PurpleTrail Planner

PurpleTrail (affiliate link) is a small company based in the Seattle, Washington area. It was founded in 2007 and has seen a lot of growth since it started as a custom invitation stationary business. I think that custom stationery and invitations (especially wedding-related) are still PurpleTrail’s main business endeavor, but they do offer a lot of paper products in their line-up. Notably, they have an awesome customizable planner line.

PurpleTrail started with a mission:

The PurpleTrail service is based on the idea that we are all different, and there is a designer within each of us. PurpleTrail provides the tools and inspiration, and lets you do the rest.

I wanted to show my audience (that’s you!) a customizable planner option, and so I reached out to PurpleTrail. They generously worked with me to send me a planner of my own design to review. I tried to include add-ons that were unique to PurpleTrail or that I thought were particularly useful so that I could report on this planner accurately. I think I chose a pretty excellent set-up to tell you about.

PurpleTrail lets you choose your own start month, so really you can order this planner at any time. I chose to have a January 2018–December 2018 planner, but you can pick any start month. There are 12-month and 18-month options. You can add up to four add-on sections to your planner as well. I chose: Notes, To-Do List, Appointments, and Games. There is also an option to include a double-sided pocket and/or stickers in the back of your planner. I decided to add both so that I could tell you about them!

There are three sizes to choose from: Tiny (4.5 x 6.25″), 6 x 8″, and 8.5 x 11″. I went for the middle option of 6 x 8″ and chose the Lotus Flower Mindfulness Planner cover design. As this is a customizable planner, the price point isn’t going to be the same for everyone. This means that you can get a planner for as little as $36.95 if you’re going bare-bones in 6 x 8″, or you can spend as much as $86.80 for a 8.5 x 11″ planner with all the options. I’ll go over the choices I made as we explore the planner, but the exact planner I got ended up being $62.75.


The functionality of this planner depends on the type of planner you are. There are multiple layouts to choose from (multiple weekly and daily), several add on options, customizable covers, and more. But whichever type of planner you are, PurpleTrail probably has an option that will fit you. 🙂

The beginning pages include a nameplate page, 2018 and 2019 holidays (American), and 2018 + 2019 year at a glance pages.

The nameplate page is simple, with a “This Planner Belongs To” header and plenty of space to write in your name and contact information. The PurpleTrail logo and website are at the bottom of the page, which means that they do not put their logo anywhere on the cover. The space to customize your cover is 100% yours!

The Holidays page is designed to pack a lot of information in, which it does. You get the holidays and dates for both 2018 and 2019. The page adjacent to the Holidays page is blank–you could put a vision board there, or write in yearly goals, or use that space however you wish! Then you get two pages for your years at a glance, one for 2018 and one for 2019. These are simple and colorful and provide a good spread for those of you who want to know what day your 2019 birthday falls on at a glance (mine will be on a Monday!)

Then you get into your months and weeks. Each month has a cover page with tab attached. The colorful option has a different color for each month, which is featured throughout the monthly and weekly spreads. The cover page includes the month’s name in large, bold text against a background in the color assigned to that month. The page itself is dot grid, which you can either leave blank or use to write in monthly goals, habits, or just decorate.

The back of the tabbed page is just dot grid, which, again, you can use however you please. The tab does not immediately take you to the monthly layout, but to this cover page. Then you get a kind of dashboard for the month ahead with a place to write in birthdays, events, and things to remember.


Then you reach the monthly spread. The monthly layout is simple with boxes laid out in a 6 x 7 format, which means that the boxes are evenly laid out every month, and the ones that don’t correspond to the dates are left blank. The boxes are perfect squares and roughly 3cm (or just a tad over 1″) in width and height. The righthand side of the spread has a long column for Notes.


The weekly spread (I chose a different month to show how the colorful layout works) that I chose was the Vertical option. PurpleTrail has several options, however, including Horizontal, Vertical, Vertical Hourly with 1-hour increments, Vertical Hourly with 15-minute increments, Three Section, and Quad.

The Vertical layout has columns of 24 dotted lines and a larger blank space at the bottom of each weekday. Saturday and Sunday share a column and don’t have any blank boxes. This is a simple but effective layout that provides a good combination of structure and flexibility. I personally plan to break the daily columns up into multiple sections. The weekly layouts also begin on the 1st of the month. Notice in the May spread above that there is no date for the column that represents Monday–this means that you get an extra column or three of space at the beginning of each month, depending on the day when that month begins.

Now for the extras! There is quite a list of add ons to choose from (the ones I picked are bolded): Notes Paper, To Do List, Password List, Bill Tracker, Check List, Graph Paper, Important Dates, Address Book, Puzzles & Games, Dotted Grid, Appointment Tracker, Student Check-List, Fitness Tracker, Nutrition Tracker, Account Tracker, Travel Itinerary, and Baby Tracker + Keepsake. Each add on is $3.95, so these can add up.

The Notes add on has a cover page in cardstock, same as the monthly cover pages throughout the planner. Then you just get notes pages with dotted lines, which are a little easier on the eyes than solid lines. This add on includes 24 pages of notes.

The next add on I selected was the To Do List. Again, you get the cover page. Just like the Notes section, you get 24 pages of lists. Each page has four lists, each with 14 lines. There is a low opacity green circle that you can check off to note completed tasks. This is a nice, standard format. I wish that the lists had space for a heading–it would be nice to have a blank space for the top line so that you could “title” your To Dos.

