An Impending New Year and the Desk of Shame

Well, the world didn’t end, so now I guess it’s time to deal with my “desk of shame”.

On it, I began accumulating my potential planner candidates for 2013. This started around September, and now that 2012 is all but over, as you can see, things have gotten way, way out of hand.

the desk of shame

The desk of shame (the sticky notes on each are my beefs w/them. See details below)

As you know, I recently discovered disc bound systems, and have been using (and loving) my Levenger Circa in Junior size (pictured in the middle of the desk, propped up against the Arc punch). My one and only beef with it had been that the interior of the covers left me wanting.

Wanting a 2nd pen loop (normally I can slip a 2nd pen into the rings…but oops, no rings here!). Wanting more than two card slots. Wanting maybe some pockets or something, anything really, inside the back cover. Wanting a means to close and secure the thing.

I was actually getting ready to dismantle the Desk of Shame and just go with Levenger.

Until yesterday, when I discovered, to my absolute horror, that attempting to erase a Frixion pen on Levenger’s (I used to think) superb paper resulted in this mess…


What. The. FUCK.

It is true I don’t use Frixion’s much anymore…really just for scheduling work appointments (which tend to change a lot) or things that are only tentative but I need to hold the spot…but this is ridiculous. Levenger paper is not cheap. Not only is it an ugly mess, but the paper in the erased area is all crinkly (almost like it got wet) so writing over it was pretty much a disaster too.

Attempting to erase after trying a good old fashioned pencil was smudgeless, however all the printed lines erased right along with my writing.

ZOMG Fail.

The Levenger annotation ruled paper and all of the cheaper Arc paper seems to be fine in erasing both Frixion pens and regular run of the mill pencil, however Arc only makes Monthly and Weekly inserts and those won’t work for me.

Levenger must use different ink when printing the daily pages then? I’ve gotta say, they really screwed the pooch with that decision.

This is a whole new, big, major, really freaking annoying beef. Could I just not use pencil or Frixions and stick with the Circa? I did just splurge on that lovely Kyoto pen after all. What about just using Arc inserts and dealing with the Weekly format and learning to write smaller?

Sure, I could do either, but isn’t this whole crazy planner obsession thing about finding a no-compromise solution? For me it is.

Whether or not my OCD will stand for this new development remains to be seen.

So in the mean time, back to the Desk of Shame I go, in case I snap and Levenger does indeed cease to be an option. Thank goodness I never got around to putting everything way!

To keep things fair, I set up each potential planner system in a tan colored binder, since my Levenger of choice has been the saddle tan one from eBay.

For some reason I thought putting everything in like colored binders might even the playing field and help me choose by function rather than form. But even I don’t know what I’m doing anymore when it comes to planners, so who knows if that logic will work or not.

Anyway, here are the contestants in the once again and seemingly inevitable New Year’s Planner competition  (from left to right in the photo, in case you want to refer back to it):

1. Filofax A5 w/One Day per Page – Levenger Junior is the equivalent of a Filofax A5 or Franklin Covey Classic; pages are roughly 5.5″ x 8.5″. My first option is to stay big and go with an A5 with One Day per Page inserts. The upside of this Ochre Malden I’ve chosen is that it has tons of great interior storage and a whole year of dailies will fit in it.

Beefs: No monthly tabs (and, thanks to the back-to-back Filofax printing layout, there is no option for off-brand monthly tabs, even if I could find another brand that would fit) and crappy paper quality. The large, leather Filo’s can also be heavy to lug around.

2. Filofax Personal w/One Day per Page – If I decide bigger isn’t necessarily better, that leaves my old standby, Personal size. This size could also be used as a planner/wallet combo if I so decided (though Personal is a little big for that) and again, the Carmel Finchley I’ve chosen with which to demo this set up has great interior function. The biggest plus here is that I can fit an entire year of daily inserts in a still rather portable book.

Beefs: The aforementioned lack of monthly tabs and crap-tastic paper (though, in this size I was at least able to trim & re-punch FC monthly tabs and use those, but since Filofax prints everything back to back, I had to just sorta stick them in near where they should go, which tweaks the ol’ OCD).

