Podcast: Plannerpalooza redux!

Best of Both World podcast with Laura Vanderkam

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!

31 thoughts on “Podcast: Plannerpalooza redux!

  1. Fun episode! Just wanted to let you know that you can buy the Hobonichi on Amazon now. Same company but they are distributed via Amazon.

      1. @Laura Vanderkam and @SHU – I discovered that Hobonichis were available on Amazon last year as I was waiting for mine to arrive from Japan. That made a long wait feel even longer! I’ve a note in my calendar since then to order from Amazon. 🙂

  2. I have a weird hybrid system of apps and a paper notebook… I use Google Calendar for appointments, meetings, etc. and an app called Todoist for tasks and deadlines, but I also have a blank hardcover notebook that I use for written daily to-do lists, notes, tracking habits, time blocking my work days, etc., and that also functions as my diary or journal. Basically it’s my version of a bullet journal, although I don’t follow the bullet journal format!

  3. Barnes and Noble has simple planners for about $10. Two-page weekly layout with 7-8 lines for each day. I’ve been getting my planners there for about 10 years. They are available in large and small sizes.

    1. @smh – I think that’s my budget category 🙂 But I suspect to the planner aficionados it’s the same as pointing out you can get a very decent bottle of red wine for $15. True but…there’s a world of high end fun out there.

  4. I am pretty devoted to my planning system, which is basically: Rocketbook for notes and weekly time blocking, Trello for to lists and workflow tracking, Google + Outlook calendar for appointments. I find it so much easier to share electronically with my husband, plus I can always count on having my phone with me. I have to admit some of these are tempting me though!

    1. @BethC – I think there are a lot of great digital planning tools out there. I personally like writing things and crossing things off, and I suspect some people who love paper planners are also really into stationery, pens, etc.

      1. @Laura Vanderkam, agree – there’s nothing quite like physically crossing something off of your to-do list! I do enjoy writing things down, which is why I LOVE the Rocketbook. (Basically you write notes and then you can upload them to Google Drive, OneNote, etc.) This combines my love of handwriting with my need to have the notes in the cloud (rather than a notebook where they’ll never again see the light of day)! I really enjoy hearing about other peoples’ planning strategies because it gives me some ideas to improve my own process. 2019 will be the year of long-term planning! I’m not very good at that right now. My current planning strategy is more “treading water”!

  5. I use a hybrid system of an electronic calendar and paper planner. The electronic calendar(Cozi) helps me coordinate with husband, au pair, babysitter and kids. My husband can up load the Cozi entries to his google calendar and cozi allows really simple input of schedules (school, soccer practice, violin). My husband, au pair and I can all add entries. I can print the week on Sunday and post it on the Fridge for all to see. I can also meal plan with it so it also functions as a menu.

    I use a personal planner for my personal schedule, goals and to-dos and well as for planning bigger projects that I don’t want in cozi (Christmas shopping list, holiday activity advent calendar). I carry it with me to and from work. I don’t love my current planner, but based on SHU’s review of the golden coil planner a couple of weeks ago, I purchased one to start January 2019. It hasn’t arrive yet, but I am super excited to use it.

  6. I just started using the Full Focus Planner about two months ago and am loving how it focuses me on my big ticket priorities that I tend to neglect due to an endless supply of necessary tasks that don’t get me closer to achieving my big personal project goals. I use Toodledo as my master online task list including appointments for all family members (google feed for an electronic calendar layout view) and an Ordning & Reda calendar (A6 size, which is about a fourth of a letter-sized page) for my master family paper calendar (repeating appointments don’t usually make it in; I keep my kids’ weekly schedules as a slip of paper in the calendar).

  7. I used Moleskine planners religiously through college and the first couple of years after, but towards the end I was so dissatisfied with the layout options. My planning needs changed and Moleskine didn’t keep up. I struggled along/planned poorly with digital alternatives until Sarah mentioned the Hobonichi last year. I am 100% in love with it. Digital was/is great for maintaining/sharing calendars (and I still use them at work and with my husband), but doing any type of long term planning or keeping track of non-event future items (packing lists, grocery lists, day specific to do items) was impossible for me digitally. I hate the process of inputting information digitally – I find it slow and frustrating. Plus digital planning negates my overarching life goal to spend less time on my phone or in front of a computer.

    The Golden Coil and Inkwell Press planners are truly beautiful, but anything with a coil is an absolute deal breaker for me. As a right handed person, coil binding makes it harder/more frustrating to use the left page. While I would love a thicker more luxurious paper, I don’t want that more than I want monthly/weekly/daily options in one lightweight and easily transportable planner. Ghosting doesn’t bother me.

  8. For my family – planning looks like this: Our school year runs in 4 terms of 9 to 11 weeks each followed by 2 or 3 weeks of holidays. So for each term & following holidays, I print an A3 sized simple grid of 7 columns by 11 or 12 weeks and write in dates & all the events. It gets stuck on the fridge and then stuff gets added as we go.

    My personal system – I started out in a hobonichi cousin (totally Sarah’s influence) about 3 years ago. That was too heavy and I didn’t have that much to fill it, so I switched to a Weeks as my ‘planner’ and an original for my journal. I loved that system but I picked up a few extra things in my life (volunteer job & education courses & a new business) and ran out of room in the weeks. I tried the agendio & loved how customisable it was. However the spiral binding is a deal-breaker for me. I really hate it. So next year I’m back into a Hobonichi Cousin Avec. And I bought a 5 year Techo for journaling. I do love the hobonichis.