The third add on I chose was the Appointment Tracker. Again, you get the cover page. Since I chose the Vertical layout without hourly slots, I decided to get an appointment tracker to more easily record upcoming medical/dental/etc. appointments because you usually have to make them so far in advance.

You get 24 pages (I sense a theme!), each with four slots for appointments. I really like that this layout has consistent colorful themes but still has a different color for each appointment “box”–it helps to keep things separated. The appointment box has an option to check Medical, Dental, or Other with a blank space to write it in. Then there are sections for Date, Time, Who, Where, Number, and Address.

The last add on I chose was Puzzle & Games! I chose it because I think it’s a unique option. There are 4 pages of sudoku puzzles, 4 pages of labyrinth games, two pages for connect five (two player game), 2 pages for hangman, 2 pages for tic-tac-toe, and 4 pages of other half where you finish a drawing and can color it in. One last page (an answers sheet) is also included so you can check yourself before you wreck yourself.


One of the options you can choose to add to your planner is a folder and/or sticker sheets. I selected both (a $10 add on cost) so I could share them with you. The folder is a simple but heavy smooth cardstock with two pockets. It’s a sturdy folder and I’m impressed with the quality. Then you get three sticker sheets with lots of colorful fun & functional stickers.


PurpleTrail has three cover material options to choose from: 10 mil laminate (which I chose), hardcover, and synthetic soft with a frosted cover.

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The 10 mil laminate cover helps the planner keep its shape while also providing protection for the pages. The tabs are covered and by the cover as well, so you get that extra layer of protection. This planner cover has curved edges (less stabby and less likely to get caught on things in your bag). These covers are not interchangeable.

I was super pleased with how my cover choice turned out–the colors are bright and gorgeous and the font came out crisp and clean. PurpleTrail has a very immersive and detailed customizer, and I was able to write whatever I wanted as well as removing the quote that originally came on this particular cover design. PurpleTrail has so many designs to choose from–you can easily spend a long time picking out and tweaking your options. PurpleTrail also has an account system where you can save the designs you create–whether you are half-way through or completely done. There are a number of font choices and add-on images/quotes (think planner-y clip art) that you can play with. I definitely spent some time exploring different designs before I fell in love with this subtle but gorgeous Lotus Flower pattern.

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You can also play around with the back cover of your planner–I decided to keep it simple but you could easily add a quote, picture, etc. here to further personalize it and make it your own. The binding is a metal coil and is more flexible than, say, an Erin Condren coil would be (it doesn’t feel as stiff, rather) but is still sturdy enough to handle the book you create.


Now, if you’ve followed me here on plannerisma.com or over on my Instagram account, you know that I looooove a thick planner. There is something so reassuring about the bulk of a thick planner, I don’t know what it is. I am very pleased with how much content PurpleTrail is able to fit into their planners. Their planner has a nice heft while still maintaining portability with its size. I really like the 6 x 8″ planner size–it’s a little smaller than the more common 7″ x 9″ planner size, but the extra inch makes this book feel so much more portable.


The tabbed pages are a thick card stock, and the tabs themselves are coated in plastic laminate. They are a white background with colorful text, as each month is represented by a different color. It’s a clean look and makes it easy to find your place. I really like that the tabs are wide–they are durable and strong and pleasantly layered.


I loaded up on PurpleTrail stickers because I wanted to see how they would work in the planner and check out their quality before I recommended them. The sticker pages included in the planner are great and cover a lot of activities: work out, sportsing, party, holiday, date, list headers, etc. There are also stickers for birthdays, bills, errands, and more. The stickers have a certain stretchiness to them–they are easy to work with and feel durable. They are a glossy coated material so they will not tear easily.

I got the vertical layout, and noticed that the banner stickers fit perfectly on the page. I love the idea of using the vertical layout to create multiple columns, each with their own applicable heading, so I thought these sticker options were great.

This planner sticks with a sans serif font choice in multiple weights. If you choose the colorful option (versus neutral), you get a planner organized with color. Each month has a different color that is represented in the weekly and monthly layouts in the heading, days of the week bar, and the actual lines of the monthly layout.

This planner is also a little different from most in that the dates are in the lower right-hand corners of the daily boxes. I like this because it lets you evenly fill out your box from the top-down without running into a number.

I love these little birthday cake stickers, but unfortunately, they take up most of the monthly layout’s daily box in 6 x 8″ planners. That is definitely worth considering when you look around for stickers or use the PurpleTrail ones.


Pen test time!

Honestly, the Sharpie Permanent Marker (as always) had a little bleed through, but no other pen is visible once you turn the page. This paper is no joke, and handles highlighters, inky pens, and felt tip pens like a pro. I personally enjoyed writing with the Pilot G-2, Le Pen, and Papermate InkJoy the most on this paper.

The paper in this planner is very high quality. PurpleTrail uses an 80lb. writing paper that is bleed resistant and textured in a smooth matte finish. The paper is a joy to write on, and as you can see from the pen test, is resilient against most of the pens in my arsenal.

This planner would be a great fit for someone who really wants the most customizable cover options ever. If you saw the “PLANNERISMA” on my cover design and gasped because you would love a cover with your own name/tagline/etc., then this planner is definitely worth exploring. I highly recommend taking some time to investigate the PurpleTrail customizer. 😉

This planner would be a great fit for someone who wants a quality book on a budget–if you are going for a bare-bones options. The $36.95 price tag for a 12-month planner that you can customize is a pretty good deal. The planner does get more expensive as you add stuff to it, but this actually makes for a pretty accessible planner option for multiple types of budgets. If you don’t care about all the extras, then this planner doesn’t force you to have them.