3. Franklin Covey Compact w/Two Pages Per Day – Kind of a happy medium between a smaller binder size yet a wee bit larger (and much better paper) page. These refills do come with monthly tabs, and refills are readily available in various designs. I’ve set 2013 up in Her Point Of View. Still wanting some color it seems : ) This Veronica binder has lovely leather and adequate interior function. The large rings allow for 6 months of inserts at two pages per day.

Beefs: To accommodate the larger page size, FC binders feel boxy and awkwardly square (not that this fact has stopped me, or will stop me from using one…it just makes it feel less optimal when carrying it around). These do not make good wallet/planner candidates even a little, and I don’t care for their tiny subject tabs.

4. Levenger Compact w/Two Pager per Day – While we’re talking smaller, it seems the perfect time to mention the Levenger Compact. Page size is exactly the same as a Filofax Personal. I picked up this plastic sample from eBay on the cheap to see if I’d like it. I do, however Levenger seems to be discontinuing this size, so although refills are available for it in 2013, will they be in the future? Unknown. Also, currently there is only one leather cover available for it on the Levenger website; in a smooth black leather.

Beefs: This plastic one has no pen loop or interior pockets whatsoever (the leather one would, but that would cost me an additional $69 for something I might not be able to refill beyond 2013). No monthly tabs were included with the inserts (however since Levenger does leave breaks in between the months, I was able to trim & re-punch FC Compact monthly tabs and use those). Accessories/refills for the Levenger Compact size are in short supply and may be phased out at any time.

5. Filofax Compact w/One Day per Page – Confused yet, since the last 3 all call themselves “Compact” yet they are all different sizes?  This set up would essentially be the same deal as the Filofax Personal, except that only three months of inserts will fit. However, the smaller rings would make writing a lot easier. The obvious pro with this choice is that it is the optimal planner/wallet size. I had to go with my yellow Finsbury (of the now famous Drunken YouTube Review), as I don’t have any tan Compacts in my collection.

Beefs: Same as with the Filofax Personal. Must kluge trimming/re-punching FC monthly tabs for it and stick them in willy nilly, and the thin Filofax  paper. Also, only having three months in my planner is tolerable but not really that great for my needs.

6. Franklin Covey Classic – I have no inserts for this one (yet). Another large option, and this Classic Suprema in saddle tan is chock full of awesome slots, pockets and compartments inside. I’ve had this binder for years and I adore it. It also has the 2 pens loops I crave. One thing I like about this option is that FC has some nice One Page Per Day refills available for it (all with monthly tabs included, I might add). Often with the FC Compact, you’re stuck with either Weekly or Two Page per Day refills, but for some reason they do plenty of dailies for the Classic, and a whole year will fit comfortably. Were I to decide this is the way I want to go, I’d probably order up the Serenity design for some color.

Beefs: As with the large leather Filo’s, this binder can be like schlepping around a brick in my bag. Also, despite the amazing pebbled leather, there is no closure on this binder, same as the Levenger.

There you have it folks. Welcome to my neurosis. And my messy desk.

I’d put up a poll and let you vote your little hearts out for which I should ring in the New Year with, but I suspect this is beyond a vote.

I suspect what needs to happen is some good, old fashioned dog calling.  And hey, I can think of worse things…it is January in New England after all. What else do I have to do until spring?!

The possibility exists, too, that I end up with two planners running…something small and portable to carry 24/7/365 (ideally that doubles as a wallet), and a behemoth desk version that stays at home (or possibly at work, since that is where the majority of my need for page space originates), or is dedicated to work and only gets toted around on weekdays.

As a post script, let me just say that Levenger Circa is an awesome system and I don’t regret delving into it as I have.  My intention was to use one of these as my 2013 Journal anyway, and that will stand, as the lined paper seems to be fine, and I don’t use pencil or Frixion in my journal anyway.

I have submitted a complaint email to Levenger about the issue with the ink used for the Daily inserts, and am hoping for resolution by either returning the them outright for a refund, or exchanging them for the Julie Morgenstern Balanced Life inserts, which I am told are printed with different ink and therefore withstand erasing.

As always, stay tuned!!

15 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Laurie
    Dec 27, 2012 @ 15:45:22

    I will withhold my opinion until you find out about the JM inserts. That might just tip the whole thing!

