had used the classic size. My first planner was actually a classic size. Then I discovered Franklin Covey and switched to compact. I stuck with compact until about 5 years ago when I started playing around with classic. I want to use classic but it’s SO big. I think I need to use classic because I need all that space but I hate carrying it with me and I MUST have my planner with me.

      As far as “tweaking” to make your classic more pleasing, maybe you could pare it down some or find a binder with a little bit smaller rings. Or if your binder is one of the bigger ones, maybe find one smaller. What I mean by that is that some of them have extra space at the top and bottom which makes bigger than they need to be. The compacts do that, too. But they have some that are smaller – that would be my choice. Also, there might be some stuff in your planner that you don’t need. Maybe some of the pages could go in a storage binder or could be consolidated. I used to have a pending page but then I eliminated it and started writing my pends on the monthly calendar in that notes section. I used to have a birthday page but now I just transfer the information from the monthly pages each year. I used to keep my car and health information in my planner but I don’t anymore. Now it’s in a file under my desk. Stuff like that. If the binder is lighter, it won’t be as heavy to carry. You can also have a purse that’s big enough to easily hold your planner and whatever else you need to carry. When I was carrying a classic, I pared down what was in my purse so all I was carrying was pretty much my wallet and my planner (keys, phone – of course).

      Another option is to purchase a CHEAP binder the size of the compact or even a little smaller and try it. Who knows, maybe you’ll love it. Or maybe it will settle the issue once and for all.

      And there’s always the option of using a bound planner. You can get the writing size without the bulk. You can check out Laurie’s site at She has a lot of information and moleskine’s and other bound planners. Just don’t get overwhelmed!

      Let me know what you decide.

      1. Hi again! Loved your feedback and advice. I decided to keep the FC Classic. I reviewed mine and see that almost every day I use every bit of space. I did identify pages and tabs that could come out and be stored in another binder, thus slimming it down as you suggested. And for Christmas my husband got me an adorable matching red tote bag that I’ve been drooling over on the FC web site, but it was too expensive. Price dropped from $89 to $29 before holidays, so I couldn’t resist.

        Besides all that, I saved money because of the FC system working for me. I switched phone/internet/TV service in November and reviewed my bills. There was $80 in install/activation fees on the bill. I called and was able to reference enough details of that conversation two months ago, including name of who I spoke to, details of what she said, and time of day. It had to run through a supervisor, but because I was so clear about the conversation, supervisor apologized his rep didn’t take down as much detail as I obviously did, and they issued the full $80 credit. I’d say that more than pays for this year’s refill. LOL.

        So I will keep finding ways to “tweak” and keep what I’ve got working for me, and just enjoy carrying it around in my sassy new red tote bag! Thanks for everything, Patty. I’ll be watching to see what you come up with next! Meanwhile, happiest of new year’s to you and yours.

  9. As a long time Franklin Covey user I loved the fact that it was “Plug-in-Play.” You just needed to buy the inserts and you were set. They came with such a variety of inserts for a multitude of purposes that I never needed to tweak them or insert my own.

    As a recent filofax user and a member of the filofax community I’m finding all types of new uses for my planner that I never thought of before with FC. Tweaking the inserts and creating my own has made time management a fun task rather than a necessary chore. For me I still purchase inserts for both my FC and my FF, however I am enjoying the printables that I am finding, buying, and creating myself.

  10. Also that vintage pink filofax looks fantastic in your pictures. I know they are very popular right now and I’d love to have one of my own after seeing your picture. They never appealed to me until now.

    1. I do like the vintage pink filofax. It is such a delight to hold and use. Just wish it had a pen loop that would hold something other than a Zebra. I like my pens a little fatter!

  11. I have never been able to conform to a system as it is so I think I would fall into the creator category. The right brain/left brain dominance theory would play a major role in that. I posted a piece on that and how it plays a role in the planners we use and how we use them. The important thing is to recognize your strengths and weaknesses and play to your strengths and learn to compensate for your weaknesses.

  12. I have just spent the last 3 hours going in circles frustrated with my FF. I wish I had read this post and all comments completely before now. It appears I am a tweaker and not a creater…yep, left brain dominant is me to the T. This also explains why I am consistently drawn to this blog and Giftie Etcetera…it’s a structured tweaker thing. Clarity. Thanks!! I feel much better. I guess I will put all my supplies away for now and wait for the FC Compact inserts to appear at my doorstep next week. I should be all set between them and the new Malden…that should also appear at about the same time. Now I just have to contain my excitement until then. 😉

    1. So glad you figured it out Sandra. Trying to force something to fit is just frustrating. Keep me posted on how the new system works out.

  13. Oh thank God! I’m not alone in this world anymore! I realize this is an old post which turned up in my Pinterest, but I simply can’t find much about Franklin Covey. Seems there are not enough fans. I need the HUGE rings of my FC compact, and I need the 2-pages-per-day format as I’m apparently so all over the place that I need this much space to write it all down. Also, I miss the opportunities for finding freebie printables and accessorize for my binder, as I have Chronic Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in my wrists and cannot write and place my hands right, on the narrow Filo-pages.

    1. Mira – I’ll respond in more detail later but wanted to let you know there are several Facebook groups for Franklin Covey. One is called Franklin Planners Rock and one is Franklin Covey Addicts. You might enjoy both of those as well as finding support. They are great people.

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