My husband launched into the Sudoku puzzles! Unfortunately, he used pen for the first one!


I recommend this planner to those of you who want a thick planner that’s still easy to carry around. The size really is fantastic for portability without giving up too much space on the page. This would also be a great option with the Puzzles & Games addition for those of you who run lots of errands with or without children. While you’re waiting, work on a Sudoku puzzle. Let your kids figure out the labyrinths or occupy them with some of the simpler games included in this add-on. Even though I chose to have this planner start in January 2018, I’ve been carrying it around to occupy my husband with the Sudoku, which he immediately took to. Not that my husband is a child, but if it worked on him… 😉 (Pro tip: bring a pencil!)

PurpleTrail offers lots of different layouts, so different planner babes are going to prefer their planners set up differently. I do think that for those of you who need to maintain a strict and busy schedule, the Vertical Hourly in 15-minute increments is something that you don’t find often but would be especially helpful. I can just see a massage therapist loving that layout for keeping track of a busy day of appointments, for example.

Personally, I think that this planner is a fantastic size, but if you are looking for lots of room to write then you may want to consider the 8.5 x 11″ size. This planner is great for a light, compact, but functional option that you can fit your life into. I hesitate to do my standard I wouldn’t recommend this planner for beause there are just so many options that PurpleTrail has for you. There is a school add on for students, a baby tracker add on for new moms, & etc. But if I had to say then I probably would not recommend this planner for someone who wants a lot of content but is on a strict budget. $36.95 gets you the 12 months, but if you want all the bells and whistles then it can add up.


PurpleTrail has a cover customization plug-in that really lets you go to town with what you’re creating. You can do so much with their customizer. Although I did not deviate too far from the design I chose, I was incredibly impressed with how much control the customer has over how they want their cover design to look. I also love the bulk of this planner! It feels great to hold and carry around without being too heavy. I also love the coil–much stronger binding option than Wire-O, in my opinion. I have also never seen a Puzzles & Games section in a planner before, and added it because I thought it was a unique option. It isn’t even January yet, and already this section has been well-used!


I think that the printing could be a little bit crisper. I also wish there was an option for an elastic closure, even as an add-on, to better keep the book together when you’re carrying it around. I will probably use one of my Erin Condren elastic closure bands for this planner.

There you have it! My review of the PurpleTrail Planner! If you like the look of this planner, I have a surprise for you! My contact at PurpleTrail (shoutout to Josh!) was kind enough to provide me with a discount code for all of you! You can use the code Plannerisma10 at check-out to get 10% off your PurpleTrail order! 🙂 Just go here to start.

Anything I missed that you want to know more about? Do you have a PurpleTrail planner set up in a different way? Leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you. 🙂

Until next time!


2018 Ink+Volt Planner

Ink+Volt was created by Kate Matsudaira and started as the Spark Notebook, which launched with the assistance of a 2014 Kickstarter.  The Kickstarter aimed to raise $14,000 and ended up with $138,572. After receiving feedback from their community, they launched another Kickstarter in 2015 to make a planner version of the Spark Notebook. This raised $460,602. There was definitely a response to Matsudaira’s idea!

Matsudaira brings her years of experience as a technology executive and software engineer to crafting a planner that is as functional as it is elegant. While her original target audience was (presumably) business professionals, she has since broadened her approach. The Ink+Volt planner is a beautiful, sophisticated book that can help you stick to your goals and always have a space to write down that next great idea–no matter where you are.

The Ink+Volt Planner has gone through a few name changes while Matsudaira and her team found their groove. From the Spark Planner to the undated Volt Planner and now the Ink+Volt Planner, this book has been carefully evaluated at each turn to bring you something better each year. As they say on their website:

From the moment Kate printed the first book her goal was to make this into something that evolved through feedback and would be refined over time. With each version of the planner Kate makes updates and improvements to layout, materials, everything. And that same philosophy of continuous iterative improvement is core to Ink+Volt.

The Ink+Volt Planner is $40 for the signature edition (in black, beige, or navy) and $45 for one of the limited edition options (several colors to choose from) plus shipping ($6.75 ground shipping). Shipping is free for orders over $100. I am reviewing the 2018 Signature edition of the ink+volt planner in black, which the lovely folks over at Ink+Volt were kind enough to send me.


The Ink+Volt Planner was designed as a workhorse paper machine that helps you set goals, achieve them, and track your path throughout the 2018 year.


The first page of this planner is the nameplate page. It is simple and embraces white space. Then you turn to the 2018 and 2019 years at a glance, one on each page.

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As the Ink+Volt Planner is a product that helps you focus on your goals, the beginning pages include prompts to help you Bring Your Year Into Focus. There is definitely power in writing things down. Thoughtful questions like “What do you want to leave behind this year?” can help you shake off whatever is holding you back from achieving your goals. Although the box you get for writing/drawing/stickering in your vision for 2018 is not a two-page vision board spread, it still helps you document your hopes for the year ahead.

Next, you get a 2018 Theme page, which encourages you to choose a theme for 2018 and then write down yearly goals on a checklist. This could be a bucket list, a way to track a huge, overarching project like a dissertation, or just a list of goals you would like to challenge yourself to complete this year. There is also some blank space at the bottom of the spread for anything additional.


