Another Year, Another Planner Quandary

no idea

The new year is here, and with it, my annual indecision about which planner I want to use.

Truthfully, this indecision pretty much lives with me year round, but at the start of a new year it graduates to somewhat of an obsession.

I ended 2014 rotating between a few Compact size ring planners; namely a Filofax compact Holborn in brown, a Van der Spek standard with compact rings in #104 Janet leather and a Gillio slim Compagna in gold. The insides remained the same no matter which binder I used and I rotated depending on which color shade of brown and pocket layout I happened to be craving on any given day.

In it, I had some trimmed and re-punched Franklin Covey Her Point of View month on two pages tabs used in conjunction with Filofax week on two pages. I also had some quadrille paper in there for the occasional note, but mostly I did note taking on my iPhone using the Notes App.

That’s just what I ended the year with though. Throughout 2014 I vacillated like a mad woman between A6 size (using both a Mulberry Agenda and a custom made, widened Van der Spek Senior), regular old Personal size (ranging anywhere from a Filofax Malden to a medium Gillio Compagna) and a Midori Traveler’s Notebook in regular size.

This is one part of my personality that drives me nuts. All of them worked, but none of them worked OPTIMALLY and no matter what life threw at me. So, as I start a new year I really want to simplify and break this cycle of planner indecision and, let’s face it, craziness.

So as I start a new year, I find myself staring at all four of the planner options I was in and out of last year and wondering which one would serve me best this new year (a year in which is proving to be busier and more complicated already). Is there one I can stick with for the entire  year? No matter what changes come?

Let’s find out with a little experiment, shall we?


                      The four contenders

The four planner sizes/formats that I can’t seem to make up my mind between are as follows:

Mulberry Agenda in "Oak"

          Mulberry Agenda in “Oak”

1. Mulberry Agenda size (A6) with homemade inserts from Kiddy Qualia on Etsy. This has a full year of month on 4 pages (so I can tab them using Girl of All Work adhesive tabs), week on two pages and roughly three months at a time of day per page for detailed scheduling. I’ve also added a small Note section as a capture tool.

The advantages are its small, portable footprint and of course the sheer quality and elegance that is embodied in Mulberry products.

The main disadvantage I can see right now is that the A6 page size might not be enough, given some of the new  changes to my life 2015 has already brought, and also the lack of insert options (that I actually like) in this size. Another huge thing is that the Mulberry pen loop is tiny, so I can’t use my favorite multi pen unless I stick it in the rings which bugs me to no end. I may take this planner to my local cobbler to see if he can add some elastic to the pen loop, but at this time I haven’t done that yet, so it remains a pesky disadvantage in my opinion.

Van der Spek Standard in "Janet Leather #104"

Van der Spek Standard in “Janet Leather #104”

2. Next up is a Standard size (akin to Medium or Personal size). In this case it is a custom Van der Spek with 25mm gold rings and a secretarial pocket added to the front. This planner houses a full year of Franklin Covey 7 Habits month on two pages tabs, as well as three months of the 7 Habits 2 pages per day inserts. I have also added 12 subject tabs with a few pieces of note paper behind each. This is a lot more specialized than a general Note/Capture section, but on the other hand I’m not entirely sure I will need this level of precision, but my OCD demands that I have all 12 tabs in there (because spacing). Sometimes I put this same setup in a Personal Malden (in ochre) depending on mood or weather (as in, if it’s raining out comes the Malden so the Janet leather doesn’t get water spots, which it will). So if, as we go along, you see a Malden pop up in the photos, that’s why.

Advantages are that I have loved FC inserts for many years (but typically not the planners FC makes) and find the wider page to be nice and roomy. I also really like the quality of the paper used and the unique three section daily task list featured in the 7 Habits design.

Disadvantages are bulk and the lack of a weekly overview. This  two page per day layout means a lot of detail in each day, but also a lot of flipping around between days to get a picture of my week. Also, FC does not seem to make quadrille paper, so although I prefer it in my subject tabs, I’ll have to settle for lined. Not a huge deal, but since we are trying for optimum here I thought it was worth mentioning.

Gillio Slim Companga in "Gold"

Gillio Slim Compagna in “Gold”

3. Third in the lineup I have a Compact planner. Because I ended the year in it, I have chosen a Gillio Slim Compagna in gold. It seems that each Compact ring planner has slightly different ring sizes. Filofax are generally 15 mm, Van der Spek is 13mm and Gillio is 16mm (another reason I opted to start the year with the Gillio).

In this planner I have, as previously mentioned, a full year of trimmed to fit and re-punched FC Her Point of View month on two pages tabs and a full year of Filofax week on two pages. I do have a small Note/Capture section as well, but keeping an entire year of weeklies and monthlies pretty much fills these smaller rings.

The advantages of this system are many. For one, I know it and it has worked for me in the past (in times when life is relatively simple), there are plenty of inserts and refills that I can use, it is very portable and the rings keep me from stuffing the living daylights out of my planner or carrying a bunch of stuff I don’t really need.

Disadvantages are also related to its size, in that I might need to add a supplemental notebook or something for projects or if I need more room for things other than my calendars.

Regular size Midori Traveler's Notebook in "Brown"

Regular size Midori Traveler’s Notebook in “Brown”

4. Last up is the Traveler’s Notebook. I own several incarnations of the TN, but chose to set up the regular size Midori version in brown for this test because it is familiar and a widely known brand. I like the Indiana Jones look of the leather and I also have a clip on pen loop that matches it perfectly (cough, OCD, cough).

