2015 Conundrum Week Two: Traveler’s Notebook

I’m a little late getting this post up considering it’s the last week of the month, but choosing which planner I want to use this year has been more of a challenge than I initially expected.

Long story short, I’m still carrying three different planners around with me every day (The Mulberry from week 1 was ruled out).

So anyway, the second contender in my 2015 planner conundrum is a regular size Traveler’s Notebook. I started out using a standard Midori brand TN (which I do adore) but ended up switching to this lovely Gemini leather notebook cover in tan made by Chic Sparrow.

Closed

The reason I was attracted to this TN is the fact that it has four elastics in it to hold notebooks, rather than Midori’s two. If I was going to use something that incorporates bound books as my planner, I knew from past attempts and failures that I would need several layouts going at once to do the trick and the Midori wouldn’t hold everything I needed, no matter how many elastic bands I fidgeted with.

Normally, in a ring planner, I like to have a full year’s monthly view, the entire year in a weekly view, and maybe the current week (or even month, if I have the room in the rings) of dailies to view for details. The beauty of a ring planner is that I can take pages out and put pages in with ease. Not so with a bound notebook system like a Traveler’s Notebook

Fortunately, I was able to find all the refills I needed to outfit this TN from Midori. Everything of the Midori brand that you see pictured here was purchased from Baum-Kuchen.

First off, I added one of the Refill 004 Pocket Stickers to the inside front to hold small miscellaneous papers. See it there on the bottom left corner?

inside cover

Ring planners traditionally have plenty of cubby-holes and pockets, but most TNs do not, so these stick on pockets are fantastic. Next up you can see the 007 Card Holder refill. I don’t usually keep too many business cards in my planners, so I have a couple Hobonichi stencils and my Starbucks reward card in them at the moment.

An essential for me is the 020 Kraft File. Again, because your average TN lacks pockets, I use this to hold important papers, bills and the like. Dated or time sensitive stuff goes here, front and center, impossible to ignore. You can also see the front cover of the Monthly Calendar booklet  in orange. I have added a simple Post-It Self Stick Pocket to the front to hold clips and small ephemera.

kraft env

The 2015 Monthly Calendar refill is awesome, but you usually have to snap these up pretty quickly at the start of the year or they sell out everywhere. Fortunately there is also an undated version (Refill 017) that is pretty easy to find. I’m too lazy to write in my own dates though, so thankfully I was able to snag the dated one.

monthly

I use color coding to identify pay dates (green), holidays that my office is closed (yellow) and other significant days. US Holidays are not noted on these refills, so my yellow dots come in very handy. I also use blue for special days (birthdays, anniversaries, etc) and red ones for date-dates (bow chicka wow wow!!)

The monthly refill is the whole year in one booklet. For the weeks, you get two notebooks with 6-months each (Jan – June and July – Dec). These are available as a dated 2015 Vertical Weekly Calendar, or as with the monthlies, as an un-dated version.

weekly

I only have one of the Weekly booklets in my TN currently, as I feel three notebooks at a time is about all I can stand. IF…and that is a big “if”…I added a fourth notebook, it would probably be an 002 Grid Notebook that would serve as a general capture tool (something I lack in this set up).

Oh, and I’ve also added a Hightide Page Clip Ruler from the Hobonichi store to mark my place in the weekly booklet. Mine is grey, but they also come in black, pink and blue.

Most of my detail work goes on the daily page, and on my favorite of the Midori inserts.

daily

They are Refill 005 Free Diary. I love these things! They are dated and feature a simple bar at the top for a quick title or keyword, and a spot for ticking off the day of the week. The rest is my favorite thing in the whole wide world…quadrille paper. One notebook captures two months. I use these as a day per page planner here in this notebook, and in another TN I have going I use these pages to journal on. They are wonderfully versatile.

Here is the back of the Kraft File, with more papers (though this time they are non-date sensitive) tucked into it.

kraft back

In the very back, I have the 008 Zipper Case. I’ve just got a pad of sticky notes and some calendar stickers in it for the moment. Admittedly, I went a little nuts with the pocket refills, so I don’t really need this…but I like it, so it stays.

ziplock

Just for the sake of being thorough, here is the inside back of this TN, with another Midori stick on pocket, this time 006 Pocket Sticker, added. This lovely Sparrow was customized to add a riveted on pen loop. With so many TN styles not including a pen loop, I find the fact that this one has one securely built in to be a key feature.

back pocket

In daily use, this set up almost worked for me. So close…it came SO CLOSE!

