Paper Planners: The Showdown

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paper planner

Last month, I described my ideal paper planner and asked my readers to help me find it. I received a number of interesting suggestions on Twitter and Facebook as well as here on the blog, and now it’s time to compare the recommended products against my requirements and to declare the winner of my e-book, Organizing Your Life, Your Way.

Before I begin, I’d like to explain that this was not an easy decision, and that nearly every time I received a new idea, I thought it just might be the best one so far. In fact, it’s that way of thinking that led me to solicit input from others – to save me from checking and re-checking every website and local retailer offering calendar products until I found the perfect one!

The recommendations I received fit into three main categories: traditional, downloadable/printable, and innovative, so I’m grouping my comments accordingly.

Traditional Paper Planners

Most people recommended what I would consider traditional paper planners.

Most of these are heavily focused on a schedule-based five-day work week and many of them do not include full columns for Saturday and Sunday, including the FranklinvCovey system suggested by Marcie, the Action Planner proposed by AT-A-GLANCE, and the Blueline Timanager recommended by Kathy and April. It’s not that I work seven days a week, but since I like to plan all my activities in one place, I need ample space for my weekends as well as weekdays.

Several of the recommended planners were laid out in my preferred format: one full column for each day of the week, plus an extra one that I’d use for my weekly to do list. This included the Day-Timer system which Judi prefers, and the Harold Taylor Planner suggested by Hellen which was of special interest, since it’s Canadian like me. Eva introduced me to Blue Sky Planners, which I find very appealing with its blue cover, attractive pictures inside, and monthly tabs, and Emily proposed the colorful 8-Days-a-Week planner from the delightfully named Bob’s Your Uncle. However, all three of these products allot all or most of each day’s space to the schedule itself. Since very few of my activities are scheduled for set times, I prefer to simply write in the times for those that are, rather than have the page cluttered with pre-printed times that I don’t need.

I learned about the My-Tyme system from Sarolta, but it’s only offered as a daily planner, so it’s not what I’m looking for.

Deb suggested the DayMinder Professional Monthly Planner, but although it offers more space than most monthly planners, there’s not enough space for everything I want to write down.

Downloadable/Printable Planners

As the creator of ListPlanIt, Jennifer thought that a membership to her site would be an ideal solution for me. I was pretty impressed with the low cost of membership and the wide variety of lists and planning pages available, which include dated monthly and yearly calendars. Unfortunately, the weekly planner is undated, and I didn’t want the bother of adding the dates myself. ListPlanIt is a fantastic concept, so you should definitely explore it for yourself by signing up for a free one-week trial membership. Of special note is the Professional Membership, which allows professional organizers and coaches to not only use the lists for themselves, but to share them with their clients and in workshops as well. In addition, Professional Members receive a listing on the ListPlanIt website.

Although I was open to a downloadable/printable product, when I really thought about it, I realized I’d rather not spend time and effort printing and hole punching planner pages or use a bulky three-ring binder, so OrganizeIT’s downloadable weekly planner template, suggested by Kathi, was eliminated from my list, as was Ruth’s suggestion that I design my own form in Word or Excel.

Innovative Planners

Thanks to reader suggestions, I found out about several products I’d never seen before, including several of those mentioned above. This last group consists of planners that I consider truly unique.

One such product is the OrganizeME weekly planner, suggested by Jenni of LobotoME {goods to keep ME sane}.

The layout is a very good match to what I’m looking for, with full columns for each of the seven days of the week, spaces for planning, shopping lists and much more, including sections for tracking exercise and healthy eating as well as water and daily vitamins. I love the layout and the funky design, but it’s an undated 9×12″ pad, designed so you can fill out a page each week and tear it off to carry with you or post on your wall, and I’m not sure that would work well for me, as I often look forward and back in my calendar. This is such a cool product that I thought about buying it and placing past weeks in a file for future reference, but the colors don’t really appeal to me, and I’m not sure I’d enjoy looking at it day after day.

I came very close to ordering a Planner Pad Organizer, which I learned about from Rivka. It’s laid out in a seven-day grid with an eighth column on the left for jotting additional notes, and is available in several sizes and formats, including a spiral-bound, smaller size (6¾ x 8½”) Personal version, which is the one I would choose. What makes it different than any of the other planners I looked at is the page layout. The top section provides space for categorizing your activities for the week, the middle section is where you assign your tasks to specific days, and the lower section is for scheduled events and appointments.
Planner Pads Funnel Marquee

The only thing holding me back from ordering one is that it didn’t excite me. To some people that may sound silly, but since my planner is beside me practically every moment of my waking life, I want something that’s visually appealing. Although I said, “function is much more important to me than esthetics, but I wouldn’t mind seeing some nice colors, artwork, and/or motivational quotes,” I was really hoping to find a product that offered both.

