Dear Planners of Mine (past and present),
You’ve always been there for me, ever since elementary school when I first met you. You never fail to show up for me, even when I’ve spilt coffee on you, neglected you for months, and then overly obsess over you for another few months, just to push you to the side for another few months after that. I know it’s complicated to be with me, but it works out because you understand what I need, when I need it…you aren’t too clingy, you remind me of the things I want to do and need to do. You give me the space to explore thoughts/ideas and capture memories for later. You provide me with the balanced structure and spontaneity I look for in my life. I love you.
Thank you for indulging me with the latest rendition of “What’s in Melissa’s Brain Today,” a never-ending play.
I have always written in journals growing up. I’ve recently unearthed a few of them from my parent’s garage. I’ve run the gamut of journal types: ones with locks, ones with glow-in-the-dark pages that you could only write on with specific gel pens, address books (remember those?!) with extensive note pages in the back, ring-bound, book-bound, ones with really fancy embroidered designs on the front covers, ones from the Sanrio store. I’ve had so many. But this isn’t a post about journals. This is a post about planners right?
I journaled pretty much my whole life up until college (I started a multitude of personal blogs, as a digital replacement, including this one…XANGA where you at), but I was formally introduced to planners in elementary school. I went to a private school and as part of the excitement of the first day back was being given a new plastic ring-bound planner. It had some Christian artwork on the front, most likely paired with some sort of quote from the Bible. It allowed me to write down all of my homework for the week and use that little ruler insert to mark my place in it. It was great times.
Even when I went off to college, I used the university planners that they sold at the campus bookstore up until junior year. They always helped me stay on top of my to-do list. It taught me different ways to prioritize and manage my time. Then when I transitioned into the workforce, I sort of lost my way (in many aspects lol). I didn’t know what worked best for me to manage what I felt was a less busy schedule. All I really had to track was work tasks right? Before I was tracking homework/project deadlines, internship shifts, work shifts, second internship shifts, organization meetings, etc. There was no shortage of tasks to fill my planners. But when all I really had to worry about was…work and hobbies (what’re those?) it felt odd. Don’t worry, I leveled up in my tracking and planning skills. I quickly learned how complex non-school life is and adapted what I needed in a planner. Starting my career helped me with that. Literally my day job is 85% planning.
So thus the exploration of planners began.
Obviously, some worked better for me than others. But oh boy, just like my multitude of journals, I’ve tried quite a few. The following are the ones I find worth talking about:
Lilly Pulizter 17-month Agenda (large planner $30 USD)
The Lilly Pulitzer large agenda was the first planner I personally invested in. I think my dad bought me the Jonathan Adler one picked above (which has since been discontinued) as a gift. The Lilly Pulitzer agenda saw me through the last semester of college and into my first year of post-grad. It was fun, functional, and made me feel like an adult to walk into meetings with this planner in hand lol. The weekly pages shown above (lol @ Vegas plans) are pretty unstructured which worked for me during that time. This agenda is from 2013-2014, so I’m not sure if/how they’ve changed their layouts since then. Knowing me, I must have bought this planner after reading a review of some kind, was drawn towards the fun design elements and equally delightful stickers that came along with it. I thoroughly enjoyed using this planner and debated on buying another, but decided to try something new. Which brings me to the Passion Planner.
Passion Planner: Annual & Undated (all sizes: ~$30 USD)
Passion Planner was just about 1 years old when I decided to try their first version of the planner. I’ve tried both the large and the small sizes available, but between the two, I definitely prefer their small version. It’s just more convenient for me. Can we also just appreciate the faux leather designs?! Beautiful. In total, I’ve used the Passion Planner for 4 years, which definitely shows how much I appreciate it and the company as a whole. There are so many great things I can say about this planner structure and its underlying tone, but here are a few of my favorite features:
- Your Passion Roadmap: I love this two-page spread in the beginning of the planner that guides you through a step-by-step guide to mapping out your goals. It’s a brainstorming exercise that helps you to recognize, prioritize and place tangible deadlines for these goals: 3 months, 1 year, 3 years, and lifetime. As a woman who appreciates being strategic, the roadmap exercise definitely helps carve out paths towards goals. It makes them tangible and achievable.