  2. Kim
    Dec 27, 2012 @ 16:28:12

    I use Levinger and Arc as well. I have the Levinger 2 page per day agenda in the Master Circa Zipped Folio. It holds 11/2 in rings and does provide more pockets. I also utilize the zip pouches as well as a flat Avery pouch/envelope that has adhesive and is also able to be moved and reusable for my stickers, etc. I put it on the inside of the back cover. I have also been using Martha Stewart’s dividers and folders for disc binders as they are thinner and allow for more pages in my binders. I love the way I can move paper and use different size paper in all my binders. I have several letter and junior ones I use the small Arc compact size in my purse for quick lists or notes and then can place it in the binder it goes in.
    I too am struggling with a portable diary/agenda and really would love to try a Filofax personal but have already invested in Circa and Arc the past year.
    I also have the agenda weekly inserts in Junior size and have it in a red leather Arc Junior notebook with a list and note section I am going to try for my personal use as it fits in my purse. I have 1″ rings at this time on it. I am going to divide the day sections into four vertical lines or maybe quad sections for personal, home, finances, and meals/food diary. I will keep my Circa as my main calender with monthly appointments showing both work personal but use the daily pages just for work.
    I have never used 2 systems but that is my plan for now. I have to give this a go and see how it works. In the past I always used Franklin – at least 20 years but always struggled with carrying my Classic size everywhere.
    Hope this lengthy comment gave you some ideas.

  3. thezeitgeistofzoe
    Dec 27, 2012 @ 17:37:08

    @laurie: i will keep you posted. i also noticed they have an undated daily refill. i have emailed customer service to inquire about the ink used on those. if it is not the smudgy kind, i may give those a go. they are way cheaper than the JM refills!

    @kim: zipped master folio eh? interesting. i went and looked and i must confess to being intrigued with the bomber jacket zipped folio. crap, lol! i love the flexibility of the disc system too and would be hard pressed to give it up. i may have to check out a zip folio to see if that addresses the interior functionality issues i’m having. LOVE the avery pouch/envelope idea! totally going to copy you on that one if you don’t mind ; ). thank you very much for your suggestions! i’d love to see pictures of your system…maybe we should start a levenger/arc group on flickr!!!!

  4. Kim
    Dec 27, 2012 @ 20:15:14

    I forgot to add that you can buy Martha Stewart bands that hold your binder together. They also have some thru Levinger. The envelope I told you about is Post It by 3M. I hope we both work out our issues because I love the system overall. Also, the folio I have and my friend has the one you are looking at has 2 deeper slots at the top that hold a 3×5 size card. I also put extra pens/pencil on the longer pockets at the top and bottom under the zipper. Still zips fine and very easy to get to.

  5. thezeitgeistofzoe
    Dec 27, 2012 @ 20:44:52

    @kim: i have a feeling i’m about to spend more money, hehehe! there goes the christmas bonus ; )

  6. Josh LaPorte
    Dec 28, 2012 @ 05:14:02

    I read this and think of my own similar issues, and just *wish* that DayTimer would print their formats on better paper. I remember that you don’t like the narrow line spacing (and I admit, it’s not ideal), but the fact that they:
    -are the right size to fit in personal size filofax;
    -have monthly tabs that fit between the months properly;
    -offer numerous weekly, daily, and 2PPD options in several designs
    -continue to offer numerous planner insert accessories which filofax no longer offers;
    -are US made,
    make them pretty darned irresistible. But that darned paper quality, which you cannot even touch a fountain pen nib to, is just such a problem I can’t quite get over it.

    I’m going to start 2013 in a personal size DodoPad insert and, if it doesn’t work, will probably go back to DT 2PPD which was the format that worked the best for the longest time for me in 2012. It just ends up being a LOT of paper. And crappy paper at that.

    Good luck!

  7. thezeitgeistofzoe
    Dec 28, 2012 @ 13:36:01

    @josh: yeah, my issue with DT (aside from the quality of the paper and the teeny tiny line spacing) is how they divide up the real estate on the one page per day layout. i can’t write (or see) that small. i did buy a set of flavia inserts to try again in the hope that something had miraculously changed and they would work, but they just didn’t. if i’m going to do 2ppd, my fall back seems to always end up being FC. at least the paper is decent and i can read the font.

    keep me posted on how you like the dodo pad insert though..i’ve yet to try those!

