The Emily Ley Simplified Planner: elegant, concise, and consistent.
Emily Ley–one of the big planner powerhouses where the names of enterprising women are paired with their product (Emily Ley Simplified Planner, Erin Condren LifePlanner, The Day Designer by Whitney English, & etc.)–is the brain child of, you guessed it, Emily Ley! She started her small company in Southern Florida in 2008 and taught herself how to be a graphic designer, making notepads and other simple paper goods. The Simplified Planner emerged in 2011 and has been selling like wildfire ever since!
The Simplified Planner evolved from a Simplified Binder. As a new mother, Emily found life chaotic, demanding, and overwhelming. She needed a tool to help her keep everything together, but the planners on the market (at the time, there is such a huge variety now but that almost makes it even more overwhelming) were too specific (Fitness! Wellness! Mom Planners!) or had so much content she never filled out (*raises hand* same) that it made her feel overwhelmed. Emily has spoken about this in-depth on Facebook & Instagram Live, sharing her vulnerabilities and process with everyone in the planner community who tunes in. The Simplified Planner is a tool for women who want to feel underwhelmed (instead of overwhelmed). The simplicity of the layout means that this planner can fit anyone’s needs. If you have ever picked up a planner and felt like it wasn’t quite created with you in mind, you’ll know what I’m talking about. I’ve often tried planners that seem like they’re really for moms/students/entrepreneurs/etc., which hasn’t always been me. (Full disclosure: I am married without children [yet], I just finished graduate school in June, and I am currently unemployed but looking for work in my field. I’m not a mom, I don’t own a small business, and I no longer student. I have often felt like a planner just isn’t made for the type of life I have or the type of person I am–planner peace is elusive, am I right?) The wonderful thing about the Simplified Planner is that it is for you. It’s simple enough that it can fit your life, no matter which chapter you’re currently in.
Like many recurring planners, the Simplified Planner has gone through changes since its launch in 2011. Other than the big return to the spiral, the daily editions of the Simplified Planner have gone through few overall changes. There are small, quality-focused changes that Emily and her team have worked on tirelessly–the perfect paper (70lb. Mohawk Via), shiny gold wire-o binding, adjusting the size of the planner to make it more portable, removing daily quotes to give you more space, changing the “Dinner” box to “Meals”, etc. Changes are always thoroughly explained by Emily because each and every one is deliberate. But the simple, clean layout has remained consistently similar. This means that you won’t fall in love with the Simplified Planner one year, only to find it transformed and completely different the next.
There are four sections on each daily page: My Day, To Do, Meals, and Notes. My Day has appointment times from 6am to 9pm–each hour is afforded one line. The To Do section has 16 spaces to write out to-dos, with circles on each line to satisfyingly check off a completed task! Meals and Notes are both blank boxes. Weekends share a page and instead of hourly appointment times there are simple lines. Sometimes I try to write a short paragraph about how I spent my day here, other times I use the space to write down appointments and future-plan. The To Do section with its check circles is still there, but on Sunday there are always four things already written down: Plan meals for the week ahead, tidy up for a clean slate on Monday, write tasks/appointments for the week, fill your “tank” and enjoy what matters most.
The Simplified Planner also contains monthly spreads with mylar-coated colorful tabs. The monthly spreads are also simple with minimal color details that match the tabs. The left side of the two-page spreads has a Notes bar for listing important stuff for the month. The right side of the monthly spread includes a Simplicity Tip for every month (September’s is “Make a list of ten family favorite dinners to keep in rotation this month”) as well as two tiny monthly overviews of the month before and the month ahead.
The planner’s beginning pages include a sticker page, name plate page, a note from Emily, an overview of the process of simplifying, tips for how to use this planner, 2017 and 2018 years at a glance, 2017 and 2018 holidays, and a bucket list for the year. I tried to use my bucket list page to list some big goals for the year, but also used the space to list out my color coding system.
The simplicity of the planner makes it an easy canvas for color-coding. I honestly go back and forth on whether to color-code or not. I try to color code with my Le Pens in my Simplified Planner, but I often forget and just write everything in a black pen. (My go-to is a Pilot Juice 0.38!) Emily Ley also sells stickers and other accessories, and she uses the stickers to color-code. There are no Notes pages in the Simplified Planner–it’s very bare-bones–but there is a Notes box in each daily layout.
