Is a Paper-Based Planning/Organizing System Right for You?

Day-Timer :: Since 1947, Day-Timer has been helping people manage their workday. Their format hasn’t changed too much over the past several years.  I’ve used a Day-Timer system and, like any system, it works if you use it consistently.  You can learn more about all their products on the Day-Timer website.

Franklin Covey :: The first Frankin Planner was created in 1984 and now more than 15 million people use some sort of Franklin Covey system.  The “Covey” name comes from Stephen Covey who authored The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (and other books as well).  I am a fan of the Franklin Covey planner and am using one today.  I like the page format (two-page-per-day) of the Franklin planner better than the Day-Timer version.  But, it’s simply a matter of personal preference.  :-)   You can find all sorts of planners, refills and handbags at the Franklin Covey online store.

Day Runner :: Part of the same company that sells Mead(R), Cambridge(R) and At-A-Glance(R) products, Day Runner is another paper-based option for your consideration.  Yes, I’ve used this one too.  Day Runner is my second choice when it comes to planner systems.  The layout of pages and the space for writing notes is somewhat smaller than Franklin Covey.  I tend to have large handwriting so I need as much space as I can get.  I try very hard to write small and neat…but I’m not always successful.  You can check out the Day Runner line of products here.

FiloFax :: UK-based FiloFax began in 1921.  FiloFax means “file of facts”.  And that’s what their system is all about.  They offer much of the same type of calendar and task-list management forms that the others have.  The page format is a bit more ‘open’ than other systems, but again, it’s about personal preference.  You should find (and use) a system that you love to use and carry around with you (wherever you go).  Learn more about FiloFax here.

Planner Pad ::  The CFO of a company I worked for used the Planner Pad.  I was intrigued by its funnel-like approach and tried it out for a while.  It was not for me.  Not saying it’s bad.  Just saying the format was not conducive to my approach to staying organized.   As their website says, “each page works like a funnel to find priorities, organize work flow and plan personal activities.  You might find that it’s just what you need.  I invite you to find out by visiting their website.

Circa Notebooks :: Circa is the planner system created by Levenger.  This is probably the most flexible of all systems.  You can arrange the pages in any order you want.  Each page is a loose leaf notebook page bound together with special plastic discs.  Yes, I used this system for awhile too.  In fact, I carry a letter-size Circa in my laptop bag today.  I use it as a reference tool (corporate phone list, special customer data, etc.), rather than a planner.  I bought a Circa paper punch so I could add all sorts of printouts to my system.  You can get a nifty sample packet from Levenger to see if this type of system is right for you.  The sampler pack is $40 .  With your purchase, you get a $40 Circa gift card to use on your next purchase.    It’s a unique system.   You can learn more about Circa here.

Make-Your-Own Planner System :: You can skip all the hype and create a very functional system with a basic spiral notebook and some sticky notes.  Oh yes, I’ve used this system too.  I printed section titles like @Actions, @WaitingFor, @Projects, etc., on small-sized sticky notes and applied them on the outside edge of pages (in a staggered position) throughout the notebook.  The only drawback to this system is that you don’t have a true calendar.  Yes, you can certainly improvise by adding a very basic calendar (nothing wrong with that) but this homemade system is not as elegant as the others I’ve mentioned.

[box]Bottom line:  experiment.  If you’re going to use a paper-based system, I encourage you to do some experimenting until you find a system that you absolutely love.  If you don’t love it, you won’t use it.  And what’s the point of having a system if  you’re not going to use it?[/box]

PLEASE NOTE:  I do not have an affiliate relationship with any of the products mentioned in this blog post.  The opinions expressed are those of the author.  :- )


  • http://www.nurturingcreativity.net/ Denise Urena

    I’ve had a love/hate relationship with planners forever.  I love the idea of it.  I love buying an attractive, professional looking planner, but it’s rare I find one that I keep up with the entire year.

    I’ve leaned more towards the create your own.  There are several websites with printable daily/weekly/monthly calendars.  That and using my phone and online apps like todoist works well for me too.

    • http://www.theemptyinbox.com/ Michael Hawkins

      Denise – I’ve used all the popular planners.  :-)   Right now, I’m using a combination of a Franklin Planner, Outlook Calendar and an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of all my ‘stuff’.

      It’s like an experiment – you have to find the tools that work best for you.  And sometimes it’s a hybrid of more than one system.

      Thanks for the comment!