Choosing a Planner That is Right for You | Overstuffed Overstuffed

Monday, September 29, 2014

Choosing a Planner That is Right for You

Even amidst all of the electronic technology out there, people still love and use their paper planners.

I am one of those people.

I have tried to go all electronic, and as soon as I do, my life falls apart. I'm just no good at planning for things when all I can see are small entries on my tiny phone. And I'm terrible at keeping my Google calendar updated. In fact, I think it still has my teaching schedule from 2 years ago as my current schedule. Partly this is because I am a little bit stupid when it comes to figuring all the techy stuff out (for instance, I still don't know how to get my phone and computer synced for Google calendar), and partly it's because I just LOVE my paper planners. I don't think I'll ever have that same kind of love for my phone calendar, sorry.

What to look for when deciding on a paper planner system. Plus, reviews of seven popular planners on the market today.

I've used a lot of different planners over the years, and I have learned exactly what I need in a planner. It changes as my life changes, but I have become rather planner picky.

In college, I carried around a big, ol' Franklin planner and man, I loved that thing! I kept with Franklin for a while after I had Bria, but I soon realized that it was way too much planner for a SAHM with a baby, and I started looking around at other planners.

Now that I am a working mom of three busy children (9th, 6th, and 3rd grades), my planner needs have continued to evolve.

Here are the things that I personally consider when looking for a planner:

1. Academic Year vs. Calendar Year. With both The Maestro and I working in academia, plus having three kids, having an academic year calendar works best for me. I have occasionally purchased a calendar year planner and then been annoyed when it ends in December because I like to have one school year all in the same place.

2. Size. I need it to be small enough to fit into my purse, but big enough to actually contain my entire life and brain.

3. Sturdiness. I carry my planner with me EVERYWHERE. I need it to be super sturdy so it can last me a full year.

4. Writing Space/Page Organization.  My planner isn't just for me and my schedule anymore. It has to include my children's and husband's schedule as well, because their schedules directly affect me. I need a good page organization and lots of space to accomadate all five of our schedules.

5. Extras. Most planners include extra things like pages for taking notes, birthday pages, budgeting pages, etc. I know which of these I will actually use and which I won't, and I know which ones I can't live without. Ideally, I'd like a planner that doesn't have a lot of extra pages in it that I won't use, but I can overlook that if it has the extra pages that I want.

6. Cuteness Factor. I admit, I'm a sucker for all the cute planners out there, but it's low on the list. This is one area in my life where function trumps aesthetic (and believe me, usually it's the other way around). If it's cute but not functional, I would miss every appointment I have. My planner is literally my brain.

I thought I would quickly review several of the planners I have used in the past few years. I always save them, as I consider them a type of journal of my life, so I got out the pile that is still in my office and hasn't yet been relegated to a bin in the basement. I'm embarrassed at how many are not in the bin, but hey! More planners to talk about, and I do love planners.

At-a-Glance Life Links Planner

I used this planner in 2008.  It can be purchased here: At-a-Glance Life Links Planner

  • It's a good size. It's not huge at all, and is easy to carry around.
  • It did divide the daily view up into three sections, which I like. 
  • The month tabs are sturdy and easy to use.
  • The extras are not excessive, and are all things I used (gift lists, child info, blank pages, etc.).

  • I always mistook the to-do list at the top of the right-hand page for Friday. 
  • It isn't very cute, but it is elegant.
  • I could have used a lot more blank pages each month instead of just at the end of the planner.
  • There wasn't quite enough space on each day and I had to write really small that year.
  • It did not run on the academic year.

Erin Condren Life Planner

I used this planner in 2011-12. It can be purchased here: Erin Condren Life Planner.

I bought this one because there was a mega-sale going on, otherwise it is a little on the spendy side. That said, I have found I always like the more expensive ones better and am more likely to really use it well.

  • It is super cute and well-designed, and there are several different design options. I especially liked that you could have your name printed on the cover. There is also an option to put a photo on the cover as well, but it does cost extra.
  • I really liked the goals/to-do lists on the sides of the pages. I didn't always use them, but I liked having them there for when I needed them.
  • There are plenty of note pages for each month.
  • I loved the pocket folder and the zip pouch that are in the back, and used them often.
  • It follows the academic year.
  • It comes with lots of fun stickers for things like concerts, birthdays, and no school. Plus, there are blank ones for you to use as you see fit (see "book club" sticker above).

