One year ago, Sarah offered some planner reviews on Best of Both Worlds. We had a great response to that, so we’re back again this year with a far more structured episode! She reached out to her favorite planning companies and got samples that she reviewed.
I’ve pulled the highlights from her reviews below. I have to say that I am not a planner nerd. I have a system that works for me involving a plain spiral bound college-ruled notebook (from Target) and a small weekly paper calendar. I can see how some of the customizable products might give me a more elegant version of this system but…I’m not a very elegant person. In general, if something works for you, it works.
But! I know we have a lot of planner devotees among BOBW listeners and blog readers. So please check out these options:
(Note — most are around the $50 price point, +/-$20. Sarah’s interest in smear potential stems from her being left-handed; there is more margin for error among right-handed people.)
Inkwell Press — Sarah praised the of-the-moment aesthetic, and found the “disc” model quite usable because it allows you to customize how many pages you want, and to move things around in terms of order. Feminine design, flexibility, while having some built-in templates.
Erin Condren Life Planner — Sarah noted the “over the top” aesthetic, which isn’t really her thing, but others like it. There’s a fantastic weekly layout consisting of three boxes, and each day you can use the three boxes for what you want; for instance, Sarah uses the boxes for timed items, priorities, life details. Paper is not as smooth and luxurious as Inkwell Press, but this is a popular planner.
Get to Work Book — designed to be a calendar, but with integrated goal-setting features. Spiral-bound, and very business looking (no glaring pink!). Graph paper aesthetic has some big fans. One con: It’s quite heavy, because it’s sturdy, but you might not want to transport this one around.
Full Focus Planner — A quarterly planner generally aimed at business executives. It is very professional looking, and is super structured, with each 90 day block helping you identify goals, and block out time to achieve these. Of course, some people want their planners to go longer than 90 days, but Sarah suggested this could be good for a double down time at work.
Commit30 Planners — While these products could be used as traditional planners, Sarah thought they lent themselves best to an exercise or nutrition tracking function. If this is the year you’re eating super healthy and running that marathon, these planners could be a tool in your tool kit!
Then we got into the really customizable products.
Plum Paper Planners — These have a slightly lower price point, even though you can customize them. You design your own lay-out. Sarah put a weekly layout with boxes, and you can name rows (so, say, your kids’ names, or “running.”) Colorful laminated tabs, a pocket in the back, and the option to put in a large notes section (so you could Bullet Journal in here too). Paper is high-quality, though has a slight possibility of smudging.
Agendio — the most customizable planner product Sarah has seen. You have to really want to get into the weeds on customization, but some “planner nerds” like that! Nice paper, if medium smear potential. You can choose color; ring-bound. Only downside — adding in everything you might want could produce a very large planner! But you could keep it on a desk (and someone who worked from home would then be able to use it personally and professionally).
Golden Coil — a very elegant planner. Cotton-type paper, lots of layouts. Could make a great gift. A number of planner layouts, though you could also do a customizable notebook (Sarah made a meal-planner + recipes notebook). “A pleasure to use.” I (Laura) have to admit this was probably the planner that most tempted me. Though I am pretty loyal to my Target notebook…
And the others!
Hobonichi Techo — This is the product Sarah uses in her daily life. A master calendar, plus notes/planning without forced structure. Fairly compatible with bullet journaling. Not terribly big, so that means pages are thin (so “ghosting” happens, when ink appears on the other side of the paper). Its size is a plus and a minus (it can fit in your purse). You have to order from Japan, and choose the English-language website. Sarah uses the Techo Cousin.
Amelia Lane planners — Gold star for generosity; they sent Sarah four (!) so she’s giving some away (watch for that). Lovely colors (like an elegant mint green), meals and fitness trackers embedded. Only con is that they don’t stay open very well. You’d need to use a bookweight to hold them open. Also, very tiny boxes, so you need to be a tiny writer!
What’s your planner of choice?
Today’s question comes from a parent whose older kids get on the bus 90 minutes before her 8 year old does. How should she best use that time? Theoretically, it could be great, focused work time, but in reality the 8-year-old would like attention. Is there a good way to split the difference? My kids have different school start times too, so I sympathize. We have some ideas for using the time and adjusting expectations. Let me know what you think of the answers!