My main issue is that, although I need at various times to see monthly, weekly and daily views, I most often leave my planner of choice open on my desk to the weekly spread so that I can see on overview of what I’ve got going on all week at one quick glance. In my ringed planners, as I have discussed many times before, I  traditionally use (with great success I might add), a DayTimer Self Stick Hotlist on my Page Marker Ruler, located right in the current week, to note down a running list of my tasks.

week with sticker

With no rings, and therefore no Page Marker Ruler, I have no place for my HotList except stuck somewhere right onto the week’s page itself. This of course proves problematic in that it covers up a day (and also it leaves a sticky residue that interferes with smooth ink flow when trying to write on whatever day was under the HotList previously when I move it around).

That sounds like a simple, stupid thing to get caught up on, but believe it or not it has been quite a stumbling block to this system being a win. I am very much an “out of sight, out of mind” person with my task list, so although I do note daily tasks on the daily page on which they are due, if my book is open to the weekly spread (which it most often is during my work day) it becomes too cumbersome to flip to the necessary day and jot down or look at tasks.

Another issue I’m having is the battle to get this thing to lay flat in whatever view I happen to need. After much tweaking I figured out to put the weekly view in the middle, because that is most likely to lay flat easily with it smack dab in the middle of the book. Still, it takes some backward bending each time I open it.

Lastly, although having no rings to get in the way of my hand when writing is very nice, those sometimes-pesky rings do enable me to put in pages and take them out as needed. There is no punching and sticking stuff in my planner with this baby. Yes, I can fold papers up and tuck them into one of the plethora of pockets I’ve added….but it’s not the same. Sometimes I just flat out need to add pages for a while TO THE PLANNER ITSELF, in the rings, easily flippable and all that. But I can’t.

This and the lack of a good spot for my sticky HotList are the deal breakers I’m afraid.

Those of you who use TNs as their only planner, how do you handle situations where you need to add pages (or take them out when no longer needed) but you’re stuck with a whole booklet? And where do you track your tasks?

As a grade I would give this system a D. While I do have an inherent love for Traveler’s Notebooks and I really, really wanted this to work, sadly, this is going to have to be classified as a Fail and although I love this notebook and no doubt will find another use for it, it won’t be as my daily planner.

Right.  On to the next…

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Pocket Full of….

Sunshine? Miracles? Dynamite? Seems a lot of people have pockets full of a lot of stuff.

Me…I’m going to try my hand at a Pocket full of wallet.

Gillio pocket that is.

About a month ago, I moved house. You know how it is when you move…there seems to be a never ending stream of things you need, and often you discover you need things at the precise moment you realize you need it the most.

Case in point: The dishwasher in my new apartment didn’t come with a silverware basket. When I noticed this, I thought to myself, “That’s okay…I’ll just wash these by hand.”

And then I realized I had neither a sponge nor any dish-washing liquid. Because who packs and moves sponges and dish-washing liquid, right?!

So I jotted it down on a piece of paper and went about my unpacking.

Before too long, I had a few lists going…basic pantry items I didn’t bother to move, household utility things, decoratives to look for, etc.

The next morning I trotted off to at least get the grocery and pantry items so I wouldn’t starve, but when I got into the store I discovered to my horror that I had left the list on the kitchen counter.

In the last month I have created and misplaced more shopping lists than I care to admit.

I know what you’re thinking…just put them in your planner, you daft blonde! Ah, but when I go into a shop more often than not I ONLY grab my wallet out of my handbag and bring that in (because I’m too much of a wimp to carry a big handbag AND shopping bags).

So I decided to try a pocket size planner as a wallet, and use the rings for all of my lists.

Enter this lovely Gillio Pocket Compagna in Epoca gold.

closed
This stunner was passed along to me by someone who had purchased it new from Gillio, but who could not make the size work for her.

I can’t make anything this small work for me as a planner either (and trust me, I’ve tried. More than once) but since there were to be zero planning components this time around, I thought I’d give it a go.

