Search for the Perfect Planner
I love paper planners. While my software developer husband keeps trying to shove his Google Calendar at me, I remain loyal to print. I’ve used the Erin Condren LifePlanner for years, but this academic year, I wanted something different. I didn’t just want a place to put my schedule; I wanted a place to also chart goals and develop morning and evening routines to help alleviate some of the burnout I’ve been feeling. I looked at a range of paper planners, so I thought I’d share with you what I see as the pros and cons of best and which planner I ultimately landed on for 2018-2019. I’m sure you are waiting on pins and needles to know.
But, first, a word about the benefits of a paper planner. There are lots of reasons I prefer paper. First is, well, paper. I’m a print person. I have my students print out their papers for grading; I realized I ended up spending way too much time per paper when I graded electronically. I print research articles to read and annotate and edit my own writing on paper. I did try using my Outlook Calendar when I had my precious Blackberry Bold, but it felt so impersonal and open to anyone else at the university who had Outlook (I’m sure there were probably ways to fix that, but oh well). The act of physically writing a meeting or a deadline in the paper planner fixes it more in my mind than with an electronic calendar. I also like being able to personalize with different color codes, doodles, and stickers.
So which planners did I review in July?
Erin Condren LifePlanner
When I first found this planner, I liked the personalized covers, the colorful monthly and weekly sections, and the three boxes per day to add your schedule. It includes monthly spreads, event stickers, perpetual calendars, inspirational quotes, and more recently, boxes up front for adding goals. They started as a little woman-owned business in southern California and have grown exponentially in the last few years; you can even find planners and accessories at Staples now. They’ve added more ways to personalize with a wide variety of now interchangeable covers, different colored coils, colorful and neutral palettes, and three different layouts for the week – the original three box view, hourly, and horizontal. With these changes, they have made the planner a little more man-friendly too, as the planner really is targeted at women, used frequently by lifestyle, food, and mommy bloggers especially.
Over time, I found myself spending too much effort matching my pens to the monthly color schemes, decorating each week in a specific palette of pens and washi stickers. I hadn’t found a good way to use this planner to track projects and goals either. So, great for folks who like lots of colorful and artsy options in a planner but not as awesome for tracking work.
The Passion Planner is designed to help you articulate goals, draw your Passion Roadmap, and track projects throughout the days and weeks of the month. It provides regular space to plan and reflect on your time. Passion Planner includes timed weekly spreads (below) and monthly calendars, all undated so you can start using the planner at any time during the year. Each weekly spread includes space for articulating weekly and daily intentions, motivational quotes, space for personal and professional to-do lists, a spot for gratitude, and a space for a small piece of your Passion Roadmap or doodles. It’s about as thick as the EC LifePlanner and soft rather than coil bound. I ordered this planner and liked it, but as I thought about setting it up for Fall, I realized it was a little too structured for me, so I returned it.
Full Focus Planner by Michael Hyatt
The Full Focus Planner comes from time management guru Michael Hyatt and incorporates all his tips and processes in one undated, hardbound book. This one is more business-like and includes great features like pages to articulate your daily routines, goal trackers, and weekly and month reviews. Each day gets a full two-page spread that includes space for your “Daily Big 3” goals, a task list, daily appointments, and a full page for notes (see below). I thought long and hard about this one as it seemed to have everything I wanted in terms of tracking daily rituals, projects, goals, and my days. But the big con for me was that, because each day gets its own two-page spread, this planner only lasts three months; it would be huge if it covered a full year. So you have to buy four of them to get through the year, while more than doubles the cost of an EC or Passion Planner. And I couldn’t figure out how I could record future meetings and events without carrying multiple books around. So this one was a no for me.
I know you’ve been in suspense, but I chose the Panda Planner Pro for this academic year. The Panda Planner comes in two different sizes, and both sizes include ways to think about you month, week, and day. They have space for breaking down projects and priorities, keeping a focus and daily habit in mind, and planning and reviewing months, weeks, and days. I chose the larger Pro planner with comes with 12 undated monthly spreads, about six months’ worth of weekly planning pages, and six months’ worth of daily pages (see below). The only thing I don’t like is that it only includes weekly review pages rather than weekly spreads so I can’t see my schedule for the week in one place. I’m going to use the monthly spread for that and see how it goes. The planner is large enough that I should have room to add everything. I’ll use it until it runs out in January and then decide it I want to get another or try something new.
So that’s my quick tour through paper planner land. What type of schedule-minder do you prefer, and why?