In Search of the Perfect Planner

Posted January 17th, 2016 by Candice

planner box
Every December, when my life unravels due to too many cookies and too little real work, I begin my search for a planner.  I have started many planning systems. Teacher planners, DayRunner (remember those?), ARC (Staples system).  Last year I began a bullet journal.

Bullet journals are wildly popular and I loved the idea of customizing my own planner, but it didn’t work for me.  I disliked drawing the calendar every month and didn’t understand how to “migrate” tasks using the symbols.  I became a bullet journal drop-out.

Passion Planner to the rescue!  I read about Passion Planner in the Washington Post and ordered one immediately.  The Passion Planner has everything!  So many pages to fill!  So many areas to check off and write in and—well, plan.  I loved coloring in my daily schedule.  But there were too many pages to fill and too many areas to write in.  I felt like the planner was running me.

By June I’ve usually quit whatever system I’ve started.  Why on earth is this so hard?  Experts at Franklin-Covey say planners “help people feel organized and in balance.  They create harmony and inner peace.”  Time to grab my share of harmony and inner peace!

planner stack

This year I went full-bore and bought three planners: a Leuchtturm 1917 (the notebook most bullet journalers prefer), a Passion Planner, and a teacher’s planner.  I also bought fun Post-Its and pens.  Then I sat down at my dining room table and, in a separate notebook (only the truly anal will understand), mapped out why previous planners had failed and what I really need.

planner green ruler

More than one planner is overkill, according to efficiency experts.  Maybe so, but I can’t find a single system that will keep me on track, organized, goal-directed, and let me be a little creative.  So here’s what I came up with:

planner tim

The teacher’s planner will go with me to Hollins.  Last summer I didn’t carry my Passion Planner because it was too bulky and wound up double-booking two events on the same day.  The teacher’s planner is thin, simple, and doesn’t take any time to update.

planner passion

The Passion Planner is the workhorse.  It stays on my desk and is my weekly scheduler and monthly planner.  I skip all those fill-in pages about five-year goals (at my age I don’t even buy green bananas) and what I’m grateful for.  I color in blocks of time, using a color key I devised.  Easier than symbols.  Instead of highlighters, I use twist-up crayons.

planner green

Still, the Passion Planner doesn’t have room for book lists, blogging ideas, quotes, etc.  So I divided up my new bullet journal into sections about 30 pages each.  Freed from monthly lists and migrating tasks, this is my fun take-with-me journal/planner.  I added pockets to the end papers and Post-Its.  While many BuJo devotees create gorgeous calendars in theirs, I opted for a set of calendar cards (Michaels, $1.99) anchored with clear photo corners.

planner green calendar

I found myself writing too much under “Books I’ve Read.”  I want to keep this journal a little leaner.  So I cut out the pages I wrote on in last year’s failed bullet journal for additional sections, like reviewing books.  This is not a journal I carry around.  Because I added tabs to both bullet journals, I worried about them getting bent or torn.

planner red

I don’t want to tell you how much time I spent looking for a journal cover.  Then I stumbled on these simple pencil pouches at Walmart.  They’re colorful and have compartments for pens.  My journals fit inside perfectly.

For writing and doodling, I use Pilot Precise pens, Pentel Sliccis, and Stabilos.  I store the pens and a 6-inch ruler in a Vera Bradley e-reader case I found on sale.  All the Post-Its, pens, planners not in use at the moment are corralled in a Michael’s storage box.

planner vb

Let’s review:
Leuchtturm 1917 (Amazon, different colors/styles, about $18)
Passion Planner (order direct, large size $30)
Tim Coffey teacher’s 16-month planner (B&N, $19.00)
Mead notebook insert pencil pouch (Walmart, less than $5)
Storage box (Michaels, $9.99—use a coupon for half price)
Pilot V-5 Extra Fine roller ball pens (I buy these by the dozen—they come in colors, too)
Pentel Sliccis gel pens (Amazon, about $19.00)
Stabilo 88-point Extra Fine markers (Amazon, about $17.00)
Faber-Castell Paper Crafter Crayons (Amazon, $11.00/set)

planner cat

Wow!  Big investment!  The pens and crayons will last a long time and so will the box if the cat stays out of it.  The planners aren’t cheap.  Yet if factor in I’m both labor and management, with no secretary, I think it’s worth it.  Plus I like color!

Check back in June. I’ll let you know how it’s going.

10 Responses to “In Search of the Perfect Planner”

  1. Elizabeth D says:

    Your photographs are so gorgeous! Best of luck! 🙂

  2. This is too funny! You’ve inspired me. I am heading out to Michaels. And the colorful photos make me want to make my organizing pretty!

    • Candice says:

      Organizing has always been perfunctory and a little dreary–black planners with pages of expenses and stuff like that. Why not have color? Why not draw and doodle?

      Michael’s has a whole section on storage (where I got my box) with wire baskets, containers, and a very cute planner with sticky-notes! Turquoise, pink, green, and orange! Run, Caroline!

  3. “I’m both labor and management, with no secretary,”
    I think Atticus might be your manager.
    I love all the extra bits and pieces you put in to snazzy up the diaries and journals.
    Me… I buy a $2 student diary. It is an ordinary little book, but on the “Daily Timetable” page I listed people’s tea/coffee preferences because I have a memory like a sieve for little details like that.

    • Candice says:

      Atticus is my manager, all right. I may go on strike!

      Most people function perfectly well with simple appointment books. And I don’t have children or really much of a real life, so I have very few appointments. I would write down tea/coffee preferences, too, since I don’t drink them.

  4. Donna says:

    I can’t quiet decide if I should cheer, laugh or cry. I’ve tried many systems of organization and planning all to the aim of making myself more productive, more disciplined, or more accountable. And all of them have failed miserably. I do believe that I try to change too many things at once! But, your dedication to work and your ability to manage your time has always impressed me. You are very good at work — and if anyone can make this system work, it’s you! I’ll look forward to updates, and whether you keep up with the planners or not, you will tell stories – and some of them will be about the times when plans (or planners) go awry! Cheers it is!

    • Candice says:

      Apparently some people thought this post is funny but I meant it to be a sort of “how-to.” I guess the rest of the world isn’t *quite* as serious as I am about agenda books.

      I am really not trying to change anything (though I should be losing weight and exercising)–just keep on top of things. In any creative field, it’s not enough to do 100%. You have to do 110%. I’m hoping to find and make use of that extra 10%!

  5. Sheilah Egan says:

    Loved this and I did not think it was a joke. I, too, have struggled with how to “get organized” and have fallen for various day planners, teacher grade books, etc. I often have at least two calendars and occasionally put things into my phone. I must have a purse calendar but I need to be able to look at the whole month on a bigger scale on my desk. I am trying to write appointments in one color, family events in another, due dates in another, etc. I don’t keep a journal so my calendar is my “history” of the year. I love to look back and see happy events actually marked down — and so not forgotten. Hope to hear more about your organizational skills as the year progresses.

    • Candice says:

      Sheilah, For years I had a gigantic dry-erase board on my desk, in view behind my computer monitor. I tracked appointments, deadlines, school visits, and so forth on it. I was so afraid of missing something or forgetting something.

      But every time I sat down to work, there was that ugly thing looming behind my monitor as if to say, “Get busy! See what you have to do?!?” When I redid my office six years ago, the whiteboard was pitched. Now I have all these other “systems” but at least they aren’t ugly.

      Lots of people keep a planner as a diary. I also journal (in a separate notebook) but have little record what went on my daily life beyond work and problems. I think your idea is great!

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