Open Front
The set up is simple…in the front I have my three most often grabbed cards (since there are only three card slots); My debit card, my gas card and my driver’s license. In the nifty secretarial pocket I stash receipts, and in the handy little multi pocket at the bottom, I have some stamps.

Then, as you can see, I just have a bunch of note paper for my various lists. I’m working on a new grocery one as we speak.

Open Cards
I stuck a piece of cardboard in after the note sheets to give me something stable to write on, because next come the rest of my cards.

Not bad…just three Filofax pocket size card holders did the trick.

Back Zip
The back has another secretarial pocket and a small zip pocket. I have coins in the zip pocket, and that orange thing you see tucked into the secretarial pocket is a Midori 2015 monthly calendar booklet  just in case I need to check a date or something and this is all I have with me.

Just In Case
Will I ever use it? Probably not. But for some reason it makes me feel better to have it in there. It is passport size, and I got it at Baum Kuchen.

Wallet Pocket
Aside from the zipper pocket, the other key feature that screams “wallet” to me is the nice large pocket along the back that all the Compagna models have. When I have cash (which, let’s face it, isn’t often) it will go in there.

I haven’t tested this in the field yet, but all in all just from putting it all together I have a pretty good feeling.

compare
The footprint is not really any different than the Dooney & Bourke wallet I have been using, so it won’t take up more room in my bag.

Side

Top
My one concern is giving up the security of a zip around for a snap closure. The only loose papers that go into my wallet are receipts, and I think they will be fine in the secretarial pocket…but it is nice to know when you’re out and about carrying your wallet as a clutch, that you can just zip the whole thing up and NOTHING is coming out of that sucker.

So we’ll see.

I need to find a small/short pen for it, but other than that I’m excited for my next shopping trip to give it a try. Hopefully I’ll discover that I’ve got myself a pocket full of win 😉

2015 Conundrum Week One: Mulberry Agenda

The first week of the great planner experiment of 2015 (or, let’s face it…knowing me it’s more like the first planner experiment at the very least) has been completed. This week’s contestant was the lovely  Mulberry Agenda in Oak natural veg tanned leather.

MB closed

There is absolutely no doubt that this is a gorgeous planner. The leather is thick and wonderful, its style is classic and understated and the A6 size is portable and handy.

I have this set up as a planner only…for the purposes of this four-week evaluation I am using a separate wallet so as not to convolute my decision making process more than it already is.

MB open

In the front of the planner, I have the usual ephemera of daily life…business and appointment cards, stamps, small miscellaneous papers. The stunning dashboard was made for me by the wonderful and talented Tweetiepie Collage on Etsy. She does fantastic work and although a dashboard isn’t something one technically NEEDS in a planner, personally I love having something meaningful and motivational to look at right when I open mine up each time.

Anyway, moving on to how I have been using this planner all week…

MB tabs

Since one thing I know I require out of any planning system is tabbed months (or the ability to add tabs to monthly pages), I picked up a set of Girl of All Work Peel and Stick tabs from Amazon. These are colorful and easy to read. On an A6 page I was able to create two rows of 6 months each.

My monthly pages were made by Kiddy Qualia on Etsy. They are month on four pages (similar to how Franklin Covey prints theirs) so that I could add the tabs and incorporate the weekly pages, which I’ll get to in a minute, in between the months.

I especially like them because they are printed on quadrille paper, and given the choice, everything would be on quadrille paper in my world.

MB monthThey are very clean and simple in design, which is perfect for my needs. Since I use my monthly pages as an overview, I don’t need any clutter here….I just want to have ample room to write what I need to write and get on with it, but one thing I DO need is lines. And these give me lines a-plenty. I was even able to request a Sunday start and a note column on the right or left.

Love them!

I had also purchased weekly pages from KQ, but once they arrived it became apparent that the daily blocks were unfortunately going to be too small for both my personal and work scheduling. Which was a bummer because I really like the way they look.

MB weekly

For my second try at weeklies, I went with Piaric. Typically, I do prefer the standard week on two pages layout, but  I decided to go with a custom design of two days per page. This gives me plenty of room for both personal and work scheduling. I do sacrifice the ability to see my entire week at one glance however.

