Planner Contenders for 2018

After my list of must-haves helped me narrow down my choices for a goal-based planner for next year, it was time to really dig into the different systems I’ve been looking at.

The Commit30 Day Planner has a weekly spread that includes space for notes and a to-do list, and I like that the time labels are unobtrusive enough to easily ignore. Unfortunately its goal-planning features are a little lacking; they’re based around a pair of monthly planning pages that give you a habit tracker and a few weird circles to write some goals into. I was hoping for more guidance than that.

I also took a look at the Momentum Planner from Productive Flourishing. It’s a set of printables rather than an A5 planner, which makes it a bit of a wildcard for me. I liked the way that the weekly page separates scheduled events and project chunks, but all of the sections wouldn’t be applicable to me and I can’t get past wanting a bound notebook. I could see myself trying some of their free printables for big-picture planning though.

One of the best options I found is the Passion Planner. It has lots of room for project lists and to-dos, and it encourages you to write down your main focus for each month, week, and day. The daily planning spaces have an extremely noticeable timeline though. It runs from 6 am to 10:30 pm with a line at each half hour, which means you’d need small, precise handwriting to use it as intended. Between that timeline and the high-contrast of the rest of the layout, the Passion Planner’s pages feel hectic and cramped. As much as I like its goal-based features, I’d probably only go with this one if I was willing to use their larger version.

I did check out one other planner, and it seems like the best fit for me. More on that next week.

What I Want In a Planner

Before I look at some specific options for my 2018 planner, I decided to make a list of the features I’m looking for. I’ve got four big priorities to make sure a planner stays useful longer than the average New Year’s resolution.

  • A5 size
    Planners need to be easy to carry around. An A5 style is big enough to fit plenty of info, but it’s also small enough to cram into most of my bags.
  • goal-setting features
    It’s easier to keep daily activities matched up with longer-term goals when I’m using the same notebook for both. Many goal-based planners also remind you to review your progress regularly.
  • 2 pages per week
    I want to spend my week mostly focusing on 2 pages. I’ve found that a weekly calendar with an extra spread of planning pages leaves some tasks lost in the shuffle.
  • thick, good-quality paper
    My favorite rollerball pens have dark, heavy ink, so good paper is a must. Unless a planner’s specs brag on their paper quality, I’m not interested.

There are a few other things that aren’t deal-breakers, but they’d be nice to have.

  • no time labels
    Breaking down my day into preset units of time is intrusive and unhelpful. Just give me space for each day and let me decide how best to use it.
  • two ribbon bookmarks
    This is such a simple thing that it’s hard to see why more brands don’t do it. It’s so convenient to be able to easily mark two different places in any notebook or planner.
  • a simple layout and style
    I want a planner that gives me structure without feeling cluttered. It also shouldn’t be overly stylized. A clean design feels more focused, and it’s less likely to clash with all the stickers I’m gonna cover this thing in.
  • some note pages
    I’d love a small section in the back to keep notes in, preferably with a dot or grid layout.

I’ve experimented with bullet journals in the past, and I use some elements of that system for my writing notebooks. But for my main planner, it’s best to trade the flexibility of a blank notebook for something that’s already set up. I like to have visual representations of my weeks and months, and DIY-ing that kind of thing feels like a time sink.

Next week I’ll start going over some of the planners I’ve found.

Picking a Planner for 2018

I live and die by my Google Calendar, but no matter how convenient that is for managing events and appointments, I’ve always preferred pen and paper for dealing with the rest of my life.

Last year I used a Volt Planner from Ink + Volt, but despite their slick new redesign, I’m looking for something different for 2018. The Volt Planner devotes four pages to each week, which left me with a lot of wasted space. Putting my weekly goals on a different page than my day-to-day activities also kept them out of sight and out of mind, which defeats the purpose of a goal-based planner. (Yes, I’m apparently unable to focus on two sets of pages every day. After trying for a solid year, I’m ready to admit it.)

2017 Volt Planner with part of my weekly schedule filled in
my Volt Planner from 2017

Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting about what type of planner I’m looking for, and I’ll share some of the options I’ve found. And hey, those Volt planners are sturdy and have great, thick paper, so if you’re more consistently capable of turning pages back and forth than I am, check ’em out.