In it I have (all by Midori) a monthly booklet and the first 6 months of the year in a vertical weekly formatted booklet (they come in a set of 2 booklets holding 6 months each, but I don’t need the whole year in there straight away). Also I have included a quadrille notebook for general note taking and a ziplock pocket as a catch all, since the traveler’s notebooks don’t traditionally have cubby-holes and pockets as ring planners do.

Advantages of this system is the lack of rings to get in the way when writing on (for me, as a righty) the left hand pages, and the ease of archiving the booklets. Not to mention the sheer cool factor…these notebooks make you feel like your life is an adventure, they age wonderfully and they don’t need any babying.

The main disadvantage is the fact that booklets mean less flexibility for adding papers and taking them out, which is very easy to do using a ring planner. Traditionally bound book planners and I have failed miserably together, but I have such a love for the traveler’s notebook that I keep wanting to try again with it.

There you have it.

All have pluses and minuses and let’s face it folks, all of them COULD work…but I’m of a mind to do some dog calling and see which one WILL.

So, as the first few weeks of this new year pass, I will be carrying each for one week to try it out and then writing a blog post to summarize what worked and what didn’t. What could be tweaked and what couldn’t due to the particular limitations of the size or style (maybe something I need to add isn’t available, etc).

I will commit to carrying each for one full week (which is a long time if a planner fails for you on day one, lol!) and then at the end of the four week trial, I will pick a winner. I might even let you all vote too.

And my fellow planner peeps…the point of this whole thing…at the end of the four week trial I will commit to carrying said winner FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR. Period. No do-overs, no excuses. I get the next four weeks to dub around and experiment and then that’s it. One planner for the remainder of the year, no matter what.

Just saying that made me break out into a cold sweat, but I waste so much time (not to mention money!!) going back and forth over planners and inserts, re-copying weeks or months at a time into something new only to change yet again, that this HAS to stop. It has to. I didn’t used to do this…I want a tool to help me organize my life, not a time and money pit that makes me rip my hair out every few months.

So…if you’re wondering why I only showed photos of the exterior of the planners in contention today, it is because each individual one will get more of a detailed breakdown in its individual post as the weeks progress. Don’t want to show all the goodies right off the bat now, do we?

Also, at the end when a victor is chosen, I will do a post featuring the details of the winning set up…any changes I had to make since running the experiment, how I use each planning component, what works and how it contributed to it being chosen…the whole shebang.

What do you think? Are you with me? Think I can do this?

Yeah, me neither, lol!!! But it will be a good excuse to play with a bunch of planners during the winter doldrums amirite?!

Okay, here we go……………………..

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Laurie
    Jan 05, 2015 @ 17:13:24

    You can do this! After seeing this post and reading the details, I vote for the Janet. Definitely not the Midori and definitely not anything with smaller rings. What about adding FC HPOV horizontal weeks to the Janet setup?

  2. thezeitgeistofzoe
    Jan 06, 2015 @ 14:33:22

    lol Laurie…great minds…believe it or not i ordered a set of those on Sunday in case not having a weekly overview became a deal breaker. they should be here this week and i can incorporate them into the system in time for the janet’s trail week 🙂

  3. Joshua LaPorte
    Jan 06, 2015 @ 14:43:01

    My thought is to pick a page size and then you can rotate different binders or try different day or week pages to use with your monthly views as your needs shift during the year. Once you start changing page sizes you end up in the recopying zone.

  4. thezeitgeistofzoe
    Jan 06, 2015 @ 15:28:22

    very true Joshua….and that is a zone I do NOT want to end up in. again.

    i suppose the smartest thing to do would be to stick with FF or other personal size inserts and just mess with expanding or contracting in any number of compact or personal binders as life changes throughout the year. but i keep coming back to not really caring for the paper quality of the FF stuff and FC sticks out too far for a compact.

  5. wolfwalkerin
    Jan 14, 2015 @ 07:32:38

    That could be me! I also change back and forth the whole year and it drives me nuts. But at the moment I’m really happy with my Midori/Fauydori. I’m in it since september (with one 3 week break) and really love it. It seems that this works best for me.

  6. thezeitgeistofzoe
    Jan 15, 2015 @ 18:49:27

    Well, week #2 is all about trying a Midori, lol! so you’ll have to stay tuned and see how it worked out 😉 Lol!

  7. ArchiMark
    Mar 11, 2015 @ 02:52:29

    Great experiment!….

    Read your 2 follow-ups…..but don’t see the test with the van der Spek Standard?

    As I’m thinking of ordering one now, I’m really interested to hear your comments about using it…..

    Also, if you don’t mind, would like to know if the color of the Janet leather is fairly accurate or not in the photo. I ask as the sample of this leather I got from vdS has a more brownish tone to it, with slight orangey cast to it. While to my eyes, the leather in your photo looks much more orangey.

    Thank you for your input!


  8. thezeitgeistofzoe
    Mar 11, 2015 @ 15:19:05

    hi mark,

    yeah, i have been extremely terrible about these follow up posts…because i am still trying to work out which one i like best! and the VDS janet leather is definitely still in the running.

    the color of the janet leather used for my standard is very true to the photo, however, when ordering i asked petra for a hide that was light in color and pebbly in texture, so that request may be a factor as to why your sample looks more brown. also, i have a compact in janet leather and i tend to use that size more; over time it has aged and darkened considerably as compared to the standard.

    if you are familiar with Gillio orange, my particular batch of JL is very close in color to that.

    this weekend i will do the VDS follow up post and highlight both the standard and compact for you, because they show the differences between relatively new JL and JL that has been carted around for several months and not babied whatsoever.

    the leather is fantastic, and scratches rub right out, but water will stain it (and treating the leather darkens it), so although i love it and for whatever reason don’t mind the look of wear and use, if you are one who prefers a more pristine planner then JL might not be a good choice.

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