(Side Note: When I moved into this size last year, I was using the Mulberry week on 2 pages inserts and they were ideal. The line spacing was perfect, the paper quality was awesome and I couldn’t have been happier. For 2015 though, they decided to go to a vertical weekly format and there is no way on this earth I can write small enough to make that work in anything less than an A5 size)

MB weeks

As you can see above, there is ample room in this format. The line spacing is wider ruled that I like, but when shopping for A6 inserts, beggars cannot afford to be choosers.

Because the ring sizing is the same as Franklin Covey pocket size, I am able to use my FC page marker ruler with a DayTimer Self-Stick Hot List  sheet tucked in it for my weekly tasks. I’ve been doing this for years in all of my various planning systems and it works really well for me.

Other than my calendar planning pages, I also have some subject tabs in this set up.

MB top tabs

Again, using sticky tabs from that Girl of All Work set I bought, I have “Schedule” (for my calendar pages), “To Do” (for general tasks that don’t need to go on my Hot List, and shopping lists), and “Notes” (for…you guessed it…notes).

The tabs are stuck to awesome dividers made by the Lady Karen Louisa (find her on Facebook in the Mulberry Appreciation Group, as I don’t think she has an Etsy shop).

colorful tabs 1

colorful tabs 2

colorful tabs 3

Isn’t the paper she used perfect with the dashboard and GOAW tabs??!! What makes them truly awesome is the fact that, on the back of each divider, she included a pocket. Win!

MB pocket

So that was the set up in Contestant #1 this week. Technically, it did work. I love Mulberry products and thanks to some extremely creative Etsy friends, this was a very enjoyable piece of kit to carry around.

There were a couple factors that consistently got on my nerves though:

1. The tiny pen loop. Normally I use a big, fat Coleto multi pen that incorporates three different ink colors and a pencil component. This allows me to schedule tentative events in pencil first, and to color code (which I do throughout my planner). But this week I had to accommodate that dinky pen loop. I used a combination of two skinny Cross products; one was a click gel pen (the robin’s egg blue one in the photos) and the other was a mechanical pencil (the black & gold one in the photos). So while I could still do my scheduling in pencil first, there would be no color coding for me this week with out my Coleto.

Could I have carried a pen bag? Sure, but normally I don’t…and frankly I didn’t want to have to start. Could I have stuck said Coleto in the MB rings? Yeah, but that is sort of a pain in the butt when you just want to pop open your planner and quickly jot something down (trust me, I tried it…it lasted about 5 minutes). Could I kluge a stick-on or clip-on pen loop somewhere? Of course, but if comparing apples to apples this week, I wanted to go on what features each planner has out of the box.

2. The lack of truly optimal weekly pages. Now don’t get me wrong, both of the weekly pages I tried were well made and for normal, non-OCD whack jobs like myself they would be fine and dandy. But I am oh-so-picky when it comes to things like font, line spacing, paper feel/writability and dammit I really liked the Mulberry weekly inserts best. The paper was white-white, the lines were a subtle grey, it felt great when turning pages, it took ink superbly and they even had those handy tear off corners so you could quickly and easily flip right to the current week. If MB had not have changed their format to stupid vertical, I more than likely would have never moved out of this planner to begin with.

3. Having to order custom, hand made inserts makes me use them very sparingly. Let’s face it, here in the US A6 is not a size you’re going to find at Staples. Things like To Do sheets, note paper, my beloved quadrille paper…all have to be custom made to order (thank goodness for Etsy!).

Mulberry itself only makes very few inserts for their Agendas; ruled note paper, plain paper, address sheets and the weekly calendar (yes, they also make a Games sheet which is glorified Hangman…but I’m talking about useful inserts here), and they are not cheap.

I have been finding myself debating whether or not something is worthy of writing down in the Notes and To Do sections because I only have so many of those sheets from Etsy and it’s only January. It’s difficult to use your planner as a capture tool if you’re worried about burning through your paper too soon. Just sayin’.

As a grade after one week I would give this system a C. It didn’t fail, but it didn’t work as a seamless organizational tool for me either.

One thing I still intend to do is take this binder to my local cobbler to see if it would be possible to integrate a piece of elastic into the pen loop to accommodate at least a Uni Style Fit (my #2 choice for a multi pen).

