Monday, 26 November 2012

Filofax advice for Beginners :)

The world of Filofaxes is quite complex, and if you are just starting out in it, it can become quite daunting. You know you want a Filofax, but which size, model, leather/non-leather, diary insert, layout, etc etc!!

So I am going to give Filofax beginners a bit of advice today!


Filofaxes come in a range of sizes, from M2 to A4.

  • The smallest is M2, a binder size which isn't manufactured any more, but are occasionally available on ebay. I am not sure if they still make inserts for it, but lined paper for this size is available at City Organiser. It is a really tiny size, not very usable for most people, but maybe a good size as an extra binder to your normal planning system, to fit into a suit pocket! Here are a few of posts about the M2 size.
  • The next size up is Mini. This is quite a small size, but I think quite usable. Filofax makes a range of inserts for this size, including diaries (limited formats), lined paper, to-do sheets and address sheets. But again, I think it isn't a very good size for a main planner, but it would be good as an additional binder for note-taking, or hand-bags!
  • The next size is Pocket. This is a popular size, with many people using this as their main binder, and others using this as their planner for part of the year when their lives aren't so busy. It is a good size for smaller hand-bags, but ironically doesn't actually fit in regular-sized pockets in clothing! There is a good range of inserts for this size, including many formats for the diary. Pocket-sized Moleskine pages can fit into pocket-sized Filofaxes, although their isn't much space left around the pages for tabs; however, I prefer this page size to Filofax pocket-sized paper, which is just too small for me. There are 2 ring diameter sizes for personal, 15mm and 18mm, so bear this is mind when choosing a pocket-sized filofax.
  • The next size is Personal. This is an extremely popular size, most people I know in the Filofax community use this as their main size, although they have a couple of binders in other sizes; in fact, I know of a few people who ONLY use personal-size, because it's so perfect for them. The closed binder is close to the size of an A5 piece of paper, which is why personal-sized binders are often listed as A5 on ebay, so be careful! The personal-sized paper is relatively tall and narrow, which some people don't like; some prefer the squarer proportions of the pocket and A5 sizes of paper. I find it is particularly good for lists, but there isn't much width for proper writing, which is why I use A5 for uni work etc. There's a reasonably great range of inserts for this size!
  • Filofax also make 2 other sizes, which take personal paper. These are the Slimline size, and a recent addition, Compact Size. The binders are as tall as the personal-sized binders, but narrower. They have much smaller ring mechanisms; Slimline is the smallest, and Compact is about halfway between that and personal. Slimline binders don't have a clasp, so can open up in your bag quite easily, which can be annoying, while Compact binders have a clasp to keep it closed. 
  • The next size up is A5. This is quite a popular sized binder for work, but can be tricky to use for your everyday binder, because to accommodate the A5 sized paper, the binder is actually quite big. Many people complain that the binder, filled with paper, becomes too big and bulky to carry with them on a daily basis, especially in their bag. People often prefer to leave them on their desks However, the page size is ideal, so they have a dilemma between paper size and portability. Therefore, most of us want a happy medium between the two- something in between A5 and personal! One of the best things about A5 sized binders is that you can easily make your own paper, or print your own on A4 paper, which you then cut in half! There are 2 ring sizes for A5 binders, 25mm or 30mm, in which you can fit a lot of paper, although Filofax have started to make some smaller ringed (compact) A5s.
  • The next size is Deskfax. This is a size which was popular over a decade ago, but the binders are no longer manufactured and the inserts are quite sparse too, although City Organiser sell some. The ring mechanism has 3 sets of 3 rings, unlike all other sizes I've talked about already, which have 2 sets of 3 rings (except Mini, which has 5 rings). It takes B5 sized paper.
  • The biggest size for Filofax manufacture is A4. As the name suggests, this size takes A4 paper, which is easy to refill yourself, and make your own inserts for, although of course Filofax make their own diary pages, to-do sheets etc. The ring mechanism is 4 widely spaced rings, similar to other (cheaper) ring binders. This size is most likely too big to use away from your desk, and there isn't much choice in the binders, and they are quite expensive.

There is a wide range of binders available to buy now, and a range of choices within this. 

Leather or non-leather: 
The majority of binders are leather, but there are a few non-leather ranges, including Domino and Metropol. You may have a moral/ethical reason for not using a leather binder, but leather ones are also more expensive than non-leather binders. I tend to think that leather binders will last longer than non-leather binders.

Pocket layout:
There are a lot of different combinations of pocket layout within Filofaxes, including card slots, notepad slots etc. You should consider whether you want horizontal or vertical credit card pockets (compare to your favourite purse/wallet), full-length pockets, a secretarial pocket, a notepad slot, a zipped pocket, etc etc.

The ability of a binder to lay flat when open is important for most people, as they want a surface which is easy to write on, and they don't want their binder to close on itself, or to have to hold it open with one hand while writing with the other hand. You can train your binder to lay flat, but it is often easier to buy a binder which will be flat to start with!


There is (generally) a large range of inserts which you can use in your Filofax, from diary inserts to specific sheets for particular purposes. Brand new filofaxes come with a standard fill, including a diary (usually Week on 2 pages), notepaper, address sheets, to-do sheets, dividers, etc etc. However, most people want to personalise their filofax for themselves, whether just rearranging the order of the pages, taking pages out, buying more and different inserts, or making their own! That is the beauty of Filofaxes- they are completely customisable! There is a wide range of different formats for the diary part of your filofax. Filofax sell year planners, Month of 2 Pages, Week on 1 page, Week on 1 Page with Notes, Week on 2 Pages, 2 Days per Page, Day per Page, Day on 2 Pages, and the Time Management range. There is also an extensive range of Filofax pages on the Filofax UK website, by binder size.