  8. J
    Dec 28, 2012 @ 17:08:51

    Haha, I was waiting for this! What would we read about if you actually found a perfect system???

  9. thezeitgeistofzoe
    Dec 28, 2012 @ 20:32:04

    @j: well, that’s a good point, lol! i wouldn’t have much to blog about would i?! way to turn my planner frown upside down : )

  10. kanalt17
    Dec 29, 2012 @ 02:22:28

    I think before you can truly decide, you need to ask yourself, how much space do I need for work and for personal, and do I want them together. Because how you answer will knock out some of the competition. But maybe you’ve already worked that out and it’s still down to the original 7.

    Based on all of your posts I have read (from your blog’s inception), it appears that you are most happy with Franklin covey, all due to the layout, options, and space it provides. Clearly I can’t make that decision for you, but it’s just an observation. As for binders, you seem to like the compact Filofax the best. Sadly though, you can’t fit both together very easily (as in, not without trimming and repunching and general annoyance). I guess the question there is which is most important to you — insert layout and options, or binder.

    I look forward to hearing about your decision, or your continued angst. Whichever it ends up being, I’m sure your readers will enjoy your planner adventures! 😉

  11. Cassandra
    Dec 29, 2012 @ 14:55:59

    Seems the A5 malden and the FC classic are the choices. I am biased as I have used a FC Classic for 18 years and I desperately want an A5 ochre Malden!

    Dec 29, 2012 @ 16:09:31

    I can SO relate! I don’t have my “desk of shame” as organized as yours, but it still exists. I was trying to decide between FC Compact, Filofax Personal and FC Classic. My head was spinning with the choices. I finally sat down and prepared 3 equal sized pieces of paper with the name of one of the choices on each paper. I put them in a bag and drew one of them out. To make it fair I decided to do the best 2 out of 3. The first time I got one of each. The second time I got 1 of each. The third time I got “Classic”. As soon as I saw the results, I decided I didn’t want to use Classic. Oh, my – sometimes it seems there’s no hope!!!

  13. thezeitgeistofzoe
    Dec 31, 2012 @ 16:19:02

    @kanalt17: you are 100% right…what i want is the FC inserts in a FF compact. too bad that is total fantasy, lol! i think by now (12/31…nothing like cutting it to the very deadline) i have it narrowed down to three options for my every day planner, so that’s progress at least! 2 of the 3 involve FC inserts. one in an FC binder, the other in a FF. the 3rd involves trimmed FC monthlies w/FF 1ppd in a compact. might have to do some dog calling to see which “sticks”.

    @cassandra: i did decide to use a FC classic for my everything, stay home (or get carted to work on super busy days) planner and, as i wrote above, am working on narrowing the carry around planner choices down as we speak. i ultimately went for the FC classic because of the inserts & the tabbed months.

    @patty: lol! i feel your pain!! i’m going to start the year with a FC classic that is my everything (home, work, bills, etc) planner & leave it at home, open on my desk (except for really busy days that i’ll need to bring it to the office), and a smaller more portable option (still up in the air on which one) that i’ll carry around. like you, i’m torn between a FC compact and a FF personal…but with FC pages in either. be sure & let me know what you end up deciding to use!!!!!!! and good luck ; )

  14. Sharon
    Jan 12, 2013 @ 03:34:56


    I have another suggestion (like you need that). Last year, I repunched the Levenger compact monthly tabs and week per view and put them in my Filofax personal size. (I keep lengthier notes in a separate binder and I track work on a Franklin compact vertical week per view in the same binder, but at the back so it won’t interfere. Seems like overkill, I know, but it works for me.) The Filofax holes vs Circa punch-outs didn’t seem to interfere with each other much and the Levenger paper is much better. I didn’t have the smearing issue, even with Frixions, although I seem to remember someone having a similar complaint about some of the other Levenger “print on demand” products. I’m still using the Levenger monthly tabs this year, although with a different week per view.


    p.s. I thought I was the only one who was annoyed by the square shape of Franklin Compact binders…

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