If MB changes back to a horizontal weekly format for 2016 I would give this another look in a heartbeat. But for now I can’t say I’m at all disappointed to move on to the next planner in contention.

Stay tuned for week two featuring the Midori Traveler’s Notebook………………..

Another Year, Another Planner Quandary

no idea

The new year is here, and with it, my annual indecision about which planner I want to use.

Truthfully, this indecision pretty much lives with me year round, but at the start of a new year it graduates to somewhat of an obsession.

I ended 2014 rotating between a few Compact size ring planners; namely a Filofax compact Holborn in brown, a Van der Spek standard with compact rings in #104 Janet leather and a Gillio slim Compagna in gold. The insides remained the same no matter which binder I used and I rotated depending on which color shade of brown and pocket layout I happened to be craving on any given day.

In it, I had some trimmed and re-punched Franklin Covey Her Point of View month on two pages tabs used in conjunction with Filofax week on two pages. I also had some quadrille paper in there for the occasional note, but mostly I did note taking on my iPhone using the Notes App.

That’s just what I ended the year with though. Throughout 2014 I vacillated like a mad woman between A6 size (using both a Mulberry Agenda and a custom made, widened Van der Spek Senior), regular old Personal size (ranging anywhere from a Filofax Malden to a medium Gillio Compagna) and a Midori Traveler’s Notebook in regular size.

This is one part of my personality that drives me nuts. All of them worked, but none of them worked OPTIMALLY and no matter what life threw at me. So, as I start a new year I really want to simplify and break this cycle of planner indecision and, let’s face it, craziness.

So as I start a new year, I find myself staring at all four of the planner options I was in and out of last year and wondering which one would serve me best this new year (a year in which is proving to be busier and more complicated already). Is there one I can stick with for the entire  year? No matter what changes come?

Let’s find out with a little experiment, shall we?

contenders

                      The four contenders

The four planner sizes/formats that I can’t seem to make up my mind between are as follows:

Mulberry Agenda in "Oak"

          Mulberry Agenda in “Oak”

1. Mulberry Agenda size (A6) with homemade inserts from Kiddy Qualia on Etsy. This has a full year of month on 4 pages (so I can tab them using Girl of All Work adhesive tabs), week on two pages and roughly three months at a time of day per page for detailed scheduling. I’ve also added a small Note section as a capture tool.

The advantages are its small, portable footprint and of course the sheer quality and elegance that is embodied in Mulberry products.

The main disadvantage I can see right now is that the A6 page size might not be enough, given some of the new  changes to my life 2015 has already brought, and also the lack of insert options (that I actually like) in this size. Another huge thing is that the Mulberry pen loop is tiny, so I can’t use my favorite multi pen unless I stick it in the rings which bugs me to no end. I may take this planner to my local cobbler to see if he can add some elastic to the pen loop, but at this time I haven’t done that yet, so it remains a pesky disadvantage in my opinion.

Van der Spek Standard in "Janet Leather #104"

Van der Spek Standard in “Janet Leather #104”

2. Next up is a Standard size (akin to Medium or Personal size). In this case it is a custom Van der Spek with 25mm gold rings and a secretarial pocket added to the front. This planner houses a full year of Franklin Covey 7 Habits month on two pages tabs, as well as three months of the 7 Habits 2 pages per day inserts. I have also added 12 subject tabs with a few pieces of note paper behind each. This is a lot more specialized than a general Note/Capture section, but on the other hand I’m not entirely sure I will need this level of precision, but my OCD demands that I have all 12 tabs in there (because spacing). Sometimes I put this same setup in a Personal Malden (in ochre) depending on mood or weather (as in, if it’s raining out comes the Malden so the Janet leather doesn’t get water spots, which it will). So if, as we go along, you see a Malden pop up in the photos, that’s why.

Advantages are that I have loved FC inserts for many years (but typically not the planners FC makes) and find the wider page to be nice and roomy. I also really like the quality of the paper used and the unique three section daily task list featured in the 7 Habits design.

Disadvantages are bulk and the lack of a weekly overview. This  two page per day layout means a lot of detail in each day, but also a lot of flipping around between days to get a picture of my week. Also, FC does not seem to make quadrille paper, so although I prefer it in my subject tabs, I’ll have to settle for lined. Not a huge deal, but since we are trying for optimum here I thought it was worth mentioning.