So that's just some starter information for you, to help your with your Filofax journey!
I recommend going to a shop that sells Filofaxes so you can see them in person, to try to work out which size, pocket layout, etc etc, is right for you. Then, buy your Filofax!! You can buy Filofaxes in a shop, or try to get a bargain online! But be warned, once you have bought your first Filofax, it won't be your last- they are VERY addictive things, and within a couple of months, you will have a little collection of your own!

And don't forget to visit Philofaxy, your home for everything Filofax-ish! Here, there are daily blog posts about Filofaxes and organisation, free downloadable diary inserts and other inserts, a list of Filofax bloggers all over the internet, a place to advertise Filofaxes for sale, and so much more!! This is one of my favourite websites, and will help give you brilliant advice if you are not certain about buying a filofax!!

Happy Filofaxing!

Monday, 5 November 2012

Having a job while studying at university

Hello class!

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin!

I'm going to talk to you a little bit about having a job while studying at uni. This is all based on my own experiences, so it might not be true for everyone, but I think most of what I say will be true for everyone.

As you probably know if you have read my blog, I have done 2 degrees at the University of Liverpool, studying a BA in Egyptian Archaeology Hons. and an MA in Egyptology Hons., so I have spent 4 years at uni. I lived either in Halls of Residence (years 1 and 2), or private rented houses (year 3 and my MA), rather than living at home because I couldn't commute to uni. So I was in Liverpool for about 8 months of the year.

When you are a student at university in the UK (other countries are different), you can apply for government grants, loans etc etc to help pay for your degree, accommodation, and other living expenses. However, as I am sure most students will agree, it is hard to make that money go far enough! And for postgraduate students, you generally can't get any money from the government, and although you can take out loans from banks, you will have to pay back a lot more than you are getting. So, a great way of getting money is by working while at university.

Obviously there are lots of different types of jobs you could do while at uni. Most unis will probably offer some opportunities like showing people around during open days etc, in which you can earn an hourly wage, but these opportunities can be quite irregular. If you are doing a specific degree, you may be able to get a job related to your degree, such as a job in a bank if you are doing a degree in business, mathematics etc, which would give you work experience as well as money. However, I think the majority of students with jobs work in 'unskilled' positions, for example as a bar tender or as a shop assistant. In my personal experience, it's nice to have a job where you don't have to think too much, as you are using your brain so much in you university degree!

During year 3 of my BA, and during my MA, I worked in my students' union shop. It is a little shop selling lunch food, especially crisps, sandwiches, soft drinks and chocolate, and stationery and university memorabilia, particularly hoodies. It is a nice little shop, and I have enjoyed working there, and I want to carry on working there when I do my PhD. I wish I had started work there during my year 2, when I lived on campus- it would have been a very short walk to work! I am very glad I worked there during my degrees, as it gave me something to do other than my essays! I made some good friends, and I feel like I have gained skills in many areas I didn't have before, and I have gained confidence too!!

There are some things you have to take into consideration when you are thinking about getting a job at university.
In particular, where you work: I worked in my students' union. 99% of people who work there are students, and therefore the working situation is very flexible for us- we tell the managers our availability for working by the Thursday, and then on the Friday we get the rota for the next week. If we can't do a shift for whatever reason, we email everyone on the staff email "Can you cover my shift", so you can have time off if you need it. If you can't work a certain week, for example if you have an essay due in, you just don't give in your availability. You can work as many or as few hours as you want. The shop isn't open during Christmas and Easter vacations, so we don't need to work then when I want to go home, and it is only open for short hours during revision periods, so they didn't expect many of us to work when we had to revise.
However, other companies and employers are not so flexible. If you work somewhere such as a shop in the city centre, they may give you a fixed rota, and they will expect you to work that. It may be very difficult to get time off when you need it, or get cover. If you have a timetable of lectures for your degree, you can try to fit your rota around that, which would be ideal, but in my experience, lecturers rearrange lectures quite often, and this is difficult if you have a fixed rota for work. If you are late because a lecture over-ran, you may get in trouble at work. If you work in a shop, most likely you will need to work during Christmas Eve and Boxing day, which means that you will find it difficult to spend Christmas at home if you can't commute. If you work in a bar or similar, you may need to work very late, which means that if you need to get up for a 9am lecture, you may not get much sleep! Also, some degrees require you to do a work experience placement, which may be difficult if you have to work in your job! And if you have a permanent job which requires you to work during the summer, you may never be able to go home to visit your parents!
Remember, working while at uni is a big commitment. If you are doing your uni course full-time, you are probably expected to work around 40 hours on your projects etc; if you work, for example, 12 hours per week in a shop, you are actually working 52 hours per week!
Don't forget that you have to factor in travelling to and from work. Fortunately, my work was on campus, so about 5 minutes work from my department, and if I walked REALLY quickly, a 7 minute walk from my house. However, if you work somewhere off-campus, it might take you quite a long journey to get to work. It may cost you extra money every day to get to and from work, such as if you take the bus, and it will take you time to get there and back, especially if you walk.

All-in-all, having a job at uni is very beneficial; however, I would recommend getting one that will be flexible, such as a job in your students' union! Your uni might (should) have a 'job shop', which will hopefully be full of flexible jobs suitable for students! There are other places you can go to find a job, such as employment agencies, where they can either find you a job or temp work, the Job Centre, online, or ask for vacancies in shops and bars! Remember to update your CV, and have a photocopy available when you are out and about, just in case you see an 'Employees Needed' sign in a shop window!