A common phrase often heard in the planner community is 'chasing planner peace'. We are always searching for the one planner or planning system that will keep us happy and contented, and as a result, all our problems solved.
What exactly are the selection criteria? It turns out that the devil is in the details, and there are hundreds, if not thousands of variations! Here's 5 main options to consider.
1. Consider the size
Common planner sizes range from small, pocket sizes to large, desktop sizes and many variations in between. There is always a trade off between portability and the amount of information a planner can carry. Smaller planners are light and handy, and can be used for everyday, everywhere carry, but may not hold every single detail. In comparison, desktop planners will be able to hold more information but may be too heavy to carry while you are on the move. Therefore the main decision is to select one that is 'just right'. Having more than one planner or combining paper and digital planning methods are some of the ways to address this dilemma.
One other reason for size consideration is the availability of printable inserts. Are refills and planner inserts of the size you want widely available for sale or as printable downloads? Some sizes like A4, A5, US Letter, A6, traveller's notebook and pocket sizes are popular and therefore more widely available for to suit your customisation needs.
2. What pages do you want?
In its most basic form, a planner could be just a notebook with blank pages. It is up to you how you want to work your magic. Ryder Carroll's bullet journal system provides a guide on how to set up pages to record the past, run your day and plan for the future, all starting with blank pages. It is an amazing system.
If you prefer some ready crafted pages, there are planners with calendars, weekly pages, daily pages, trackers, lists and notes pages, in all kinds of combinations.
Ready made pages save you the trouble of designing or even dating the pages but it may not be easy to find one design that fits your needs exactly. The details of your preference will only surface once you actually start using a planner. For example, many people realise they do not have much to write on daily pages but weekly pages are perfect for a week to a view planning style.
3. What is it being used for?
Planners are generally used for managing daily life and schedules, work and projects, home life, personal or a combination of all of these. A whole plethora of specialised planners have flourished beyond the basics. These are a few popular functions:
- 1Goals - for manifesting visions to completing projects.
- 2Health management - tracking mood, pain, medication, weight, strength training etc.
- 3Family - meals, shopping, cleaning, school, budget, sections for each family member.
- 4Business - clients, employees, projects, suppliers, banking details.
- 5Foodies - recipes, photos, social media sharing, shopping lists.
- 6Memory keeping - photo journal, special occasions, 5 year journal.
- 7Travel - packing list, schedules, transportation, accommodation, photos, social media.
- 8Books - reading plans, book reviews.
Depending on the emphasis and frequency of use, the planner will vary in size and included pages. The functions can form a section within a planner, or a separate planner by itself. The selected planner can be store bought, or a binder with printable planner pages.
4. Types of bindings and covers
Planner bindings determine how well the pages turn, how many pages there are and whether pages can be added, removed or rearranged easily.
Planner bindings are available in these forms:
- 1Glued, stitched or thread bound.
These can be in the form of a book, or a set of separate thread bound booklets bundled together in a folder. Check that the pages lay completely open so that it is easier to write on.
- 2Ring bound.
Depending on the size of the paper and brand, the number of rings can vary from 3 to 30. The planner pages need to be punched to be bound by the rings. It is therefore very important to have the paper punched in the correct layout to fit the rings exactly.
- 3Spiral, wire or coil.
The entire planner is designed and bound by the manufacturer and it is usually not easy to add or remove pages easily. This design is popular as the rings are sturdy and pages can turn easily.
These are similar to rings, but the paper is punched differently to fit a set of discs.
A joy in using a planner is having beautiful covers to hold the pages. Covers come in the form of cardstock, PVC plastic, leather or vegan leather.
5. Paper or digital
I find it impossible to settle with only paper or purely digital for my notetaking and planning. Each has its pros and cons. There is an abundance of choices for both paper and digital planners.
When choosing paper planners, consider the weight (thickness), colour (white, off white, cream etc), texture and manufacture process. Thicker paper may be more suitable for fountain pen, gel ink and even water colour. Acid free paper last much longer.
When choosing digital planners, consider the options of apps, printables or digital planners.
Apps on phones, tablets and computers provide the functions of scheduling and note taking, often with alert functions. The input device is usually the keyboard or sometimes voice.
Printables are designs of planner pages that can be printed on paper and written on.
Digital planners simulate paper planners in their page designs and can be written on using stylus on tablets.
With so many options to consider, it is no wonder many find it daunting and almost impossible to settle with the 'right' planner for long. The fact is the 'right' planner does not exist. Which planner makes us happy can change depending on our stages in life, our focus or even the season. Very often we experiment with new planner sizes and layouts just to try something different to give us a different perspective in life. This is why there is never a dull moment in the planner world.