Gillio Slim Companga in "Gold"

Gillio Slim Compagna in “Gold”

3. Third in the lineup I have a Compact planner. Because I ended the year in it, I have chosen a Gillio Slim Compagna in gold. It seems that each Compact ring planner has slightly different ring sizes. Filofax are generally 15 mm, Van der Spek is 13mm and Gillio is 16mm (another reason I opted to start the year with the Gillio).

In this planner I have, as previously mentioned, a full year of trimmed to fit and re-punched FC Her Point of View month on two pages tabs and a full year of Filofax week on two pages. I do have a small Note/Capture section as well, but keeping an entire year of weeklies and monthlies pretty much fills these smaller rings.

The advantages of this system are many. For one, I know it and it has worked for me in the past (in times when life is relatively simple), there are plenty of inserts and refills that I can use, it is very portable and the rings keep me from stuffing the living daylights out of my planner or carrying a bunch of stuff I don’t really need.

Disadvantages are also related to its size, in that I might need to add a supplemental notebook or something for projects or if I need more room for things other than my calendars.

Regular size Midori Traveler's Notebook in "Brown"

Regular size Midori Traveler’s Notebook in “Brown”

4. Last up is the Traveler’s Notebook. I own several incarnations of the TN, but chose to set up the regular size Midori version in brown for this test because it is familiar and a widely known brand. I like the Indiana Jones look of the leather and I also have a clip on pen loop that matches it perfectly (cough, OCD, cough).

In it I have (all by Midori) a monthly booklet and the first 6 months of the year in a vertical weekly formatted booklet (they come in a set of 2 booklets holding 6 months each, but I don’t need the whole year in there straight away). Also I have included a quadrille notebook for general note taking and a ziplock pocket as a catch all, since the traveler’s notebooks don’t traditionally have cubby-holes and pockets as ring planners do.

Advantages of this system is the lack of rings to get in the way when writing on (for me, as a righty) the left hand pages, and the ease of archiving the booklets. Not to mention the sheer cool factor…these notebooks make you feel like your life is an adventure, they age wonderfully and they don’t need any babying.

The main disadvantage is the fact that booklets mean less flexibility for adding papers and taking them out, which is very easy to do using a ring planner. Traditionally bound book planners and I have failed miserably together, but I have such a love for the traveler’s notebook that I keep wanting to try again with it.

There you have it.

All have pluses and minuses and let’s face it folks, all of them COULD work…but I’m of a mind to do some dog calling and see which one WILL.

So, as the first few weeks of this new year pass, I will be carrying each for one week to try it out and then writing a blog post to summarize what worked and what didn’t. What could be tweaked and what couldn’t due to the particular limitations of the size or style (maybe something I need to add isn’t available, etc).

I will commit to carrying each for one full week (which is a long time if a planner fails for you on day one, lol!) and then at the end of the four week trial, I will pick a winner. I might even let you all vote too.

And my fellow planner peeps…the point of this whole thing…at the end of the four week trial I will commit to carrying said winner FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR. Period. No do-overs, no excuses. I get the next four weeks to dub around and experiment and then that’s it. One planner for the remainder of the year, no matter what.

Just saying that made me break out into a cold sweat, but I waste so much time (not to mention money!!) going back and forth over planners and inserts, re-copying weeks or months at a time into something new only to change yet again, that this HAS to stop. It has to. I didn’t used to do this…I want a tool to help me organize my life, not a time and money pit that makes me rip my hair out every few months.

So…if you’re wondering why I only showed photos of the exterior of the planners in contention today, it is because each individual one will get more of a detailed breakdown in its individual post as the weeks progress. Don’t want to show all the goodies right off the bat now, do we?

Also, at the end when a victor is chosen, I will do a post featuring the details of the winning set up…any changes I had to make since running the experiment, how I use each planning component, what works and how it contributed to it being chosen…the whole shebang.

What do you think? Are you with me? Think I can do this?

Yeah, me neither, lol!!! But it will be a good excuse to play with a bunch of planners during the winter doldrums amirite?!

Okay, here we go……………………..