How do I: Begin?!

One of my favorite friends and lifestyle blogger Bailey (The Daily Bailey B) has been enchanted by our Planner Community and immediately commenced to learning everything she could about Bullet Journals, inserts, and stickers. (It’s a spiral, I tell you) Anyway, she asked me a few questions that really reminded me there are a LOT of questions we have at the beginning of our planning journey.  Here are a few of hers (and probably yours!) that I’ll walk through.

What kind of planner should I use?

There have been COUNTLESS innovations on styles of planners out there and it’s hard to figure out where to start.  Plus, a lot of them are not cheap so it’s important to take the time to reflect on what you are looking for.  In my view, planners are not just a purse you change out, it’s something that is the extension of you and your mind to help design the life you want to live. Too often we spend a ton of money and time on something that is working really well for someone else, only find out it does not work for you.  Start with the basics:

  • What do I want to use the planner for? This determines what you might need from your planner in terms of things like a daily schedule, weekly or daily layouts, size of the “to-do” areas, other sections you might include like journaling or well-being tracker, etc. Biggest question is – “Should I use it for both personal and work?” I’ll tackle that one separately another day but think of your own preference and what’s worked or not before.
  • Related question, what problem do you want your planner to solve? For example, tracking your projects, stop drowning in random lists and post-its, keeping your kids/partner’s schedules straight, structuring a fitness plan, capturing creative inspiration, or rapid-logging your thoughts may be problems you want to solve.
  • Where will I use it? This answers the “size” question. If you want to use it on-the-go all the time, it should be small and light enough to carry.  This could be an “A5”, Personal size, or even as small as a Field Notes or Passport size planner.  Or, if you have a big purse and don’t mind a larger planner, that works too.
  • Is your system all-paper or combo with digital? If you’re already doing a lot of tracking online (appointments, calendars, etc), this might relieve your need of a schedule, for example.
  • Do I need sections or can all your parts of life be integrated into one? This will help determine if you need tabbed sections for different areas of your life, or if you need more space per day, two separate planners.
  • How sustainable is it? each planner system requires different upkeep, costing different amounts of money. With spiral planners you get a new one every year entirely. With a Midori style you replace the notebooks inside.  A true bullet journal is replacing the journal when you’re done.

Equipped with some of those answers, you’re more ready to sift through the ENDLESS amounts of planner inspiration out there.

I've experimented with so many types of planners over the years - ringed, spiral bound, and now the Traveler's Notebook.
I’ve experimented with so many types of planners over the years – ringed, spiral bound, and now the Traveler’s Notebook.
Types of Planners

I can’t review every single planner out there, but they generally have similar considerations when thinking about buying one or committing to that system.

Spiral-bound. These are your Erin Condren’s, Plum Paper, Day Designers, Blue Sky – how most planners looked when I was a kid.  They vary quite a bit in size but take a look at: sturdiness of the cover to withstand the beating planners take, paper thickness to accommodate your favorite writing utensils or decorating, sturdiness of the coil itself in case it bends easily, whether the actual structure of the layout will work for you (or potential ways to adapt the sections TO work for you), the weight of it, and whether it includes sections you want like notes contacts etc.  There are a lot of accessories (stickers designed just for the planners, add-on bookmarks, etc, but not as many as the others. 

Ring binders. Brands like the classic Filofax, Marion Designs, Webster’s Pages, Color Crush, Russell + Hazel. Think about: the material of cover being leather or cardboard for durability, snap enclosure or binder-style or full-zip?, the investment of the hole-punch for your other inserts and pages, the value of being able to move pages around as needed, your hand bumping into the rings as you write (or potentially needing to remove the page from the binder to do so), flexibility of ordering different inserts, ability to add tabbed sections for different parts of your life, SO many accessories and DIY’s like folders and dashboards.

Traveler’s Notebook.  The cover was inspired by the Midori brand and has spawned hundreds of different ____-Doris, each with their own twist. This is the style of planner I currently use, differentiated by others in that it’s a cover that houses several notebooks inside.  The cool part about this system is that you can have notebooks for ANYTHING – one for planning, lists, art, journaling, business, birdwatching, your imagination is the limit. Consider: What kind and SIZE of cover do you want to spend money on (fabric, leather, plastic, field notes, A5, personal?), affordability of replacing full notebooks, value of having separation and all being in one place, flexibility of using different types of notebooks for different things, very customizable system (which can lead to spending a lot of money!).  

Traveler’s Notebooks INSERTS. When considering what notebooks to put inside a TN or to use as a Bullet Journal (more on this in a second), think about: what sizes are easy for you to access (for people without the greatness of places like Target), what kind of pen you’re using which determines how thick you need the pages to be, blank gridded dotted or lined paper inside, weight of the notebooks (the weight goes up quickly), softcover or hardcover.  Popular names you may hear are the Leuchtturm (hardcover, thick fountain-pen-friendly paper, numbered pages!), Moleskine (accessible, but thin paper), MayDesigns (FUN covers, more durable cover), Composition notebooks (affordable, may have thin paper, I’ve only seen them in ruled lines), and Etsy sellers like YellowPaperHouse (beautiful colored pages), Tomoe River (incredible paper), GrowingUpGoddess, and FrasizzleMade (fun covers). 

Disc.  This is Levenger, Happy Planner. Perk of a disc system is, like the spiral bound, you can completely open your planner (like cover to cover) and lay it flat.  Similar considerations may be: the material of cover being leather or plastic or cardboard for durability, the investment of the hole-punch for your other inserts and pages, the value of being able to move pages around as needed, your hand bumping into the rings as you write (or potentially needing to remove the page from the binder to do so), flexibility of ordering different inserts or adding your own, ability to add tabbed sections for different parts of your life

Bullet Journal.  If sticking to the true bullet journal system, this lives in ONE notebook that houses everything.  This is probably the more simple option, since you only have to upkeep with replacing the notebook (and probably some fabulous pens!).  Same considerations as for the TN Inserts above with the weight, paper quality, and so on.  This one is the most simple and most flexible.

I wish I could just give you the answers to where you should start but it’s really about what you know works or doesn’t work, or finding cheap ways to try them before investing a lot of money into it.  There are also a TON of Facebook groups available to answer questions and see other’s examples.  Work through your process to narrow it down, like Dee (@DecadeThirty) did when she first started planning.

Used with her permission; Instagram @decadethirty
Used with her permission; Instagram @decadethirty

What planner did you land on?  What helped you decide once and for all?



This post contains some affiliate links, which means that if you happen to buy something, I get a small commission (at NO extra cost to you) to go back to supporting my blog.  I thank you in advance for your support!

4 thoughts on “How do I: Begin?!

  1. Oh my goodness I would have loved this post about 6 months ago. I was so confused trying to make planners work and not getting anywhere. Plans were slipping through the cracks and things were getting done. Thanks for sharing.


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