The Simplified Planner retails for $58 plus shipping, but you can usually get a 10-15% discount when you sign up for Emily Ley’s newsletter. Emily Ley also has an annual birthday sale in July if you are an academic year user! Shipping tends to vary based on where you are located–the planners ship from Pennsylvania so it can cost anywhere between $6 and $13 to ship.
The Simplified Planner manages to be colorful without being too much. The tabs are interchanging colors of navy, turquoise, kelly green, yellow, pink, and magenta (at least that is how I interpret the colors). They match the signature Simplified Planner design: Happy Stripe. Lately, Emily Ley has been coming out with four cover designs for her daily planners, which launch during the academic year planner line-up (launch usually occurs in May-June for academic year planners, and in September for calendar year planners). For the August 2017-July 2018 academic year and 2018 calendar year, the choices are: Gold Dot, Happy Stripe, Gold Pineapple, and Fancy Floral. I loved the casual elegance of the Gold Dot and chose that design. No regrets, I’m still loving it!
Emily Ley definitely has an aesthetic. The Happy Stripe, for example, is always an available cover design. It’s a staple. Her colors schemes are colorful but consistent in their schema. I find that her planners are elegant enough to take around from the home to the office (although they wouldn’t be ideal for taking meeting notes in the office), with a pop of color but never kitschy or overwhelming. The planner has a great size–7″ x 9″ and 1.25″ thick. It’s big enough to comfortably write in but still portable. And I don’t know about you, but I love me a thick planner.
I got a little ahead of myself and wrote a lot about fit in the beginning of this blog post. One of the things I loved most about the Simplified Planner is that is really can fit anyone. It’s layout is clean, simple, and flexible. Amanda from Amanda’s Favorites, for example, is currently using her 2017 Simplified Planner as a brain dump to-do list for each day, converting the hourly time slots into more lines for to-dos. The Simplified Planner really is malleable and can fit your life whether you are a student, new mom, busy working lady, funemployed and looking, trying to keep track of a hectic home life, or at any other place in your life. I will say, however, that if you are a student who flounders without the use of a highly structured planner to keep track of a million assignments, then this might not be the planner for you. But if you just need a simple, beautiful book to hold your schedule, daily to-dos, and meal planning, then this planner is definitely for you.
I think that one of the reasons the Simplified Planner feels so easy and approachable in its use is because of the care Emily Ley takes with honestly marketing it. Emily Ley is definitely the face & brain of this planner company and she engages with Simplified Planner fans consistently with Q&As on Instagram Live, planner set-up and tips emails every month, and scheduled Facebook Live streams to provide details and answer questions. Her accessibility really provides Simplified Planner users with a transparent example of how Emily uses her planner and how it has impacted her life. I find her Live streams refreshing and encouraging and love how she makes an honest effort to connect with her customers.
This is going to sound a little weird, but I feel like the Simplified Planner doesn’t judge me. Starting in a new planner can sometimes feel like a chore–you have goal setting pages to fill out, all this information to put in immediately, etc. The Simplified Planner isn’t like that. There is a Bucket List for the year page, and then it’s just you and the pages and whatever you want to do. I felt a lovely sense of calm when I started using the Simplified Planner. The paper quality is wonderful and the texture of the pages feels amazing. The pages do ghost (they don’t bleed, really, they just ghost a bit) but after a couple days of planning I got used to it and I don’t even think about it anymore, because it’s not very noticeable and the paper is such a joy to write on. Emily Ley did an epic pen test to show how good the paper is, too. The cover feels smooth and sleek, and the size really is perfectly portable.
Honestly I don’t have too many nopes with the Simplified Planner. My two big stand-outs are that I have never been the hugest fan of wire-o binding–I find that it bends and warps more easily than other binding options. The second nope is that when my planner arrived it had a crease down the middle of the front cover. It’s pretty light and it doesn’t drive me crazy, but for $58 I would hope for more quality control. I wish that the weekend pages were separate daily pages instead of combined weekend ones. I also wish the paper for the monthly spreads was more of a card stock because I worry when I pull on a tab to flip through the pages (although no tears or anything yet). Other than that, I appreciate the planner for what it is: a simple, daily, portable planner.
Are you a Simplified Planner fan? Share how you use your ELSP in the comments! Anything I left out that you wish I’d covered in my review? Ask and I shall answer! I hope you liked this review–in the future I’ll start doing comparison reviews. What would you like to see the Simplified Planner compared to? Let me know and I’ll see if I can make it happen!