  • As much as I loved it, it was just too big and unruly. It didn't fit well into all of my purses, and it was heavy.
  • The month tabs were not sturdy at all, and bent and ripped after only a few months' usage.
  • The days were split up into "morning, day, evening" -- I liked that they were split, but I would have preferred to choose the categories myself.

Home Executive Planner

I used this planner for 2012-13. I found it while we were on our Epic Vacation in Utah, at the BYU Bookstore. It is LDS-themed, but not so much that someone who isn't a Mormon wouldn't want to use it, I think. It was pretty much only the stickers that are included that were obviously LDS. It can be purchased here: 2014-15 Home Executive Planner.

  • It is a good size. It's on the smaller end of the spectrum, so I liked that, but it also had plenty of space to write in each day.
  • It is quite cute, and well-designed. (This year's version seems even cuter.)
  • I liked the pocket envelopes that were included in both the front and the back of the planner.
  • There are cute stickers included, for things like FHE, temple night, and church activities if you're LDS, but also things like birthdays, weddings, date night, and field trips if you're not. Plenty of fun stuff there.
  • A monthly recipe!
  • Runs on the academic year.

  • No month tabs at all. I ended up using a big paperclip bookmark to keep my place in the planner.
  • I didn't like how so much space was devoted to menu planning and grocery shopping lists, as I don't use my planner for those things. When I got the planner I tried to use it that way, but it just didn't work for me. You can see that I started using those sections for random other things. These sections are something that might be wonderful for everyone else, though!
  • Not very much space for note taking.
UPDATE: To see my review of the updated version, click here: Home Executive 2015-16 Planner.  It now has tabs, more space for note taking, and a beautiful new look! The stickers aren't LDS themed at all anymore, and are universally needed for any "home executive!"

Franklin Covey Her Point of View Planner

I actually used this planner for three years straight, from 2009-2011. I really like it. You can purchase one here: Franklin Covey Her Point of View Planner.

  • I think this is definitely my favorite size of planner. It's pretty perfect.
  • I liked the fact that my beloved Franklin system was still included. Things like master task lists and the Franklin bookmark made me really love this planner.
  • There is an inspirational quote by a famous woman each week (hence, "her point of view")
  • There is space for notes and to-do lists on each page.
  • The monthly tabs are very strong.
  • Plenty of note-taking space each month.

  • It runs on the calendar year.
  • There isn't quite enough space on each day for my personal taste.
  • It's not nearly as cute as some of the other planners out there, but it is very functional, which is why I used it for so long.

Mon Journal Weekly Diary

I have not actually used this one yet! I bought it to use last year, but then my mom gave me a planner as a gift (coming up next...I promise we're getting close to the end!), so I shelved this one. Which didn't really matter because it isn't for any specific year. It's a Korean Planner, which is a big trend in planners right now (see this Pinterest Board for examples, and this specific Pin.), and I thought it would be fun to use all the washi tape and things. You can purchase this particular planner here: Mon Journal Weekly Diary. I had also purchased these fun masking stickers to use instead of washi tape, because they seemed easier to keep in the pocket.

  • Great size.
  • Has an envelope pocket in the back, ideal for storing all the stickers you will need to glam it up.
  • Very high quality paper--almost luxurious.
  • Very little is pre-printed, so it is totally customizable, and you can bling it up to your heart's desire!
  • Can be used on any version of the calendar you like, or in any year, as dates are not pre-printed.
  • Has extra pages for notes, and a monthly calendar view as well.

  • Very little is pre-printed, so you HAVE to customize it.
  • Might not have enough space for each day, especially if you're using lots of washi tape and stickers.

Mormon Mom Planner

This is the planner my mom bought for my birthday that prevented me from using the Korean one. I used this planner for the 2013-14 Academic Year. With a name like "Mormon Mom Planner" it is obviously intended for LDS moms to use. It can be purchased here: Mormon Mom Planner.