Then you move immediately into the monthly layout, which is spread over two pages. The monthly spread has a Sunday start and the weekend days (Saturday and Sunday) are shaded in gray. There is a Focus box on the righthand side of the layout and a column for Notes in a dot grid format. Each week is numbered–if you look closely you can see the low-opacity “CW 1” in the top lefthand corner of the first Sunday box. Each week thereafter is numbered throughout the planner. There is plenty of white space at the top of the pages, as the heading (“January 2018”) takes up very little space.


Each month has a Goals page, where you can write in This Month, I Will… items on a checklist. The bottom half of the page is a dot grid where you can write notes, brainstorm ideas, or fill in however you like.

There is also a 31-Day Challenge page, which encourages you to commit to something for 31 days. The format is open and stated simply with the prompt “For the next 31 days I want to…” This could be used as a habit tracker, a pledge of productivity, or whatever else you may need an extra kick of motivation to start doing. There is even a day-by-day log where you can keep track of whether or not you did what you pledged to do. One of the details I love about this page is that there is a place for you to sign your name and pledge your commitment to fulfilling your 31-day challenge!


This planner includes a four-page weekly spread, separated into two sections: (1) Weekly Goals, and (2) Weekly Outlook.

The Weekly Goals pages include a journaling prompt on one page and a catch-all space for goal setting and reflection on the other. The prompt changes each week, and is one of my favorite things about the Ink+Volt planner. You get timely, thought-provoking, and mindful prompts and almost a full page of dot grid for writing out your response.

For example, the first week of January 2018 is: “A fresh start means fresh possibilities. What are some ways that you can make the next 12 months incredibly awesome?” Flip forward several months and the first week of July 2018 is: “Don’t sweat the small stuff. What small things have caused you irritation lately? How can you take a step back and see the BIG picture, letting go of the stress associated with these steps?”

Then you get the Weekly Goals page, which has plenty of lines with checkboxes for your weekly tasks and/or goals, a box to Reflect + Celebrate, and a small reminder to review your yearly goals, monthly goals, last week’s progress, and your 31-day challenge.


The second part of the Weekly spread is the Weekly Outlook. This has a Monday start and includes a column for each day with a shared Saturday and Sunday space. There are three low-opacity sections for Morning, Noon, and Night, but they are laid out in such a way that you can completely write over them if you so choose. This speaks to the flexibility of this planner. There is structure if you want it, but you can also choose to do something different with the layout.

There is also a decent chunk of white space on the top of the pages. Personally, I think it’s a little too much white space given the size of the book, but those of you who love a good blank space for decorating, keeping extra notes, or aesthetic pleasure will like the generous white space in the Ink+Volt Planner.


At the end of the planner, you get a page for reflection. You set goals at the beginning of 2018, and Ink+Volt wants you to reflect on those goals and dreams that you wrote down for yourself. The questions are simple but pointed and overall positive.

There is also a page for 2018 Achievements. This is wonderful because it prompts you to flip to this spread every time you achieve something that you’re proud of and record it. As you do this, the 2018 Achievements page becomes a sort of “Happy Page” that you can return to every time you feel a little down. The format is completely open, too. You can be proud of achieving something as big as that promotion at work, or as big as quitting your day job to focus on your passion. It can be seemingly small, like remembering to dust every week or keeping up with your planner for a solid three months. This page is all about you, and all about recording your process.


The planner ends, as most do, with some notes pages. There are about ten pages in all and each one is dot grid. You can use these for whatever you like–there are no restrictions.


These planners measure a portable 6″ x 8.5″, which make them great for taking on the go. They are 100% made in the USA, have a lay-flat binding design, and use soy-based inks and rainforest friendly paper. The pages are a bright white and the text is crisp.

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These books are about 1″ thick, so they pack in quite a lot! You get 280 pages, and each one is discreetly numbered. The paper is smooth and just the tiniest bit glossy and acid-free.


The cover is a matte, smooth material that looks slightly more textured than it is. When I run my hand along it I don’t see any sign of fingerprints left behind. It makes the planner a pleasure to hold and handle. The back cover has the logo Ink+Volt stamped in at the bottom center of the book. The binding is unembellished.

The immediate page inside the planner is a textured cardstock protecting the pages within. This same textured cardstock is present at the end of the planner as well, where you will also find a pocket folder affixed to the inside back cover.

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There are two page ribbons (in differing colors) to help you keep your place in the planner. Maybe one for the month and one for the week, or one to bring you back to your weekly goals and the other someone in the notes. However you prefer to use them, they are there. This is especially handy because this planner does not have tabbed sections. If you are the type of planner who really cares about being able to flip to your month immediately, then the second ribbon will be a huge help.


This planner does an excellent job of gorgeously and effectively using typography. Ink+Volt uses a consistent combination of serif and sans serif fonts. Large headings and bigger blocks of text use a crisp serif font that adds a flair of sophistication to this book. Subheadings and smaller headings are given an all-caps sans serif font in regular to semi-bold weight.


Throughout most of the planner, writing space is provided via dot grid versus lined format. This choice really emphasizes the clean and minimalist aesthetic of the ink+volt planner. Saturday & Sunday are denoted with a gray fill on both the weekly and monthly spreads. This visual choice helps you immediately pick out the weekends.

This planner looks sophisticated and feels clean and elegant. While I wish there was more use of the space for weekly spreads (I think there is a little too much white space considering the size of the pages), the layout does reinforce a minimalist aesthetic. This planner is also non-gender conforming. Its sleek and minimal look makes it a perfect fit for anyone–men, women, non-gender-binary conforming individuals, etc.

