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Looking for your perfect planner? Here’s how I found mine.

Are you looking for the perfect planner to help you organize your life? You’re not alone! Many people turn to planners to help them prioritize their daily tasks and goals. But I haven’t used one as of yet. I’ve tracked my goals and tasks electronically using ClickUp. My main task list lately is on my email app, but I don’t respond well (if at all) to electronic reminders. I’m a visual person; I like making lists and seeing words on paper, so even though I have my overall plan on an app, I’ve always taken daily action by making a list of if priorities the night before and leaving it on my desk. So with my coffee in hand the next morning, I see what I have to tackle.

I needed a different system. Here’s why.

As a business owner, I wear a lot of hats, but I also have leadership responsibilities with various networking groups. I have found the electronic method recently less effective because I have siloed my goals, marketing plan, and mindmaps in ClickUp, saved my ideas and resources in Evernote, and put tasks in my email. It was time for a planner because it’s the proven way to manage your time and see the roadmap to your year-end goals. It made absolute sense. But, once I was in Google land, the selection was dizzying.

I asked a few business owners about their favorite planners. Aliseya Wright, a Software Engineer turned Entrepreneur, recommended the Hobonichi Techo. The features she loved about this Japanese planner were the weekly layout with the full week on the left and blank graph paper on the right page. It encourages her to focus as it only has space for jotting down key daily things. The right side has plenty of room to go into more detail if needed. If you need even more space, there are also blank pages in the back.

There are numerous ways to use this planner, but she prefers it for daily priorities/to-do planning. In the morning, she spends a few minutes writing down one or two things that need to be done to move forward with whatever project I’m working on. The layout helps her focus on her most impactful tasks, and doesn’t get distracted by the noisy ones. She uses the right-hand side to jot down notes and ideas when inspiration hits.

Hobonichi Tecno Planner is used by many entrepreneurs.
The beautiful Hobonichi Planner

Aliseya started JournalXO with her daughters in 2020 to spend more time together while teaching them about running a small business. She currently lives in Kauai with her husband and daughters and loves doing hot yoga, surfing, and cooking.

JournalXO Washi Tape is the perfect planner companion.
Journal XO Washi Tape is the perfect planner companion.

I got a few good recommendations, but have you ever brought an app and had to rewire your brain to use it? I have more times than I would like to count. It’s frustrating and completely unnecessary with all the options on there. So, I thought about what I needed in a planner vs. buying anything I came across.

My Planner Wish List

  1. Planner Build
    • A large 8 1/2″ by 11″ format was a must. My handwriting is big and bold, which will not change just because my planner is tiny.
    • The paper had to be thick and smooth. I’m tactile and wanted the act of writing on smooth paper.
    • It had to be sleek, especially with the larger size. I love a good hardcover. I love gold coils, but that adds weight and bulk. I couldn’t see myself lugging something like that around if, by chance, I had to take my planner on the road.
  2. Planner Format & Content
    • It had to be dated for one year. Of course, an undated planner leaves the opportunity to skip days, weeks, and months. But that’s just me.
    • Covers all business and all personal goals. Using a planner itself takes commitment. Several planners take that much more of a commitment. Anyway, I am one person with facets. A planner should cover them all.
    • A weekly format. There are days out there that I thought would be too detailed, bulky, and daunting to keep up, a monthly too broad. A weekly planner is the soft spot in the middle and works with how my brain sets to tackle goals.
    • How it was organized had to work with my brain, not the other way around. Luckily every vendor posts images of their layouts and content. I could view each section to see if it made sense to me.
    • It had to include a habit tracker because progress comes from breaking old habits and making better choices.
    • It had to include the guidelines for goal setting and breaking them down because these should be at your fingertips as you use the planner. It would be best if you weren’t forced to search for a goal-setting YouTube video.
  3. Price
    • Buying a planner should be simple, so my goal was to avoid planner systems and their pitfalls. As a business owner, I don’t have the headspace to manage yet another subscription or assemble my planner components, nor do I want to pay a fortune over time.

The Search for the Perfect Planner

My search took about a month of reading reviews and viewing page layouts for about eight or more planners. Papier, Ban.Do, Erin Condren, Rifle Paper Co, Day Designer, Full Focus, Passion Planner, and Clever Fox. Narrowing it down, my top three were Day Designer, Passion Planner, and Clever Fox. The Day Designer flagship planner is beautiful, and because of this, I almost jumped on it. I had it in my cart and was almost ready to pay $68 plus shipping. But I caught myself and returned to my wish list, which left the tie of Passion Planner vs. Clever Fox.

The tiebreaker was the weekly layout. Passion Planner Weekly includes 30-minute daily timeslots, which I couldn’t see myself filling with meetings, nor would I want to. When I read the reviews (all great), I noticed that many customers were using the schedule real estate for other things like affirmations or notes (anything but a schedule), which only confirms that they should probably be using another planner. This one wasn’t for me.

Passion Planner Weekly Layout
Passion Planner Weekly Layout

Clever Fox instead gives you a few blank lines per day. You can include several meetings/appointments there — nothing keeping you from writing a 10 a.m. conference call. By doing that, they were able to include valuable features like a habit tracker, life balance, mind map, wins, and improvement sections. It’s a more thoughtful layout, in my opinion.

Clever Fox Weekly Layout
Clever Fox Weekly Layout

Using the Clever Fox Planner

I’ve had my Clever Fox Planner for a few weeks now. I’ve added all my goals for 2023 for every aspect of my life (business, financial, health & fitness, family, personal development, relationships), and I’m very happy with my choice. The layout was carefully thought out, and it flows in a way that’s natural to me. I didn’t think I would use the stickers, but they are a fun bonus. Regarding its looks, it is a beautifully made book, just in a different way than Day Designer. No bling but quality construction with stitched premium pages and everything you need to be productive.

Conclusion

The best way to find the perfect planner is to know yourself and your needs. There are many different types of planners, so use my experience and create a feature list as your guide. After you understand what you need, you can make your search for the perfect planner easier. And don’t forget to stick to your list. Fancy covers and all that extra bling don’t make a planner any better. They won’t make your goals come true, but one that you will use daily will. I hope this helps you find the right one for you.

Angela Atelier is a New Jersey-based portrait and personal branding photography studio empowering women everywhere to live their best life. Contact us to schedule your complimentary consultation.

New Jersey Portrait & Personal Branding Photographer

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