I’m a planner addict. Since high school I’ve purchased dozens of day planners, notebooks, binders, and anything else that promises to help me get organized. I dutifully write down everything I have to do…for a week. And then the poor planner sits unopened for months and months, until finally it becomes outdated enough that I don’t have a choice but to recycle the poor thing and put it out of its misery. I’ve also downloaded productivity app after productivity app, and abandoned those even more quickly. When it comes to my to-dos, I’m an analog girl through and through.
So it was with more than a tiny bit of trepidation that I put a Planner Pad on my Christmas list this year, without ever having seen one in person. But I spent hours reading reviews and watching YouTube videos of people explaining how they use theirs, plus it was recommended by Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy (she’s awesome; that’s where the suggestion for the amazing book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up came from).
What…you’ve never watched YouTube videos showcasing personal planners? Ok, maybe it’s just me.
My parents got me the Planner Pad (I may or may not have shrieked with happiness when I opened it), and I’ve been eagerly awaiting the point when enough time had passed that I felt comfortable writing a review. Because, let’s face it: EVERY planner is awesome…for a week. But do you keep up with it? Does it continue to help you stay on track? Or did you abandon it after a few weeks and go back to scribbling to-dos on post-its? That’s the question.
And the Planner Pad? IT WORKS. I’ve never consistently used any kind of organization system for as long as I have this one, and that’s saying something. Is it perfect? Am I perfect when it comes to using it? No. But it is, hands down, the best organizer I’ve ever used.
A quick note before diving into the full review: their website is, well, not the most slick-looking site I’ve ever seen. Don’t let that throw you off. If you can get past the site design, the product is amazing.
Ok, onto the details.
I requested the traditional green style (you can choose green or black) in the executive size, which is 8 1/2″ x 11.” They also make a personal size that’s roughly 6″ x 8,” which would be much better for anyone who wants to carry their planner around with them. I actually DO lug mine around, but with Natalie still in diapers I have an enormous bag that accommodates it quite nicely. There’s also a desk blotter edition that’s HUGE.
I think it’s quite a nice touch that you can choose the start date of your planner by quarter. So, for instance, if you read this review and wanted to get one for yourself (I’m not an affiliate of Planner Pad, by the way, I’m just a nut about their products), you could choose an April start date. Because don’t you HATE it when you buy a planner mid-year and you can’t use half of it? No? Just me? Anyway, I think this is a brilliant feature.
You can also choose spiral bound vs. loose leaf to put in a binder of your choosing. Since I’m a lefty, binder rings are my nemesis. Spiral bound forever!
At around $29 + shipping for the 8.5″ x 11″ size, it’s neither the cheapest nor the most expensive planner on the market. Most of the ones you find at Staples are actually more expensive than this, and they’re definitely not as nice. Trust me, I’ve bought them, I know. I’m solidly ok with the price and will purchase it again for myself for 2016, because the quality is fantastic. The pages are thick and none of my pens bleed through, and the cover is durable and Natalie-proof.
TAKE NOTE: MONTHLY TABS ARE NOT INCLUDED. I only realized this AFTER my parents had bought it for me. Do yourself a favor and spring for the tabs! You have two choices: for $2.29, you can purchase JUST the self-adhesive tabs and stick them on yourself. The Planner Pad is very helpfully marked with tiny lines to show you where to put the tabs so they all line up nicely (they’re very unobtrusive; I didn’t even notice the lines until I went to add the tabs). The other option, which I wish I had gone with, is to purchase a set of tabbed dividers (for $5) that clip onto the spiral binding of your planner. That gives you an extra two pages of notes for each month. It’s obviously a matter of personal preference, but I would’ve liked that extra space for my blog planning pages (more on that later).
Ok, so: what, exactly, makes the Planner Pad so magical?
It all comes down to the funnel system. You can read more about it on their website, but I’ll share how it works for me.
Each week (two-page spread) is broken up into top, middle, and bottom sections. The top section is a listing of categories for everything you need to get done that week. For me this works SO MUCH BETTER than a long vertical list, because I like being able to batch my tasks. I’m usually working on a couple of different blog posts at once, for instance, or responding to several emails while I’m sitting at the computer. Sometimes things get lost if you’re only working from a single list.
My categories might differ week-to-week, but they usually include Blog, Home, Errands, Project Life, Moving, and Connect (phone calls and emails). Some categories might only include one or two tasks each week, but that doesn’t bother me.
The middle section is where you assign tasks to specific days. I love that there are only 10 spaces, because I know I can’t accomplish more than 10 things on any given day (really, my limit is more like 6-7). It also makes it glaringly obvious if your plan for the week is not going to work, because you’ve left everything until Saturday or Sunday. Not that I’ve EVER done that.
The bottom section is your daily schedule. Each line is one hour, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. This is NOT the planner for you if you have many detailed appointments to keep track of, or if you need to account for your time in 15- or 30-minute increments. It’s rare that I would have more than two things happening on a single day, so it works fine for me. I’ve played around a bit with blocking out specific chunks of time for things (for instance, planning on working on Project Life during Natalie’s naptime, or dedicating the morning before Mama Beasts to cleaning the kitchen and folding laundry). This approach hasn’t worked all that well for me, to be honest, so I’ve gone back to just using that section to keep track of SCHEDULED things, and not “things that I would maybe like to get done during that period of time.” It’s much more in line with the Getting Things Done approach to calendar management: the calendar is reserved for appointments only.
As you’ve seen, I’m a big fan of breaking down your yearly goals into monthly goals. The Planner Pad is perfect for this, because there’s an entire blank page at the beginning of each month where I write down what I want to accomplish that month. There’s also a calendar page, which I don’t really use all that much. We have a wall calendar hanging in the kitchen where I keep track of ALL of our activities, not just my own, and that’s much easier to see than flipping back and forth in the Planner Pad between the current week and the monthly calendar.
Like most planners, there’s also an assortment of pages that I never really use, like the chart of U.S. time zones. But then at the back there are plenty of pages that you can use however you want. I use them to make lists of things that will eventually be transferred into my weekly plan as to-dos, like possible blog post ideas or house projects. But really, they’re just lined pages and you can use them however you want.
The only thing I really felt my planner was missing was a page for planning out my blog posts. That’s a pretty specialized need, though, so I’m not deducting any points for that. I’m using a page from the 2015 Blogger Planner from Mama Miss to keep track of my posts for the month and my blog/social media stats and just tucking it behind the front cover.
Long story short: I love this planner. When I go a few days (or a week, ahem) without using it, I feel scattered and like I get nothing done. Probably because I’m scattered and get nothing done. But when I stick to it? POW POW POW, that’s the sound of me blasting stuff off my to-do list.
And that’s a beautiful thing.