As much as I love my Google calendar, I can’t function without my paper planner. I have been using a paper planner for at least 20 years. Over the years, I have tried all different kinds, and my favorites change as my needs change. I have always appreciated a good planner review, so I wanted to share my thoughts on my most recent favorites: Erin Condren LifePlanner, Day Designer and the Plum Paper Planner.
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It was not until 2015 that I became interested in higher-end planners. The ones that you have to order online, cost more than $20 and come with a cult following. I was so excited!
I read post after post about these planners. I compared the stats – size, paper thickness, how the days were laid out, how many notes sections were included, and the color options. I watched videos to see which pens would shadow in which planners. I joined planner Facebook groups. I was in – 100%.
Because I have two kids, we really run on an academic calendar rather than a standard January – December calendar. This was the perfect excuse to go ahead an order a new planner mid-year. After much deliberation, I decided to start with the Erin Condren LifePlanner.
Erin Condren LifePlanner
I purchased my first EC LifePlanner in July 2015. There were not as many options at the time, so I picked the vertical layout version with the 6 months of 2015 and 12 months of 2016. I really wanted my planner sooner rather than later, so I picked one of the ready to ship options with a stock cover.
My order arrived quickly and correctly! I loved the freebies that they send with the orders like the pouch, stickers and snap in bookmark. I received the colorful theme (that is all they had at the time), and the colors used in the planner are fun and add a little pop to each weekly layout.
Cover – I have to admit that I was a little surprised when I received the cover. It is basically a laminated piece of cardstock. I have grown to like how durable and flexible it is, but it does scratch easily.
Paper – The paper is pretty thick and fairly smooth. Most of the pens that I use only lightly shadow or don’t shadow at all. I am not one to use tons of stickers in my planner, so the paper weight and pen shadowing is pretty important to me.
This was the first vertical planner I had ever used, and I was not sure how I would like it. Turns out, I loved it. On the weekly layout pages, I loved having three boxes each day to sort out what I needed to do. I used the top box to list any appointments I had that day, the middle box was for my to do list and the last box was for my daily chores. Finally, I would write what was planned for dinner in the lines at the bottom of each column. I used the list on the far left of each weekly spread to write down any recurring projects that I was working on. This system worked really well for me.
The monthly calendar pages are pretty standard. My only issue had to do with the monthly tabs. The tab is covered in a plastic type material to strengthen it and cover part of a Sunday on the monthly calendar. This material is slick and hard to write on which would prevent me from writing in certain spots on the monthly calendar. This is a little thing, but it really bugged me. Here is an example from the hourly LifePlanner.
I also really, really wish that the vertical LifePlanner had lined pages. Neither the weekly layouts nor monthly layouts are lined on the vertical version. I really like to write on lines. I learned to live with it, but I would MUCH prefer lines on the monthly and weekly pages.
The LifePlanner that I received included a 2 page spread for goals at the front of the planner and a notes page before each month. There were also additional notes pages in the back of the planner along with stickers and a storage pocket. The monthly notes pages were by far my favorite and most used of the extra pages provided.
Erin Condren has so many fun accessories for her planners! I ordered one of the snap-in dashboards and never used it. It got in the way of me being able to see what was written on my entire weekly schedule. I do however, love the sticky corner pockets. They are inexpensive and useful!
In the spring of 2016, I was itching to try the new hourly version of the EC Lifeplanner. I had started working from home, and felt that I would benefit from time blocking my tasks during the day. The hourly LifePlanner seemed like the perfect solution. Plus, it was on sale since it was already April of 2016.
I decided to have the cover of my hourly LifePlanner personalized, and again had no issues with shipping or receiving my order accurately. I was so happy when I opened the hourly planner to see ALL THE LINES! Lines on the monthly calendar, the weekly spread and extra lines on the left side of weekly spread. Yay!
After using the hourly set-up for a few weeks, I decided that it did not work well for me because I could not easily tell, at a glance, what was an appointment and what was a to-do. I tried color coding and adding horizontal lines to break-up the day, but I could never really get the hourly to work for me. I was bummed about that.
After trying two different LifePlanners, I realized that I wanted more space to write each day. I make lots of notes in my planner, and felt that maybe a daily planner would be a better fit for me. Enter the Day Designer…
I went back to the drawing board in search of a daily planner – a planner that had one page per day and a monthly calendar. I narrowed my choices down to the Day Designer and the Simplified Planner. In the end, I chose the Day Designer for three reasons.
- The Day Designer’s pages are larger. I like to have lots of space to write, so I was partial to the Day Designer’s page size of 7.3” x 9.5” compared to the Simplified Planner’s size of 6.75” x 9”.
- While I don’t use them all, I like all of the different boxes on each daily page of the Day Designer.
- I did not like the pre-printed list on each Sunday in the Simplified Planner.
Don’t get me wrong, I think The Simplified Planner would be a great planner. I just felt that The Day Designer was a better fit for my needs. I ended up ordering the Mid-Year 2016-2017 Flagship Edition in Black Stripe.
Cover –The cover on the Day Designer is beautiful and sturdy. I take mine all over the place and it has held up well. The gold corners on my cover are a little discolored now, but that is after about 9 months of heavy use.
Paper – The Day Designer Flagship Edition that I have includes 90 GSM paper. The paper is thick and most pens do not bleed or shadow. Each page is printed with grey lines to soften the starkness of black print on white paper. I do and do not like the grey print. I wish that is was a smidge darker.
