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Paper System Changes

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Last year, I wrote about how I was changing how I manage my pen rotation and my notebook/paper system. While the former is going very well, the latter, well, it’s a work in progress. It’s been about five and a half months since I switch to binders from my previous notebook system. And, unfortunately, it’s been rather rocky.

The short version is that I still don’t have a definitive system figured out. The long version is significantly more complicated. I don’t want to bore anyone, but I do want to share the issues I’ve faced so that anyone trying this switch can plan ahead. I’m tackling this by issue.

Multiple Items

Let’s start with the biggest issue. I’ve had a surprising difficult time getting adjusted to having multiple binders instead of one catch-all notebook. To start, there is more to gather if I want to bring them with me — like on days I have to go to the office. For a while, until I figured out the division of content, I had to remember what topic was in which book.

But, on the positive side, I can keep separate topics separate. I don’t have to worry about someone seeing work notes that they maybe shouldn’t, because that binder only leaves the house when I go to the office.


The next issue is size. The B5 size I chose for my work binder is too big. It doesn’t fit comfortably on my desk at work, and it really doesn’t fit in my workspace at home. I picked it because the Kokuyo Campus Study Planner loose leaf paper in “Weekly Visualized” format is only available in B5. Once I run out in mid-may, I’m switching back to my tried-and-true A5 size. I recreated the layout for A5, and it should work even better for me since I customized it (I’ll come back to that).

The Mini 5 I bought has proven to be too small for my planned use, but it’s so cute that I’m keeping it and trying to figure out how to best utilize it. Any suggestions?

I really should have done some additional research before buying binders to figure out what size(s) I would want. I suggest checking out Planning With K‘s video Things to consider if you are New to Ring Planners before you make the switch if you’re thinking of doing so.

At least I’m happy with the size of my blog binder — A5. It’s serving me well, but the rings are a bit small for the various paper types (more on that in just a moment) and dividers. I’ll probably end up turning my current blog binder into my work binder and buying a new blog binder with larger rings.


I should have seen this one coming. People regularly talk about paper issues. But, I got spoiled by having a full notebook of good paper when using the Rhodia Goalbook. Unfortunately, that paper is only available in notebook form, and it’s rather pricey — at $32 — to purchase just to tear apart and cut down into sheets.

However, I’d used some Kokuyo paper that was rather nice, so I bought some in various ruling types when I first made the switch. And I promptly learned that all Kokuyo Campus loose leaf paper is not created equal. I’ll have a paper review in the next week or two.

But, discovering the crappy “fountain pen friendly” paper was a definite downer. I’m sure some of it will find its way to the DC Pen Show freebie table.


I said I’d come back to layouts. The last “issue” hardly deserves the name. If I call all of the previous items “first world problems,” then this is a “privileged person problem.” It’s really more of a minor annoyance than anything else. And, ironically, it’s also a benefit of using binders: the layouts.

I have so many options for page layouts now since I can print them out on loose leaf paper instead of having to draw them out in a notebook. This gives me more freedom with line weight, font size and style, and complexity.

My weekly prep is shorter, because I’m using something already printed. But, the initial development of the layout — I’d rather make them myself than buy them because then I can customize them to what I need — can be significant.

However, there are so many options that I practically find myself in decision paralysis. And I feel into the old trap of trying to do/track too much that I thought I’d long ago escaped. I’m slowly moving past it, getting back to a reasonable — for me — and sustainable level of tracking, but it’s slow going.

Wrap Up

I’m still trying to figure out the best use for each binder size and type I have. I’m not even positive that the sizes I have are what I’ll stick with. I’m testing the Filofax Personal size, but it’s not proving to be useful, and I’m wondering if I should get a Pocket size to replace the Mini 5.

I look forward to seeing how things go once I switch to the A5 for work. I’m optimistic that that change will make a big difference, and hopefully tip the scales on this endeavor from “maybe a mistake” to “good decision.”

Wish me luck!

Do you use notebooks/notepads or binders? Have you made the switch from one to the other? How did it go? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading to the end, I hope you enjoyed my post. Make sure to subscribe to my blog or follow me on Instagram so you don’t miss any posts. I generally post at least once a week.