The binding is tight and the overall quality of this planner is high. The cover feels sturdy and soft, the pages are smooth and bright, and the minimalist design decisions make this a quality product with lots of space for your goals, ideas, plans, and tasks.


You know how this starts–pen test!!


The paper used in the 2018 Ink+Volt Planner is 70lb. and smooth but porous–I do not recommend using felt-tip pens in this planner, with the exception of Micron pens. The paper absorbs the ink in a way that makes the felt tip pens look a little less crisp than they might normally appear. Super inky pens will need time to dry or they might smear. I think the best pens for this planner are fine ballpoint pens like the Pilot Easy Touch and the Pentel R.S.V.P. The Pentel Slicci is also an excellent option–the finer the point, the more you are going to get out of the space in this planner.

I will say that my photos make the paper look a little thinner than it is, especially after the pens had a moment to dry. The paper holds ink quite well and doesn’t bleed–except for the Sharpie Permanent Market, as always.

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This planner would be a great fit for someone who wants a portable book that carries their life. Do you want to look professional AF in the office and on the go? This planner will help you achieve that vibe. It is a sophisticated and well-made book that’s sure to impress.

If you are struggling with goal setting, this planner will help you pull out and articulate yearly, monthly, and weekly goals. This planner is for the goal setter and go-getter. If you want a planner that motivates you without pushing you to the point of overwhelm, then this would be a great option for you. The weekly journaling prompts are especially gentle with encouraging you to reflect and develop strong, attainable goals.

I think that the four-page weekly layout is a great way to have it all without trying to have it all on two pages. You can keep your agenda in the Weekly Overview section and your goals and tasks on the Weekly Goals pages. I think this layout is especially helpful for people who work on multiple projects or do project-based work, like consultants or public program coordinators. My husband is an Economist and his work involves shifting projects, and he’s been eyeing my Ink+Volt Planner since it arrived!

I would recommend this planner to someone who wants a sleek, minimalist book with no frills but more content than, say, Moleskine. If you have always wanted a weekly instead of a daily planner but constantly feel forced into using daily planners because a two-page weekly spread just wasn’t enough, then give the Ink+Volt Planner a go.

When I was exploring this planner, I realized how helpful it would be in providing structure and accountability to people who work from home, especially in a freelance capacity. Writers, designers, marketing consultants, etc. would all find this planner beneficial in keeping track of an ad hoc schedule and self-administered goals.

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I would not recommend this planner to someone who is more interested in using their planner for managing a busy schedule than for setting goals (nothing wrong with that! Different folks plan differently!) The Ink+Volt Planner is focused on goals, so if goal-setting is not your jam, look elsewhere. I would also not recommend this planner for someone who loves decorating with stickers and washi, simply because it’s book-bound and will bulge if you fill up too many pages with stickers. But by all means, go for it with your Tombow pens!


I love that this planner is sleek and elegant and manages to be minimalist in aesthetic while still offering an impressive amount of content. I love the inclusion of weekly journaling or reflection prompts, which remind you to be mindful every week. I love this planner’s approach to the weekly layout–using four pages and separating schedules and goals is genius. I also happen to think that the paper in this planner smells good.


I really think an elastic closure band would take this planner one step further. Otherwise, I think that this planner could make better use of the space available on its pages. There is a lot of white space on the Weekly Overview pages, and while it is pleasing to the eye, I think that the design could be improved to better use that space.

There you have it! My review of the 2018 Ink+Volt Planner! I hope you found this helpful, and of course if you have/use an Ink+Volt Planner, I’d love to hear about how you are liking it! Also happy to answer any additional questions! Leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you. 🙂

Until next time!


2018 Karen Adams Designs Agenda

Karen Adams Designs got its start in 1999 with a Stationary Show. It’s an award-winning family business based in Memphis, Tennessee and focuses mainly on stationery but also creates calendars, agendas, greeting cards, invitations, art prints, menus, and more. Karen Adams got her start with a degree in apparel design from the Rhode Island School of Design and worked in New York City for companies like J. Crew.

I want to be clever, innovative, classic but in a fun way. I want people to smile or laugh and feel good. You know when you are out for a walk and pass someone who smiles and says “hello” and you think “ I love that people smile and say hi, this world is pretty great.” That is how I want what we send out into the world to make people feel.

I’ve had my eye on the Karen Adams Designs agenda for about a year now, since I saw a review of the 2017 Agenda from Earn Spend Live. I reached out to Karen Adams Designs with an interest in reviewing their recently released 2018 agenda. I communicated with Karen’s daughter, Wallis (who also has a design background), who kindly sent me an agenda to review for all of you!

The Karen Adams Designs Agenda launched in 2017, so this is their second year of designing and providing a daily agenda. While Karen designs the complementary page of stickers in the agenda, much of the design is from Wallis, and reflects thoughtfulness and ingenuity.

This is a big agenda, measuring in at 9 1/2″ x 9 1/2″ including the spiral. It retails on the Karen Adams Designs website for $44 plus shipping, which is a little below the average cost for a daily agenda of this caliber.


This is a daily planner. There is a generous page per day in this layout–shared weekends–along with monthly spreads and notes pages.

When you first open the planner you see a page of stickers (designed by Karen Adams herself!). These are creative, cute, and really just gorgeous stickers. There are a lot of holiday stickers as well as some more general ones. The inside cover includes a pocket folder. It’s loose enough to easily slip some papers in and high enough that they won’t immediately fall out again.