I really like the layout of the Day Designer. Like I mentioned, I do not use all of the boxes on the daily pages, but I love having them. Most days I write one or two items in the “Today’s Top Three” and almost always have our dinner plans in the “Dinner” box.
I love having the schedule and the To Do list on each page. Each day I write what I need to do, and then schedule my to do items on the hourly schedule. I am much more productive and focused when I schedule out everything that I need to do for the day on the hourly schedule. I am not perfect at writing out my schedule every day, but I do it most days.
On the monthly calendar, I was pleased to find that none of the monthly tabs interfere with writing space on the calendar. Perfect! A note to those who have not used the Day Designer – On the monthly calendar, the week starts on Monday. Now I prefer my calendar start on Monday, but I do use a highlighter to mark of the weekend. I just run a bright yellow line down the left side of Saturday on the monthly calendar to remind myself that the weekend days are together.
The Day Designer has a few goal setting and long term planning pages at the beginning of the planner. However, I use Power Sheets for my goal planning, so I did not write anything in this section. There are also blank notes pages at the beginning of some months. Since there is so much room to write on each page, I don’t use the blank note pages as much as I did with my LifePlanner.
I did not order any extras with my Day Designer. The Day Designer shop does not have any planner accessories for the Flagship Edition, and I very much wish they had a snap-in clear bookmark. That is the one item that I miss from my LifePlanner.
From July 2016 – December 2016, I was using my LifePlanner for our home schedule and my Day Designer for my work schedule. I know that it sounds crazy and a little OCD to have 2 planners, but it works for me. Once my LifePlanner was finished in December 2016, I was back to searching for another planner. I knew that I liked using the LifePlanner for our home schedule, but I really did not want to pay the LifePlanner price.
After reading some reviews, I decided to try out the Plum Paper planner. Plum Paper has a planner option very similar to the LifePlanner for about half the price. I thought, what the heck, it is worth a try!
Plum Paper Planner
When you go to order a Plum Planner, you will see that there are SO MANY different ways to build your planner. There are 10 different layouts for the 7×9 planner alone! Then you can add in extra sections for meal planning, fitness, budgeting, blogging, weddings, classes and more. The covers can also be personalized, and you can even add extra months to the planner. Since this was my first Plum Paper planner, I decided to order the Morning/Afternoon/Evening vertical layout with a stock cover and no additional sections.
Cover – The cover of the Plum Paper planner is similar to the LifePlanner in that it is lightweight and flexible. The Plum Paper planner’s cover is made of a waterproof and tear resistant material. On top of the cover is a clear plastic sheet for extra protection and durability.
Paper – The paper in this planner is as smooth as butter. I wasn’t expecting that, and was concerned that my pens and pencils would not write well on it. I was wrong. All the pens and pencils that I have used write perfectly in this planner. Of all my planners, this one has my favorite paper.
The layout that I chose is very similar to the LifePlanner vertical layout. Plum Paper’s version has the words “morning,” “afternoon,” and “evening” above the boxes for each day. Personally, I don’t use the boxes that way, so I just ignore the preprinted words. The fact that the boxes are lined makes it a win!
The monthly layout is pretty standard. However there are two things that I think anyone interested in this planner should know about the monthly layout. First, on the monthly layout Tuesday is before the coil and Wednesday is after the coil. That is kind of different, and might throw some people off. The Simplified Planner is like this as well. Second, when you use one of the monthly tabs to view a monthly spread, it opens to a notes page. This drove me crazy. I expect to see the monthly spread if I grab the month tab. I fixed this by using double sided tape to stick the notes pages together at the beginning of each month.
Like I mentioned above, I did not order any extra sections, but there are many to choose from. The standard planner comes with notes pages before each month (which I taped together), a few notes sections in the front for special dates, plans and goals, and a few notes pages in the back for passwords and contacts.
Since the Plum Paper planner is basically the same size as the LifePlanner, I added my unused LifePlanner stickers, pocket and zipper pouch to my Plum Paper planner. To do this, I uncoiled my LifePlanner, and pulled out the pages that I wanted in my Plum Paper planner. Then, I took one of the sheets and cut into each hole for the coil. I essentially make the paper able to “snap in” to the coil. Then I placed the paper where I wanted it in the planner and gently snapped it in with a pen. Super easy!
Overall I think all three planners are great. The EC LifePlanner is fun and durable and has a great weekly layout. The Plum Paper Planner is a fabulous option if you want something highly customized and not too pricey. The Day Designer is my personal favorite because I love the quality of the planner and the daily layout. I am much more productive using both the hourly schedule and the to do list each day in the Day Designer. Also, there is something very refreshing about having a nice, clean page for each day of the week. If the Day Designer Flagship Edition is a little bigger than you prefer, there is a mini edition, too!
You can’t go wrong with any of these planners! The mid-year versions (which usually showcase the new designs) typically come out around March/April/May/June. The Day Designer usually comes our in March, then the Simplified Planner in May and LifePlanner in May/June.
If you are not sure which option would be best for you, early spring is a great time to get one of these planners on sale for the current year. Most are on sale before the new mid-year editions come out.
If you are interested in trying out the Day Designer, you can receive a free printable daily page by clicking here and then selecting “Try it for free”. You can check out the full line of planners here.
If you are interested in trying out the Simplified Planner, you can download their free printable daily page here. You can check out the full line of planners here.
The Plum Paper planner does not have a free printable, but you can view their products here.
The EC LifePlanner does not have a free printable page, but if you are new to EC LifePlanners, you can use this link to receive $10 off of your first order.
Planner People – I would love to hear what your favorite planner is and why it’s your fave!