  9. I was inspired to try planning and goal setting on paper last year because of your first plannerpalooza. I love stationary, luxe paper, and pens, but I am so embedded in my digital tools that I couldn’t keep up the paper version. I sync (work) Outlook calendar, task lists, notes, and contacts with the (personal) calendar, task lists, email, contacts, and notes on my iPhone (and other Apple devices). My husband and I use iCloud to share our family calendar, to-do lists, and a shopping list which updates automatically when things are added or checked off. All this is an effective system for me, but I’m still jealous of the tangible paper based planner 😉

  10. Regarding the question of the week: I had a great response from my elementary school daughter with Audiobooks from the library. She played them on a $17 CD player I bought her and it helped spark more interest from her reading. It gave us a lot of present but separate time together, she is a very social girl!

  11. Hi Laura and Sarah,

    Thanks for the plannerpaloooza. I’ve found I am a simple black Dayminder gal! Anything more elaborate and I don’t look at it, and only use the monthly calendar page of. I wonder if you could recommend a planner that might be useful as to capture childhood memories and milestone for my 3-year-old son. I have a notebook I write things in, but I would like something a little more “special”. I am not a scrapbooker or crafter, so something that had a nice layout on its own with room to write a bit would be neat. Thanks much.

  12. Similar to other comments, I have a paper-electronic hybrid-system. I use Outlook for work and paper for personal. I’ve used my Filofax Personal since high school (and I’m the same age as you)! Two-page week spread, week on one page with notes on the adjacent page, and monthly overview. With planner wanderlust, I’ve wanted to make a change for years but remain loyal to my system. I found one at Plum Paper, and I may take the plunge and try a new planner this year, since it’s at a lower price point. Did the vendors offer any type of promo codes for podcast listeners? Thanks for the awesome podcast and detailed planner review. 🙂

  13. OMG, I can’t wait to listen. I’ve gone back to a Bullet Journal in my luxurious Nuuna notebook from Germany, but if I were going to buy an actual planner, it would be the Ink + Volt one, which was created by an acquaintance of mine (I didn’t realize that I knew her until after I bought the planner!).

    All my calendar stuff is in Google Calendar and that works best for our family calendar as well, and I can see my work stuff on it as well. I realized I need the calendar to be electronic since it changes so much and I don’t always have my notebook handy.

    1. Oh my gosh, yes! Ink + volt! I tried bullet journaling for a few months, but it was to hard to upkeep. I end up using bullet journaling concepts in my ink+volt planner and that works best for me.

    2. Thanks to SHU, I just ordered a Hobonichi Cousin from Amazon to try. I’ve seen a lot of people “fill in” their Hobonichi pages at the end of the day with journaling, drawing, pasting in random things to make it sort of a hybrid planner/scrapbook, so I’m intrigued by that idea. I wish the Cousin came in an English version – I’d love the quotes and other stuff I see in the smaller Techo, but knew I wouldn’t use something that tiny.

  14. I’m a total planner nerd and getting ready for a new planner brings me ridiculous amounts of joy. I haven’t listened yet to the podcast, but I’ve been following the SHUbox planner blogs (and the blog generally). And it has helped me confirm from a source that clearly takes planners as seriously as I do that I have the right planner for me. I use the ink+volt planner. https://inkandvolt.com/product/the-inkvolt-2019-planner-signature-series/ It’s what I need for daily, weekly, monthly logistical planning (for work and life) with just the right amount of motivation and goal-setting (i.e., not too much, but just enough and I can use the space to do the motivation prompts or write grocery lists). I also adore the simplistic design layout. (And, no, I do not work for the company.)

  15. So, I am a major planner. I have a diary that is a mix of the Erin Condren monthly and daily pages I designed myself. However, I’m going over to an Emily Ley daily next year. I really need the daily aspects. I am a ‘planner’ (Carsen Tate label) so I really have to get everything down and plan everything to work efficiently. I’m also an ‘upholder’ (Gretchen Ruben) and so I’ve made myself a rule that my planner is the source of truth for me and my family – hence additional room needed. My husband is a farmer so very few appointments or travel – he tends to plan around me.
    Downside to Emily Ley was you had to order at launch to get the planner you wanted. Not so appetizing when I live in Australia and it was 1am – hence I missed out on the one I wanted and had to settle, which will annoy me all year!
    I’ve looked at Golden Coil now and I sort of like them! However, I can’t get a year of daily pages into one coil. Hmmmmm…..

    1. @Annelies – if you had actually stayed up until 1 a.m. to buy your planner that would have been dedication! But I understand being annoyed about settling. If I’m looking at something every day all year I want to be happy about it.

  16. I commented on the instagram post but I have one more planner recommendation – for a more minimalist and lightweight approach, I love May Designs! My favorite of theirs is an old format no longer available, but I’m trying out the 2019 biannual agenda for Jan-June to see how I like it. I really like a small amount of room for scheduled appointments, meeting, etc. and a larger space for to-dos with ability to separate work and personal, and this seems to fit the bill!

  17. I’m a listener from New Zealand, I’d no idea such planners existed! All that customisation. Just put through an order with Plum Paper- great website. Still took me hours to make decisions though, choice incredible. Shipping reasonable to which was great.

  18. I appear to be alone in that I have no interest in paper planners and have been skipping over the planner episodes. Google calendar works well for our family of 5 and the idea of writing, rewriting and needing to carry around a paper planner seems like it increases complexity and moving parts. To each her own I guess.

    1. @Sophia – I am a firm believer that if something works for you, it works. Just like a paper person shouldn’t jump onboard the digital bandwagon to do so, there’s no need for you to carry around calendars and planners and re-copy things 🙂

  19. I use the get to work book for my personal planner. I buy the academic so I can look at a school year. I love the goal setting and planning pages and I can do lite bullet journaling on the extra grid pages and at the bottom of the weekly spreads. I love the GTD methodology and can use that in my get to work book. I use nirvanahq for work (online app) lists and a plain calendar for schedules. I keep my calendar on my phone but it helps to cement things by writing them down.

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