- The company is founded by a Filipinx entrepreneur based in San Diego, CA. That’s all. I’m proud to support such a valuable, POC-owned company.
- They offer annual, academic and undated versions of their planner. Who doesn’t like having options?
- Their weekly structure extra areas: this week’s focus, good things that happened, personal to-do list, work to-do list, space of infinite possibility. These are all carved out spaces on the two-page weekly spread that fosters creativity, prioritization and reflection. LOVE THAT.
- Monthly reflection pages: Speaking of reflection, these pages, along with the roadmap, gives me those journal vibes I’ve enjoyed through the years. It ignites the side of my brain that is familiar with the process of journaling and stream of thought. These pages are not only an opportunity to see the month that just passed through the lens of gratitude, but an effective way to use the reflection as a jumping point to addressing goals in the month ahead. Acknowledge, pivot, and adjust where necessary. The core of the planner’s structure is to recognize that life happens, goals transform, and that there is space to be able to grow and change. Highly recommend.
What I’m Using Now: Inkwell Press Productivity Co. 360 Disc Planner
Don’t be fooled into thinking that I’ve been using the planner pictured since the start of this year, because full disclosure: I’ve had this planner for only one month. Yes, I realize that I’ve purchased a planner more than half way through the year. But there’s a reason. Similar to most folxs at the start of this new decade, I was feeling hopeful. Hopeful for change and apparently hopeful enough to be convinced to buy a personalized, hardcover bound planner from an Instagram advertisement that had been popping up in my feed for months leading into the new year. I bought it…HATED IT, attempted to use it because I had spent money on it, and failed at it. I actually gave up on that planner and went plannerless for the first two quarters of 2020. THE CHAOS. I won’t even get into the details of why the planner didn’t work for me, but overall, it was an aesthetics over function thing.
Cut to about a month ago when I decided enough was enough. I couldn’t go without a central location for organization for this long. So I did what I do best, which is dive head first into YouTube reviews. I knew that I wanted to try something new and was recommended a discbound planner by my friend and podcast co-host Vanessa, which definitely checked that box. After some research, I decided to invest in a 360 Disc Planner by Inkwell Press Productivity Co. The beauty of a discbound planner is that you have the ultimate customization options, so depending on the planner packs available with the particular brand you go with, you can pick and choose what elements in a planner work for you. Some people even mix and match between brands. What I like in the Inkwell Press system is customizable capabilities, their paper quality, clean designs, and of course the functionality of the page inserts. There are event little hidden gems in the page layouts that are made for people who know how to adapt structured pages to their liking. Every little detail has been considered.
Here’s how I assembled my 360 Disc Planner:
- Cover: Orchid Chevron Hard Cover ($15.00 USD)
- 360 Discs: Rose Gold Discs ($22.00)
- Planner Inserts: Weekly Planner | Flex | Academic Year ($32.00)
- Poly Monthly Tabs ($15.00)
- Pen Loop ($5.00)
- Triple Pocket Folder ($6.00)
- Stickers (from their clearance section, $3.20)
Now, I know what you are thinking. That is a ridiculous amount of money to spend on a planner. It is. I even had a coupon that gave me a $10 discount, but still, that’s a pretty penny. I realize that not everyone is willing or able to invest that much money into a planner. I’m just particularly willing to invest in this planning system because it’s something that I made sure I’d be able to and want to use for years to come. I took into consideration my functionality needs and design preferences. The discs, cover, and all of the accessories will carry over to future years of use. The only thing that I’ll need to re-purchase every year is the planner inserts. That’s the beauty of the discbound system.
(SIDE NOTE: As I’m sitting outside under the patio writing this blog post, bird sh*t literally just plopped on my planner cover LOL. Luckily, it was an easy cleanup. Is the universe literally trying to sh*t on my dreams? *cue existential thoughts*)
Alright, if you’ve made it this far, wow. This was a post for the other planner nerds out there. The lesson I’ve learned in my years of planner exploration is that there isn’t one way to do things. Just like everything else in life. Do what works for you and be willing to reach out of your comfort zone from time to time. That’s what I’ll continue to do.