Then you have your nameplate page (adorably encased in a pineapple), along with the Karen Adams Designs logo and the dates covered by the agenda (January–December 2018).

You also get a page to record your passwords–there are prompts for Email, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, and others. Nothing financial is included, which is generally a good policy. Then you get a page for 2018 Goals, with a checkable circle for each line.

You get a page to record must see movies and must see books. There isn’t a lot of space to record your entire To Read list for the year, but probably enough space to write down books and movies that are coming out in 2018 that you want to keep your eyes out for!

Next is a page for Dates to celebrate in 2018, which is a perfect place to record important dates, birthday, holidays to look out for, etc. They layout of this section is clean and roomy–lots of space for you!

You get your standard page for 2018 Holidays. Karen Adams Designs is thorough–you get New Year’s Day, but also some fun ones like Coffee Day and Chocolate Chip Cookie Day! Then you have your 2018 year at a glance on one page.

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The monthly spreads are two pages. Karen Adams Designs’ monthly layouts are unique because of the extra design elements that are included. Beautifully drawn thematic embellishments surround the monthly name. For example, January has snowflakes and a snowman. February has arrows, hearts, lips, and xo’s, in reference to Valentine’s Day. This adds a nice touch to your monthly layout. The designs are all in black and white, so you could even color them in if you want. Each month is different, and the hand-drawn designs add an extra pop of festivity to the spread!

The monthly spread also includes a Notes column on the left hand side of the layout. The bottom right of the layout includes two month-at-a-glance calendars, for the months preceding and following the current one.

This planner has one page per day. The daily layout is simple and elegant with the day and date, Today’s Top 3 Goals, To Do For Myself, Today, To Do, and Notes sections. If there is a holiday it is printed in the top right hand corner of the page, otherwise you get an inspirational or motivational quote. The Top 3 section forces you to prioritize your tasks for the day, or you could also put immovable appointments, reminders, etc. there. You could also write in your top three goals to keep in mind throughout your day–you don’t necessarily need to use this space for to-dos. The To Do For Myself section is nice because it just gives you a couple lines to use for jotting down some self-care, listing a couple tasks that are just about you, or even writing a sentence a day in gratitude or reflection. This section also reminds you to take care of yourself. This could be a nice reminder for these of us who spend most of our time and energy worrying about others.

The Today column is a one hour per line schedule from 6am to 9pm (or 6pm to 9am if you prefer). The To Do column includes 16 lines with circles that you can use to check off tasks. Again, this planner is pretty big, so there is a decent amount of space for writing in your schedule and to-dos. At the bottom of the daily page is a short box for Notes. This can contain anything you need it to–meals, gratitude, note taking, habit tracking, water intake, etc. It is a blank space that can fulfill any need you have of it.

The weekends are combined into one page. You get a column for Today and a column for To Do. Each day still gets its own quote! The today column just has lined space for you to write in whatever you need or want to record. The To Do space has 7 spaces for tasks.

At the bottom of the weekend page is a section where you can write in any big events happening “next week.” Similar to the Day Designer, this quick little layout allows you to see the upcoming week at a glance. This is especially helpful with a daily planner because sometimes you can lose sight of the bigger picture o your week.

The back of the Planner includes a few Notes pages for any additional stuff you want to write down or keep track of.


Packaging can be an important part of receiving a planner. It lets you know that there is a lot of care going into sending you the product and that your aesthetic experience starts before you have the actual planner in your hands.

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My Karen Adams Designs Planner came beautifully packaged with brown paper and white tissue paper. Wallis (my contact at Karen Adams Designs) included a lovely card with the planner!


The agenda comes in a keepsake box, which is minimalist in design. It is sturdy and could easily be used to store papers/stickers/etc. or to hold your planner in for safe keeping once the year is over.

Wallis sent me a lovely little notebook and card along with the planner! And your planner, of course, comes with a welcome card printed on card stock and keying you into the social media avenues for engagement with Karen Adams Designs.

The planner itself comes in two color schemes–I chose the cream and tan option (Madame Gres) because I loved the way it looked with the gold foil and how it used a two-tone color scheme to make a busy design look clean and sleek. The planner cover is smooth to the touch and is a soft matte material over a hard board. It feels sturdy. The corners have metal protectors in gold, and the Wire-O coil is white. There is also a white elastic that keeps your planner together so that loose papers don’t come out as easily. The year (2018) is centered on the cover in gold foil embossing.

The back cover has the same image/design as the front cover of the planner, and includes a minimalist version of the Karen Adams Designs logo in gold foil.

This is a daily planner and thus it is a bit hefty. With its 9 1/2” x 9 1/2” size, the planner manages to stay manageably svelte. I’m not sure what the paper quality in this planner is, but it’s probably comparable to the Flagship Day Designer. This allows the planner to maintain a slim profile while still being able to hold enough pages for a daily format.

The Karen Adams Designs planner, in a change form last year, has a series of colorful tabs that run in a single line down the edge of the pages. The colorful palette includes blue, red, yellow, pink, and navy. The tabs are coated in plastic and the pages they are adhered to are a little thicker than the rest of the planner pages. The covers of the planner are big enough that they completely cover the tabs, which protects them.

