Why I changed from A5 to Personal size

A5 vs personal size Filofax, planner organiser organizer ZoeAtHome.com

At the park with my children. You can see my wallet, blog notebook and organiser – all pink!

I tried to stick with one organiser for a long time. Because I blog about thrift and living simply, I didn’t want to be seen to be buying a new diary on a whim. But my life has changed in the past six months, and so have my requirements in an organiser:

  • My children got a bit older. We’re no longer at home most of the day, either waiting for a child to go to sleep or wake up. So I need to be able to throw a few things in the bag so we can get out the house quickly.
  • Because my kids are a bit older now, I’ve got some of my independence back. So now I can leave them with a sitter for longer periods and I’m not as house-bound. The Personal size is much more portable for quick errands.
  • I started riding a bike (more on this later) and it seemed silly to put the A5 into my basket to go to the market.

These are some of the great things about the personal size:

  • I can carry it one hand! I couldn’t really do this with the A5. So therefore…
  • I can go from room to room with my diary in one hand and a child on the other hip.
  • I can have it alongside me as I eat breakfast and plan out my day. I couldn’t really do this with the A5.
  • My desk is only 90cm wide, but it still fits alongside my laptop as I work or study. With the A5 I had to store it on the top part of my bureau, which means I had to stand up just to glance at it.
  • It fits on my bedside table, and it fits in just about all the handbags I own. So now there’s no question of “Should I or shouldn’t I bring my organiser with me?”. And I can trust my system a lot more.

My planner really has become more of a life companion now I’ve switched to this more portable size. I’m beginning to really understand why this is called the personal size and why A5 is known as the desk size, and I don’t know why I missed this concept before!

Coffee culture and organiser planner Filofax Smythson Bond Street

At the cafes, I put my planner beside me the way most people keep their smartphone right next to them.

However, there are some things I miss about the bigger format that I haven’t been able to recreate in my Smythson:

  • My A5 Collins Debden inserts had a section for appointments, and while I don’t have a lot of those, it did help me visualise and track my time.
  • I know that you can print on Personal sized paper and I have some blank paper to make my Bill Planner in this size, but I don’t think it will be as quick and easy as printing on A5.
  • The A5 also functioned as a Home Management Binder. It was nice to be able to keep all that information together in the one accessible place.
  • Because I would leave the A5 open on the top of my desk, the monthly pages doubled as our family calendar:
Vintage mid century bureau A5 Filofax pink ZoeAtHome.com

A5 Filofax as a family calendar

I thought I would miss all the whitespace, but actually I’m dealing with it quite well! I’ve noticed that with Personal size, what you lack in page space, you tend to make up for in the number of pages you add to the binder. With A5, I tended to keep most of my notes on the current week’s spread. But with Personal, only appointments and Must-Dos will fit there. The rest of my notes and information is scattered throughout the other four sections of my organiser. Now I am flipping between sections and using the dividers, rings and page-markers much more. I feel I am using this planner for the purpose it was designed for.

What are your thoughts on Personal vs A5?

PS: I’m no longer using the Week on Two Pages format and I’m trying something different. I’m still fine-tuning my set-up, but I hope to be able to give you a tour soon.


13 thoughts on “Why I changed from A5 to Personal size

  1. I’m torn between the two. It’s easier to plan in the A5, easier to print custom pages and I can carry more in it but the weight becomes a burden. My personal has a wallet in the back which makes it an almost all in one solution, but I can’t keep the same number of feature pages as the binder rings are smaller, also can’t carry my iPhone in the front pocket (lol, my fault for switching phones!). I haven’t tried printing for the personal yet but it’s on my list when I decide to switch back again as I know I will, planner junkie that I am. I am toying with the idea of running both at the same time! But only keeping a small monthly calendar version in the personal and the full A5 week to an opening diary as my master diary in the other.

  2. definitely agree that your diary needs change as your lifestyle does. for high school & start of uni I went for an A5 week to a spread organised to have enough room to write assignment details. my final year & honours year I used a small daily moleskine, the ones that look like a little red brick! small enough to have in a handbag but enough room to write daily to do lists. I loved those diaries but once I finished uni I found myself not nearly busy enough for it… no one wants a diary full of blank pages where the only entries are work shifts! so I used a personal sized week to a page for a couple of years. now that I’m working from home, I use an a5 day to a page that sits permanently on my desk and I use it to write to-do lists every day. I have a calendar on the wall for deadlines and travel dates etc. my husband somehow seems to survive with NO DIARY AT ALL. he has a secretary instead (me).

  3. Part of the reason that I use a personal size is because of the limits it imposes on me. If I do everything that can fit in an A5, I get crazy stressed. Instead, the smaller size forces me to make choices.

  4. Kristy, that’s a great point. When I try to use an A5, I find I’m just writing more things down – not necessary anything I truly need. It’s just that the space is there, so I may as well use it.

  5. As you know, I don’t actually use an organiser, just my iphone, which is perfectly adequate for what goes on in my life, even when we’re really busy.
    But I had to smile reading this – I’ve been rereading Elaine St. James’ book Simplify Your Life, among other things how her life used to be dominated by her organiser system (very 80s!) and how as she decluttered and simplified, she downsized (in steps!) to something much smaller and simpler… 😉

  6. I went through a stage of trying out A5 as my only binder, but found it just too big. I know have one personal & one A5, & I feel I have the best of both worlds. My A5 stays at home to help with planning & projects, & my personal is my main binder that I can chuck in my bag or use as a wallet.

  7. I have a personal and couldn’t manage with anything bigger for all the reasons you say above. However, I combine it with an A4 Uncalendar which I keep in an A4 Filofax binder. This lives at home (or comes to meetings if required) and houses to do lists, ongoing paperwork, telephone messages, notes made at meetings etc. I’ve had this system in one format or another for some 10 years now.

  8. Oh dear…reading this now makes me question an A5 vs Personal size! I want to track lots (food/weightloss, personal appointments, work appointments etc) but I need it portable too. Decisions ….

    • It’s a tricky question, isn’t it! When I was working, I had an A4 sized planner that I made myself, and then I had a little bound diary for personal stuff. The work planner stayed on my desk mostly so portability wasn’t an issue. My diary stayed in my handbag. This was pre-Filofax. I know they say you should have EIOB (all in one book), but in some cases two can be ok I think.

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