Six months ago, I completed the transition of my work-related project and administrative paper files over to a system that uses Rollabind discs as its (literal) backbone. The results have been overwhelmingly positive. Rollabind and Circa products have notably improved my file storage, retrieval, and transfer processes, note-taking, and task management. They’ve even inspired some useful hacks that I will cover in detail in future entries.
Rollabind even wooed me away from legal pads, which had been my constant companions since college. Amazing.
However, for all the inherent strengths of the various products that I’ve tested and adopted for use, there are still some important gaps that need to be filled before the system can be considered a full-fledged paper management system.
I’ll detail my filing technique (which is unstoppable) and my observations on product strengths and weaknesses in future entries. Today, I review how I developed, implemented, and tweaked my Rollabind/Circa system. if you’re thinking about doing a similar implementation, my experience will be a useful case study…
First off, some background. I’d been interested in Circa for a long time, ever since Levenger catalogs began dropping through my mail slot. As a freelance writer with a lot of project files to manage, and as a former records manager with a love of organizational techniques, I just knew that the system had a lot of potential.
My interest lay with the idea of using Rollabind/Circa not as notebooks, but as file folders. Years of project work had taught me all too well the inherent limitations of traditional cardboard file folders. They don’t travel well, and after heavy use they tend not so much to tear as to disintegrate. Poly folders were suitably rugged, but they still let papers slide out at inopportune moments, misalign, snag on paper clips and stapes, and otherwise generally misbehave.
So I decided to begin with a small-scale implementation for a specific task — folders for selected administrative files — and see where it led me. My first design, to cut and punch cardboard folders as covers, had generally (and predictably) awful results. The cardboard just wasn’t up to the task. Poly covers worked great, though they were harder to cut and punch, and they had the added advantage of allowing me to color code by client (following a color-coding scheme that I had just implemented for my computer-based project files — the subject of yet another future blog entry). In fact, those originals are still in use.
After a few months working out the kinks in the Rollabind-based administrative files and finding them to be insanely useful, the logical next step obviously was to implement a similar system for my project files. After all, I routinely transfer files between the administrative and project files. They should be compatible, right?
That’s how it spreads. Consider yourself warned.
At the time, the Rollabind website was very basic and didn’t have an online shopping capability, so I was dependent on the generally unreliable inventory of crafts stores for my supplies — not the greatest option for someone who was used to buying office supplies in bulk.
Plus, I didn’t want to keep kludging folders together with scissors and punches. An essential part of any filing system is that the supporting hardware is as close to invisible and BDS (brain-dead simple) as is humanly possible to get. It must also be relatively cheap. For all their elegance and durability, Levenger products were unsustainably expensive to use on a freelancer’s budget.
My search for the ultimate poly folder led me to Ultimate Office, one of the best-kept secrets in the office supply industry. And there I found the solution to these vexing problems: the Jotz Refillable Notebook. The heart of my filing system (I buy them in bulk), Jotz notebooks work great as file folders. They have elastic bands to keep them closed when traveling, indestructible extra-thick poly covers, and interchangeable color finger rings (see picture) that harmonize with my color-coding system. When I need to take my files with me on a site visit, the folders pack up and travel better than anything I’ve ever used.
Jotz is apparently unknown to the world of Rollabind/Circa users; I’ve never seen it mentioned in any of the lifehack or diy forums. This must be remedied. Buy them now. Thank me later. Plus, they come loaded with paper that gives Levenger’s Circa paper a serious run for its money, both quality- and price-wise.
Then the creeping Rollism spread even further, to its latest Advanced stage. Because my handwritten notes need to be compatible with my other files, I had a choice — either keep punching legal pad pages (undesirable because the paper’s extreme thinness didn’t stand up to being bound, especially when you have to keep taking them out to read the upside-down reverse-side) or switch over to the thick, luscious, fountain-pen friendly, and brilliantly ruled Levenger and Jotz paper.
So not long ago I retired my trusty old pad holder and splurged on a Levenger Leather Foldover Notebook, which has been worth the investment. I find that the Dayrunner PRO8 Tabbed Monthly Calendar works great in it, BTW.
Rollabind’s strength is the infinite adaptability of its very simple, rugged, and reliable core design. My intention to use Rollabind as a file foldering system was, at first glance, outside the “intended” applications, but not only did it work refreshingly well, it led me to even further innovations.
If you’re thinking about implementing a Rollabind solution to your writing and filing systems, I encourage you to start with one corner of your existing system and take the time to iron out the kinks before seeing how it can interact and connect with other parts. A top-down comprehensive implementation could be overwhelming and quite possibly fail. There is a deep, quiet subtlety to Rollabind; it can’t be forced.
But then again, it’s long been known that the ring will take over those who would try to possess it.