The planner’s Notes pages are wide ruled, which is perfect for those of you with large handwriting. If you have smaller handwriting and prefer a tighter lined page, then you might not like these notes pages. The inside back cover has a sweet affirmation in script: “She saw every ending as a new beginning.” This is a lovely thought to have at the end of a planner. It reminds you that even though you are at the end of one planner, one year, there is another one about to start, a blank page to carry you forward.

The monthly spreads are embellished with Karen Adam’s playful yet classic art. As mentioned above, each month includes a unique spread of artwork. November, for example, includes leaves, acorns, twigs, and berries. These conjure thoughts of Fall, Thanksgiving, and other November feels. The name of the month is always in a thin script font, which I love. It adds an elegant touch to the planner pages. The numbers are all a regular weight sans serif text, while the days of the week are in an all-caps serif font. You get all the font types in this planner!


As always, let’s start with a pen test!

The paper isn’t overly thick, but it is a bright white that holds most of my pens pretty well. The Sharpie Permanent Marker, as always, bleeds through. This paper also doesn’t handle super inky pens very well, like the Uniball Vision. The highlighters have a little ghosting. Otherwise, the paper held up pretty well. When one page is flat against another you can barely see most of the pens (although if you have a heavy hand you can see the indentation from writing, even if you don’t see the ink.) When you lift the page up, you can see the ink, but it definitely doesn’t come through when the pages are flat against one another.

This planner would be a good fit for someone who wants a comprehensive daily planner. I would recommend it as a desk planner or at-home planner that keeps track of a master schedule and list of to-dos. You could carry it around with you, of course, but it is a little hefty so might serve you better as a sort of home base planner.

This planner would be great for the home or office–it’s flexible enough that you aren’t being led into using it in any particular way. It could keep track of your work schedule and to-dos, as well as reminding you of more big picture goals for the day. If you work in an environment where you become overwhelmed by everyone else’s demands on your time, this would be a great planner for you because it subtly reminds you to think about goals for self care. If you flesh out your daily plans and to-dos the night before you go to sleep or the moment you wake up (but first, coffee, of course), then the sections for “to do for myself” and “top 3 goals for today” will prompt you into a moment of reflection. If you have a lot going on every day but need those reminders to think about yourself as well every once in a while, this planner would be a great fit for you.

If you want a daily planner but want it to be a step above minimalist design, then this would be a great planner for you. The monthly embellishments are adorable and fun, and add a pop of delight and seasonality to the planner. If you want some elegant design elements, the Karen Adams Designs planner is a great way to go.

 I probably wouldn’t recommend this planner for students, because there isn’t much room for assignments or due dates. (You could put those in the notes section of each day, however.) This planner would be a great fit for anyone who has full days to keep track of and wants a simple but elegant layout for doing so.


I love the color choices for the tabs this year, and how the pop of color is juxtaposed with the cream and tan cover I chose. The inclusion of an elastic closure band is always a plus! I love the top 3 goals and to-do for myself sections in each day–I think this is a very subtle and thoughtful way to provoke reflection without overwhelming the first-time planner or the person who has too much on their plates to fill out lots of extras. I am a bit of a sucker for daily planners and I love the simple layout this planner uses for its days. I also love the choice of script font. And I love the stickers. They are cute and delightful!


I do wish that the Wire-O binding was gold rather than white–and of course I am not the biggest fan of Wire-O. I also think there is just a little too much white space on the notes pages and would like the lines to be a little tighter. I also wish that the numbers were in a serif font to match the other text in the planner.

There you have it! My review of the Karen Adams Designs daily agenda. Do you have one? Do you have questions I didn’t get to answer? Leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you. 🙂

Karen Adams Designs is having a Black Friday deal for those of you interested in picking up this lovely daily planner! You can use the code HOLIYAY for 10% off all orders over $100 and Free Shipping on orders over $50. The sale runs Friday–Monday. 🙂


2018 FRANK Weekly Planner

Hello hello my planner people! This Sunday I’m taking us back to FRANK, a small company with a huge mission of giving back, based in New Zealand. I’ve reviewed their 2017 Daily Planner, but wanted to contrast it with their 2018 Weekly option. I reached out to Jason and Jess, the founders of FRANK, about doing a review of their Weekly Planner. They kindly sent one to me to share with you!

A refresher: Jason and Jess started FRANK in 2012 and (if I remember correctly) named their company after one of their grandfathers. Their small business has always been a charitable one. The idea for stationery that gives back began after Jason and Jess watched a documentary on child poverty in New Zealand. One of the facts that shocked the couple was that many children go to school without any exercise books (notebooks, composition books, etc.). How can you succeed when you lack the basic materials necessary for doing well in school? Jason and Jess decided that they could do something about it.

For every item sold, FRANK provides a school book for a child in need. Every year they count up their orders and drive truckloads of exercise books to schools in New Zealand, handing them off to children who otherwise might not have one. Jason and Jess do some amazing work, and I am thrilled to share one of their lovely planners with you! At the heart of FRANK is their mission:

Cultivating authentic living through stationery and giving back to the community in a real, practical way.

The planner community is a generous community, and this is reflected in the work of small but mighty companies like FRANK.

FRANK makes stationary products and has quite a lineup of notebooks, planners, and journals. This review is specifically focused on the 2018 Weekly Planner in Pink, which retails for $30 NZD, which is $20.45 USD. International shipping is $10.23 USD, which is a pretty good deal for International post. If you live in the U.S. and want to buy this planner, it would cost you a total of $30.68 USD. I think it’s a great buy for the thoughtful product that you get.


This is a weekly planner that begins in January 2018 and goes through January 2019, so they give you an extra month to make transitioning into your next planner a little easier.

