Woman holding two notebooks

Find the Perfect Planner

It is difficult to find the perfect planner, also referred to as planner peace. There are so many variables that it can be overwhelming. If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent way more money on planners and planner accessories, trying to find the right setup for you.

Well, before you spend any more of your hard earned money here are some tips to help you make the right decision when trying to find the perfect planner.


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What to Consider

We all live different lives and have different preferences. The categories below will help you to narrow down the type of planner that will be right for you.

There are a number of factors to consider before moving forward. Not least of those is what have you already tried that you did like, and what didn’t you like. Take a look at each of the categories below and answer the questions to help you decide which direction to move forward. 

Size

This is an important point to consider. There are many different sizes available from A4 all the way down to pocket. When deciding on size, things to take into consideration are:

  • Do you need your planner to be portable & how big is the bag you’ll be carrying it in. If it is a ‘take everywhere with you planner’, keep in mind that paper is surprisingly heavy.
  • How much writing space is there, and how big do you write? My writing is too big, and I have too many things to add to my planner so a pocket size simply does not work for me.
  • Is it for your desk? If you will be leaving your planner in one central location, how big is that space?

Binding

When it comes to binding, we all have very different tastes. Ring and disc planners offer the flexibility of adding or removing pages. Spiral bound planners don’t have that luxury, but can be sturdier and more comfortable to write in. Below are your main options:

  • Ring Planners – an example of these are the Filofax planners which are available in a variety of sizes. With ring planners, you have the luxury of using the same binder for years, simply replacing the inserts as required.
  • Discbound Planners – The MAMBI Happy Planner is an example of this style of planner. Like ring planners, you are able to change the inserts when needed. They are less sturdy than other styles of planners.
  • Spiral/Coil/Wire – These are all slightly different ways of binding, but have a very similar functionality. Along with book bound planners, this style of planner is probably the most inflexible of all binding styles. Having said that, they are sturdier, more compact and the cover does not take up so much room.
  • Book Bound – Similar to spiral bound planners, these planners are inflexible in that you are unable to personalise or replace the pages. However, they are sturdy, compact and come in a variety of sizes. They can also be a cost effective choice.
  • Travelers notebook – If you go with travelers notebooks, you will often purchase a number of booklets that are filed within a leather cover. Once you’ve filled one booklet, you simply replace it with another. Many people will use these for journal style planning. As a functional planner, I find them to be bulky & difficult to use. However, if you have creative flair, this might be the best option for you.
  • What type of binding do you prefer

When considering the binding think about the size – some pre-bound planners don’t have a great variety of sizes available, and will you prefer the option of replacing planner inserts and customising your layout, or are you happy with the options that are available in the spiral and book bound planners?

Layout

Some people are happy with a monthly planner, others require daily and still others are looking for a combination.

  • Monthly, weekly, daily or a combination. It is possible to purchase month only planners or you can get a combination of months and weeks.
  • Is Sunday/Monday start important to you. We can be very opinionated about this issue. I am a Monday start planner, others need their months to have a Sunday start. We could argue about this forever, but pick whichever works for you. If you don’t care – that makes your choice of planner even easier.
  • Do you want all the things or just the basics like appointments. If you are looking for a planner with monthly and weekly layout to record appointments and routine tasks, then most planners will fit your needs. If you want to keep other aspects of your life in your planner such as finances, book lists, and menu plans (there are many examples of extras, I could keep going), then you will most likely need a ring bound or disc planner so that you can personalise it with your own inserts.
  • The weekly layout – you have choices. The most popular styles are vertical, horizontal or schedule style planners.
  • Dated or undated – Each has their pros and cons. If you are just starting out, undated might be a good way to start. This way, if you miss a week, you don’t waste any pages. 

Style

  • Colourful or not – you can purchase planners which are brightly coloured or decorated with graphics, or simple black and white layout. The plain layout is useful if you plan to colour code.
  • Functional or not – some of us use our planners simply to record ‘all of the things’ that need to get done. Others use this as a creative outlet and fill their planners with doodles, stickers and accessories. Which planner will serve your style best?
  • Are you functional or journal style – If you will be using your planner as a journal rather than for recording appointments, you will need more writing space.
  • What do you need to keep track of? If you have very little to keep track of, a monthly planner might be right for you. If you need to write down every task each day, you may need a combination of monthly and daily planner pages.
cut off hands writing in notebook at desk with laptop in background

Printed, Printable or Digital?

There are three options that you can choose from. What is the difference?

Printed

This is your traditional paper planner. It can include the prebound planner that you purchase from your local stationery store, or the printed planner inserts you purchase from your favourite Etsy seller. These come already printed and ready for you to use.

Printable

These are available online. You can find them for free or purchase them at a fraction of the cost of printed planners. They are available to you as an instant download that you print for yourself.

Digital

This is out of my area of expertise, but I do know the basics. A digital planner is something that you can use on a device such as your ipad. It is possible to purchase some beautifully designed digital planners & digital stickers that closely resemble the traditional printed planner.

women writing in open planner

The Paper

When you are trying to find the perfect planner, you will also want to find the perfect paper.There are different weights of paper available, some planners will come with thick scratchy paper (many people actually prefer this – not me), or paper that is described as buttery smooth. If you are purchasing online, you will often find information about the paper in the description.

If you have chosen to go down the printables path, then you will need to find your own paper. I prefer 100gsm paper for my ring planners and for my quarterly planner that I have spiral bound at my local stationery store. If you are using disc planners, slightly thicker will be better. 120 or 150gsm.

If you are not going with the traditional A4 (or letter) size planner and want to print your own. You will find that for a fee, your stationery shop will most likely cut your chosen paper to size for you. I do this with the Classic Happy Planner size and my A5 planners.

Extras

  • Extra inserts – You may need to source extra planner inserts if you have specific needs such as budget planners
  • Accessories – there are some beautiful charms and die cuts available. Not to mention dashboards and tab dividers.
  • Will you use stickers? Will you use them just to mark appointments or will you be a ‘no white space’ planner and cover your entire week with stickers?

Cost

  • How much do you want to spend. Your budget will go a long way to helping you decide which style of planner you want. If you want to begin economically, try different layouts using free printables.

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Other

There are even more things to consider if you are going to find the perfect planner:

  • Are you looking for annual, dated, undated
  • Is it easy to purchase replacement inserts
  • What have you tried that didn’t work – why didn’t it work – let’s eliminate that
  • Do you need separate planners for work and home
  • Where do you want to buy it from? Is it important to you to support local small business, or are you happy to pay international shipping from a big, known company?

You may not get this exactly right the first time. But using these steps to decide which planner style will work best for you will get you close each time you go through the process and it will happen more quickly than if you simply purchase random planners because they are popular or because you thought it might be nice.

Find the Perfect Planner – Final Thoughts

Once you’ve made some tough decisions and you’re ready to dig a little deeper to find the perfect planner it’s time to do some more research. Make sure you have plenty of time and jump onto social media and YouTube and start your research. Ask planner groups their opinions, look for ‘plan with me’ tutorial videos.

The planner community is vast and very helpful – use it.

If you’re still stuck on layout ideas, check out the Blue Gum Lane FREE Printables Library. Print a few different sizes and styles and use them for a few days or weeks to decide what works for you. Free printables are a cost effective way of deciding what layout you are most comfortable using.

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Happy Planning x

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