  • It is a nice size. It is bigger than most of the planners I've already discussed, but it is not as big as the Erin Condren Life Planner. It fits into my purse just fine, though it is heavier and thicker than some of the other planners, it does not bother me.
  • It's adorable.
  • If you are LDS, there are a ton of wonderful extras included: General Conference note taking pages, FHE planning pages, all of the Sunday lesson schedules, ideas for teaching children the Gospel, Book of Mormon reading charts, etc.
  • There are also great holiday planning pages included each month. For instance, there is a Thanksgiving planning page in November, and December includes Christmas planning pages and gift guides and Christmas Card lists. She's really thought of everything.
  • It can be purchased on either the calendar year or the academic year.
  • Each day has three sections, and you can customize how you use them (I use Me, Kids, and Other).
  • Each week includes a to-do list.
  • There are plenty of extra pages for notes.
  • Sturdy mothly tabs.

  • It is LDS-themed. While I am LDS, I found I did not use the majority of the LDS extras included, awesome as they are. For me, they were just extra blank pages.
  • The bottom of each day includes a menu planning section, I tried to use it that way for a while, but as I said before, I just don't use my planner for menu planning. (Mostly because I'm not the menu planner at our house.)
  • No fun stickers, although you can buy them as add-ons on the website.

Mom on the Go Planner

This is the planner I am currently using. It is the same company as the Mormon Mom Planner, but it is not LDS-themed. It can be purchased here: Mom on the Go Planner.

  • This year she has erased the word "MENU" from the bottom of each day and left it blank so you can use it how you want to use it. I have started using it to keep track of what I wear to work (yes, I'm weird like that!).
  • It is a nice size. It is bigger than most of the planners I've already discussed, but it is not as big as the Erin Condren Life Planner. It fits into my purse just fine, though it is heavier and thicker than some of the other planners, it does not bother me.
  • It's adorable.
  • There are also great holiday planning pages included each month. For instance, there is a Thanksgiving planning page in November, and December includes Christmas planning pages and gift guides and Christmas Card lists. She's really thought of everything.
  • It can be purchased on either the calendar year or the academic year.
  • Each day has three sections, and you can customize how you use them (I use Me, Kids, and Other).
  • Each week includes a to-do list.
  • There are plenty of extra pages for notes.
  • Sturdy monthly tabs.
  • This year it is bound with plastic spirals instead of metal, and it hasn't stayed together as well. I prefer the metal spirals from last year's planner.

UPDATE: To see my review of the updated Mom on the Go Planner, click here: 2015 Mom on the Go Planner. It now has pockets, we're back to the metal spirals, and more things are customizable than ever.

Phewsh! That's a lot of planners! It's probably evident from my photos that my method of using planners is kind of haphazard, though I have gone through phases of color-coding and highlighting and perfect handwriting, too. Mostly, I just use whatever writing utensil I can find! I might be a little haphazard, but if I didn't have a planner at all, I would be completely lost.

Which planner do you use and love?
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  1. I love love love my Erin Condren!! But I totally understand that it is can be too big/heavy. I enjoy it's size but I think if I didn't like a big planner, it would annoy me.

    The mom on the go planner looks fun. I will need to keep that in mind for next year.

  2. Ali Anderson WilliamsTue Sep 30, 09:56:00 AM

    Why didn't I think of this? I have old planners and forgot all about them. Time to start writing things down again! Thanks!

  3. I love planners & need them in my life to stay organized!

  4. I love planners too, but sometimes it hard to find the perfect one. Have you seen the Day Designer planner? I've heard that it's great, but a little pricey. Sometimes, if I can't find the planner that I like, I just supplement with my own pages. lol

  5. I haven't seen that one to my knowledge. I'll have to look it up! I'm always wanting to try new ones to see how I like them. If I had time, I'd totally design one just how I wanted it. Maybe someday!

  6. Amen, sister! I need them in my life to know where to go and what to do!

  7. You're welcome. I have to write. I think the very act of writing helps me remember. :)

  8. If I didn't have to lug it all over kingdom come, I would have been happier with it. You can see how battered mine got. If it mostly stayed on my desk, then the size wouldn't bother me.

    I do think the Mom on the Go had more in it that I found useful than Erin Condren does, and they are both super adorable!

