I don’t know how to say this, but I have a problem. I’m obsessive about my planners. (In 2018 as you’ll see, I dallied in three different planners). I am very particular about my planners and approach my decision of the yearly planner much like a GM approaches the NBA Draft. This planner is going to carry me through the year and keep me organized, so it needs to be dependable. So buckle up for my fussy planner roundup.
Since starting college in 2008, I’ve used a physical planner. Even when I’ve worked in offices with Outlook and even with Google or Apple calendars, a physical planner is my main tool. My husband and I do share a calendar just for events that affect both of us. (Pro marriage tip right there).
My humble requirements:
• Monthly + Weekly layout
• Ample writing room
• Inspiring colors or design
• Price (Sweet spot is less than $35)
• Size (Sweet spot is the classic A5 size and less than half an inch thick)
Because I am a saver, I realized I still have several old planners I’ve used from the past eight years, so I thought it would be fun to review what I’ve used as you might be looking for a planner for the new year, but it really just revealed how neurotic I was about this area of my life. Let’s get to it.
For about seven years, I would just pick a new planner up at Target and go. Usually the Mead brand, maybe Blue Sky as well? Especially as a college student, the basic planner was plenty for a regular schedule of school and work. Also, my budget would only allow for basic. I also used a separate monthly calendar that was color-coded for my class assignments and tests, which wasn’t entirely necessary BUT IT WAS MY SYSTEM. Don’t at me.
The Basic Betty carried me through four years of college, and three years post-college as I worked an office job, and continued working as a dance teacher as well. She never let me down with her simply monthly and weekly layouts and cheerful, but simple designs.
In 2015, I left my office job and started building a freelance career in writing. My husband first discovered The Passion Planner and thought it would help me get organized as I laid out new goals for work. And he was “write.” This planner was super helpful when I started freelance work because it got me thinking about where my time went (v important for those who are self-employed) and it gave me great tools for visual representation of small milestones to meet my goals. It also had monthly reflection questions which I absolutely loved.
More expensive than my Target planners, but not crazy expensive. I used this planner for a year, but ultimately the grayscale pages just weren’t inspiring and it offered cramped writing room on the monthly and weekly layouts.
Erin Condren (2016-2017)
Starts at $55
Sometimes you just want the expensive lipstick. You know there is a Maybelline dupe for that Charlotte Tilbury shade, but sometimes, you just want Charlotte. Or Erin in this case.
Oddly, my Erin Condren planner purchase was an impulse purchase, but I was essentially done with my first Passion Planner, so it was time to pick out a new one anyway. I was having a bad week and you know what? I totally felt better after I plunked my name on a floral $60 planner. Again, don’t at me.
The color, the stickers, the thoughtful layout, and design made this a dream to use. This planner carried me through a job change and house renovations and it made me smile each time I got to open it.
But again, the price is a major downside. As was size. I realized I didn’t ultimately love lugging such a large planner around. I’m also not a huge fan of spiral bound anything.
But she treated me well, folks.
Bullet Journal – 1st attempt (2017)
Perhaps in response to the luxury of EC or the fact that we were going through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace, I briefly tried a BuJo for a month toward the end of the EC planner. But I never could get the bugs worked out in a way that pleased me. Per usual, I was late to the party on this trend, but I was captivated with the idea of BuJos for the customization aspect. I just hadn’t hit on the right formula.
May Designs (2018-never used)
Starts at $26
Around the time I started using my EC planner, I received a May Designs journal with a book I purchased. I immediately fell in love again with the designs (read: sucker) but I loved the sleek size of the journal. Sooner than necessary, I began scoping out May Design planners. When the new designs came out for 2018, I snagged one but had immediate concerns about the size and layout. I could tell early on it wouldn’t give me the space I needed, and decided to go back to the Passion Planner. I still used the planner for menu planning for a bit which was actually helpful.
The Passion Planner (2018)
Hello Passion my old friend…I used this for the rest of time I was working another office job and I loved and hated it for all the same reasons. I purchased a slipcover for it (my first one had a plain black leather cover) but with the stiff paper cover sliding around in the cover, it developed a permanent crease that made it hard to work with. I only used this for about eight months in 2018.
The Basic Barbara (From Amazon- 2018)
Less than $20
When I left the marketing firm and moved to my teaching job, I purchased yet another planner (if you’re keeping track, this is my THIRD planner for 2018). I loved the price tag and the space for affirmations at the front, but didn’t like the daily layout of bullet points on each line.
But I did use it for the rest of 2018, because three planners in one year is JUST EXCESSIVE.
In looking toward 2019 with the goal of finishing my fourth book and continuing freelance work, I started understanding my needs more- I realized I liked the guided reflection aspect that the Passion Planner afforded, but needed a little more flash and panache. I opted for the Business Boutique by Christy Wright. It was more than double the price of the Amazon one, but still slightly less than EC, this carried me through most of 2019.
I loved the monthly reviews and themed lessons. It gave me a little more pep and organization in my step each week, but ultimately, I tired of the size. It’s even bulkier than the EC one and has an even more unwieldy spiral spine.
But in a weird turn of events, I started craving simplicity once again…
Oddly enough, I find myself back at the BuJo, but enjoying it much more. I’ve identified the important criteria of adequate space to write and guided reflections, but the size has to be portable.
During 2019 I had developed some brush calligraphy skills and I knew the BuJo would be a great outlet for that (BUT TOTALLY NOT NECESSARY. YOU DO YOU.)
This decision came on the heels of settling on Moleskin journals for my main journal. Much like my planner decisions, I typically labor over journal designs, but after 14 years of colorful designs and numerous sizes, I’m settling on the same one for the foreseeable future. (However, the thinness of the pages in Moleskins is irritating me so to Leuchtturm notebooks I will go for the new year)
So right now, I’m currently using a dotted, soft-cover Moleskin for my bullet journal and I love it. One of the things that gave me anxiety was needing to write down future appointments, but not having that month “drawn” yet. I now leave 1-2 pages after the current month’s monthly layout so I can quickly capture future events, and then transfer them when I’m ready to draw the month layout.
I also borrowed questions from the Business Boutique and leave a few pages blank after the end of the weekly layouts for the month and I do my own guided reflections. I also bought a giant book of stickers to satisfy my need to personalize. Because I realized stickers made me very happy.
I am so happy with the simplicity but the ability to customize which finally marries two big needs in my planner quest. Around $20, it satisfies my price threshold and the size is perfect. I’ve used it for about two months, so I’m still refining how it works for me. I’ll share layout pictures in the new year!
It’s fine. I’m not crazy. Everything is fine. Everyone go plan your weeks now, and let me know what works for you!
Want to see what the rest of my day looks like beyond the pages of my planner? Check out this post here.