  1. For general notes and writing, I use the A5 size. Why?

    1) Generous enough room.
    2) You can easily make your inserts by cutting A4 in half. I don’t have time to trim paper to Personal/Pocket or M5 size.
    3) By using A4 paper, I can enjoy using my choice of fountain pen friendly paper, and for the times when I don’t want to “waste” good paper for the type of note I’m making, I use the cheaper Kokuyo/Maruman A5 loose-leaf paper and trim off the holes and repunch the holes I need and pretend it’s A5 slim.
    4) My regular printer still uses Letter size paper and if I need to keep an insert, I can still fold it and punch a hole on one side and it fits just fine in the binder.

    My system:

    I have a set of tabs for Jan -> Dec (I bought them from Filofax a long time ago). Depending on the ring size, I’ll keep maybe just 6 tabs and adjust as needed.

    When I start a note, I just put it in the current month. It doesn’t matter what the topic is. It just goes there because that month’s the tab is where I’ll always flip to.

    If/when I’m done with it and it can be filed away, I move it out to the proper place which could be another binder that is specifically for that topic, or another folder (I made my own Plotter type folders), or if I have a specific tab/section for it, I move them there.

    [I only do the filing every few weeks, or end of month, or when I feel my binder getting too thick!]

    For things that I cannot file away, when it’s really a work-in-progress, or a brain dump that is quite random, I just leave in that month’s tab.

    I do this because I tend to remember “when” I write things. I’m not a very tidy writer, as in, I’ll write or record something and once I’m “not in the mood to continue” or have nothing to add, I’m done with it. There are times when months have passed, even years, where I pick up the thought again and maybe write something related, then I’ll take that sheet and maybe by then, I’ll have a place to file it away.

    The monthly tabs works for me because:

    1) I don’t want to waste the brain power to file it or decide what it should be even before I start writing. Because I’ll just end up feeling guilty and that affects (sadly, it does) what I’d like to write on it, just for the sake of “organization” and keeping things on topic.

    2) I tend to brain dump and then never get back to those ideas again. For example, I went through a phase of watching a lot of Japanese ramen shop videos and imagined myself starting a food truck that sold ramen. I actually researched recipes, prices of things … almost like a business plan. But at the same time, I knew I wouldn’t do it but at the same time, it just seemed like a fun project, ie. “this is so easy, I bet I could do it!”. When I was done, I kept it in that month’s tab because it’s not like I have a “business ideas” category or tab. But when I did my filing one day, I was like “Oh! Hey, I forgot about this!” and ended up filling it under that year’s archives. That is reserved for notes that cannot be categorized, almost like one-offs. But who knows, it could be many years from now when I might have a new crazy idea and all, and when that time comes, I may dig it out and put them together, etc.

    So to summarize:

    Main binder (A5) – typically small rings, 11mm – 15mm max. I keep this open on my desk. I have a few favourite covers/binders so every few months, I rotate between them, hence the different ring sizes.

    Archive binder (A5) – 30mm. I call this “the tome”. It’s heavy and sits on my shelf. Think of it as my catch-all. Major topics that I’m ready to put away, goes there. These topics can span months-years.

    The rest, I use a couple loose single rings to put them together (by year) or if I have a spare binder, they just get stuffed there. At this point, these are really random entries that I know I won’t need/use but still for the sake of collection, I keep them around rather than dispose of them.

    About sizes, I think A5 is still the way to go.

    Mini 5, I feel, is a size that is practical only if you write in Kanji or a language where you can communicate a lot just by using a few characters. For example, for one to mark a day as a “day off”, that is 7 characters. In Kanji, it is 休. I find as someone who writes in English, the amount of room you need to put informational notes just makes M5 far too small to be useful other than keeping a shopping list.

    The Mini 6 has proven to be more useful for me, and it has been my go-to size for on-the-go. However, I don’t go out of the house much anymore so I have retired that size.

    April 19, 2024
    • Thanks for the info! I tend to archive my stuff by scanning it all, but I definitely going to give the monthly tabs a go, since that’s similar to how I previously managed my notebook.

      April 20, 2024

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