  9. Thanks for this! I'm searching for the perfect planner. Right now I'm working out of several trying to determine which one works best. I'm thinking of using a dated journal and modifying myself. But I absolutely loved the detail you gave here on the pros and cons of several different planners on the market. You'd think I was buying a car the way I work this decision over again and again. :-)

  10. I don't know...I think I may use my planner more than my car, LOL! I'm glad you found it helpful, and I hoe you find a great one for you. I too have thought about just designing my own, but I don't know if I have either the time or the skill for that!

  11. Thanks for the reviews of the different planners, I enjoyed your pros and cons the most! Have you ever used DIYFish Life Mapping Inserts (LMI)? I have tried several different inserts and keep coming back to her inserts, with her inserts I am able to see the month at a glance, week at a glance and the daily page all at once. I am probably going to try the free sets in 2015, not totally sure though. The problem I have had with the majority of inserts is they are too visually busy, different fonts and colors used in the main parts of the planners. I find that very stressful. With DIYFish LMI I can add the amount of color and decor that my brain can handle. She also has different layouts and designs.

  12. Zaira Ivette SierraSun Oct 12, 01:08:00 PM

    Day Designer and Simplified Planner are very similar, yet the DD is slightly more geared to career- (or activities-) centered women, and SP is slightly more geared to home-centered women. Those two are very appealing to my way of assessing my time.

  13. There is just something about pretty office supplies and planners, isn't there?

  14. Thank you! I haven't heard of those, either. I will look them up.

  15. This is very helpful. I too love planners. I've found Plum Planners on Etsy and I just ordered one. They are somewhat similar to Erin Condren but from what I've read not as bulky.

  16. I looked them up, and they look intriguing. I'm getting a ton of ideas from my readers on which planners to try next. Thank you!

  17. I've seen those but have not tried them! I hope you like it. I will have to give it a try myself sometime. :)

  18. I have two words for you... "Mom Agenda". I've used the same type for 4 years now. I think it would take a lot for me to change to a different kind lol. Anywho... This is the kind that fits me. :)

  19. I am in the market for a new planner. I like the simple one I have but, like you, I don't like that it isn't academic and ends mid-year, so to speak. With four kids, that's not very fun. Plus I will be starting nursing school in January so things are about to get serious and I need a serious planner. I have been torn between whether I should just buy one or if it would be more affordable to print out my own planner-style pages but I have come to the conclusion that just buying one is a better investment of my time.

    I recently stumbled upon the uncalendar via pinterest. Have you heard of them? They aren't sold in stores, only on their website here:

    I like the way the pages are set up and the fact that it is undated so you can start it on any day you want. The covers are pretty plain but nothing some colorful sharpies can't correct.

  20. I saw sunday church for 3 hours and i said She is a Mormon Mum!! lol , great this post becouse I am loking a planner to use in 2015!! great ideas and advices!!!

  21. Thank you for the great reviews! I'm using an undated Mead planner for women. It's okay, but there are no blank pages for notes! It's too bad because it's the right size, well put together, the calendar pages have just enough sections for my family and my blog...and it's not too heavy. But zero note pages, but tons of full sized meal planner pages means it doesn't work for me. Suppers I plan, but not lunches...I am home, my husband is at work and my daughter is at school, so we aren't going to eat the same thing!

  22. I guess you can use the meal planners as note pages, but it does annoy me when things are denoted to be something particular and that isn't something I need or want in a planner.

  23. I have used Uncalendar the last 3 years. The full size is huge, definitely more backpack sized than purse sized, but I found the half-size just didn't have enough space in it.

    This is another of those you HAVE to customise yourself--it includes very little pre-chosen information. The full size has plenty of room and people with more formal systems than I have consistently use certain boxes and sections on each page the same each week. I've never bothered, but perhaps I should start...

  24. I can't live without a planner, and have been using one since I was a teen in the 80s!

    My current favorite is the Plum Paper planners which I've opted for these last two academic the customizable categories! Too big for a purse, but it's always within reach. For quick notes and portability, I've paired it with a academic notebook, but if I've learned anything from my Franklin Covey days, all information must reside in just one place. I make a point to transfer quick jots from the notebook straight on to my main planner.

    Based on your pros and cons, Lara, I think you would REALLY love the "Do It All" planner from Orange Circle Studios.
    I enjoyed that version for two years (after my one year of Erin Condren).

    Did I mention I love planners?

  25. Oooh...I looked at those "Do It All" planners, and I do like them. I may have to try one for next year. Thanks!