Another look through my list of suggestions, and I realized there is such a product. Nina, the founder of momAgenda, felt that one of her planners would meet my needs. Both the momAgenda (which was also recommended by Laurie and Eve) and the myAgenda feature my preferred eight-column layout, with separate spaces for recording various categories of activities, and no pre-printed time slots. They’re available in a variety of fashionable colors, have inspiring quotes throughout, and I can tell from the images on the website that these products will be a pleasure to touch as well. Because my Mom duties are pretty minor, now that the boys are grown up and living on their own, I’ve chosen the myAgenda. I’ll be writing a product review once I’ve had a chance to try it.

Congratulations to Nina, who wins a free copy of my e-book, Organizing Your Life, Your Way, and big thanks to all of you for sharing your recommendations. I hope that the information you’ve provided, along with my own comments, will be helpful to others as they choose their planners for 2010.

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A former professional organizer, I now eliminate stress for my clients by hosting, monitoring, and maintaining their WordPress sites so they don’t have to worry about security, downtime or performance issues. When I’m away from my desk, I enjoy reading, photography, watching movies, and cooking.

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  1. Avatar Melodee Patterson on October 5, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    Good choice! Did you get the pretty amethyst one?

  2. Avatar Janet on October 5, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    I was tempted to get the amethyst, but was worried I might grow tired of it before the year was out, so I chose the mochaccino.

  3. Avatar Melissa Multitasking Mama on October 6, 2009 at 6:48 am

    I agree with you that there are a lot of great planners out there. But, I also agree with you in the MomAgenda is always the one I recommend to my clients that want a paper organizer. Great choice!

  4. Avatar Janet on October 6, 2009 at 7:34 am

    Melissa, thanks for confirming my choice. I can’t wait to receive it, especially since it runs from August ’09 to December ’10 and I’ll be able to start using it right away.

  5. Avatar Kay on October 14, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    How could you forget WeekDate?

    It’s a calendar like no other.

    Only Write It Once.

  6. Avatar Janet on October 16, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Kay, thanks for letting me know about your very unique calendar. I love the idea of not having to rewrite recurring activities!

  7. Avatar Stephanie Calahan on December 5, 2009 at 8:33 am

    Awesome post Janet – I love how you provided your thinking process to your decision. If others are trying to decide on electronic or paper, they should check out 21 experts weighed in on how to make the choice.

    I’ll be sharing your post with my audience on Monday! 🙂
    To your success

  8. Avatar Janet Barclay on December 5, 2009 at 9:15 am

    Stephanie, I guess you could say I’m a calendar junkie – I would love to make a career out of trying out and reviewing different planner products! Thanks for sharing your link with my readers, and mine with yours! Much appreciated!

  9. Avatar Julie Bavington on December 8, 2009 at 1:40 am

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE my Taylor Planner. I can’t wait for 2010 to arrive soon!!! Great reviews. Thanks for asking… and for sharing answers from so many sources. ~J

  10. Avatar Janet Barclay on December 8, 2009 at 8:54 am

    Julie, don’t you just love opening a new planner and the anticipation of what will be written in it over the coming months?

    It’s good to know that the Taylor Planner is popular outside Canada as well!

  11. Avatar Michelle on December 14, 2009 at 12:46 am

    Like Stephanie, I loved reading through your thought process as you researched the planner options that were suggested to you. And, like you, I could no doubt make a career for myself in researching and evaluating different planner products!

    For the coming year, I’m thinking that I may try putting together my own D*I*Y Planner with a pinch of David Seah’s Productive CEO series and a dash of Charlie Gilkey’s Productive Flourishing.

  12. Avatar Janet Barclay on December 14, 2009 at 7:29 am

    Michelle, that would be brilliant! I’ve heard of D*I*Y Planner before, but The Printable CEO™ Series and Productive Flourishing are both new to me. Thanks for introducing me to even more possibilities for the future!

  13. Avatar Michelle on December 14, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    Ah, yes… David Seah’s Printable CEO series! Thanks for correcting that ‘oopsie’… As soon as I pressed the ‘submit comment’ button yesterday, I realized that I had made an error! 😉

  14. Avatar Deanna Koller on December 8, 2010 at 9:12 am

    It’s funny your mention of the uninspiring but well laid out Planner Pad organizer. I loved the format, so I ended up sewing my own funky cover with multiple pockets to make it more inspiring and functional. I looked at orange swirls every day and that made me happy and kept me on track!

  15. Avatar Janet Barclay on December 8, 2010 at 11:35 am

    Great idea, Deanna! Thanks for the reminder that if a product isn’t quite perfect, with a little imagination, we can adapt it to better suit our needs.

  16. Avatar Moe on June 21, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    I’ve been using the same day planner for quite a couple of years, and while I LOVE it, I wondered if I was missing out on a better system. I’ve been searching Google for all possible variation of words to find my new, perfect “mom planner”. As I read this article, I right-clicked on every link, so that I could check them out later. Then I got to the bottom, and ta-da! Your winner is MomAgenda… which is the planner I’ve been using.
    I guess I’ll just close these extra tabs, and stick with what I know works 🙂

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on June 23, 2014 at 6:34 am

      That’s so cool! Thank you for sharing, Moe!

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