The first page welcomes you to your new planner with a positive message, encouraging you to “live on purpose.” This is followed immediately by two pages with a 2018 year-at-a-glance spread. Then you move into a page for Areas of Growth, and one for Goals List.

The Areas of Growth page is a space for you to think about where you want to grow in 2018. FRANK provides 15 areas of growth and you can check off whichever ones you like. These range from Love to Finance, Meditation to Gratitude. These options help you frame your thoughts about where you might want to focus your time and energy in 2018. Then you have your Goals List, where you get a generous amount of lined space for up to 5 goals for 2018. This page is easy to return to throughout the year–it’s important to check on those goals!


The beginning pages end with a one-page list of Important Dates. The FRANK planner is based in New Zealand, so many of the important dates pertain to Australia and New Zealand. But there are a lot of American holidays included as well.

Each month begins with a sort of introduction page. These intro pages are in a light gray that makes it pretty easy to find them throughout the planner–there are no tabs in this planner so it’s a nice, streamlined casebound book. You get the month and year, as well as an inspirational quote to help you set the tone for the month.


The monthly spread is simple and compact. You get the month and year, and a Monday start for the monthly spread. This way, you get weekends paired together. You only get boxes for the days included in the month, so there aren’t any extra boxes on the monthly spread. This sometimes means that there is a large blank space underneath the month, where you can write about anything important happening, craft a habit tracker, or anything else you want to put there. The lefthand page has a lined notes column. I decided to spruce up this minimal spread by using colored pencils to color in days that included important dates/events so that I could easily pick them out at a glance.


After the monthly spread, you get a Focus page, Things to Look Forward To, and To Do List for each month. This two-page spread is a great place to reflect on your goals that you set at the beginning of the year, and a good place to write in anything that isn’t necessarily date-specific. Need to do Spring cleaning sometime that month? Put it on the monthly To Do List. Have important things happening that you’re excited about but a date hasn’t been set quite yet? Write it in the Things to Look Forward To box. The Focus section gives you a full, lined page for writing out goals, focus items, and anything else you would like to be mindful of for the month.


The weekly spread is a standard horizontal layout. You get the date, day, and month and plenty of lined space for filling in your week. Weekends are given half the space of the weekdays and slotted next to one another.


At the end of each month you get a Month Reflection page. You are prompted to reflect on your focus for the month and how you did with it, as well as how you feel about it. This is awesome, because if you decided that your focus wasn’t working out and ended up switching it, you can write about that without any remorse. Things happen, and being asked to think about how you feel is a great prompt for reminding yourself of that. Give yourself a little grace. 😉

You also get a space to reflect on your favorite moment(s) from the past month. This would be a great space for memory keeping or developing a practice of gratitude. Then you get to check off (big plus for those of us who love filling out forms!) how This Month Was. Good? Fun? Hard? All of the above? There are no rules for how many boxes you can check.


The planner ends with a few notes pages. 🙂


The FRANK Weekly Planner measures in at about 8.5″ x 5.7″ and a little less than 1″ thick. The planner weights roughly 1lb and is a pretty, portable option for your 2018 needs.


The paper weight/GSM isn’t listed on the website, but it’s an off-white sort of eggnog color. While those of you who prefer a bright white probably won’t like this darker paper, it is a little easier on the eyes.

The front cover spells out “Twenty Eighteen Weekly Planner” in all caps sans-serif font, which is embossed with gold foil. This year’s design is a curving gold foil wave and includes three colors to choose from for the weekly planner: kraft (a light brown paper), navy, and this lovely blush pink. The cover feels smooth and satiny–it’s a great tactile choice and really lets the gold foil shine.


The back cover of the FRANK planner has the company’s logo and their promise: “You buy one, we give one. Giving school books to children in need.” Below this is the company website. There is also an elastic that keeps the book closed and secure.


One of the things I love about the FRANK planners is that their front cover designs seep into the interior cover pages as well. I love opening this planner up to a subtle but gorgeous interior gold foil design. They include a page ribbon to help you mark your spot, as there are no tabs.


The back cover includes a pocket to hold important papers, receipts, or whatever you need!


As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, this planner includes January 2019. The last day of the month (the 31st) gets its very own page, which is a great place to write out long-term plans. You could easily draw a line part way through the page and reserve half the page for writing down 2019 dates/events/etc.

The font choice is consistent throughout the planner. While the FRANK logo is a heavy serif font, the rest of the book is in sans-serif fonts of varying weights. FRANK makes excellent use of kerning in its headers–they look neat and clean. A semi-bold all-caps sans-serif font takes up most of the planner’s text, which also looks clean and allows the FRANK planner to use a smaller size font while still maintaining legibility and oomph.

Overall, this planner feels nice, looks clean, and does everything you need a weekly planner to do. There is a lot of white space but not so much that you think the designer should’ve given you more content. The blush pink looks gorgeous with the gold foil, and also goes well with the cream-colored pages.


Of course we will begin with the pen test! You want to make sure a planner can hold up to your favorite pens, right? 🙂

The paper in FRANK’s weekly planner could be better. You can definitely tell–whether the page is flush against its predecessor or lifted up–that writing has occurred on the other side of the page. Very inky rollerball pens, markers (Sharpie as always), and some of the thicker felt-tip pens were the biggest culprits of ghosting and bleed-through. Micron pens, rollerball pens that were 0.4-0.25, and light-ink highlighters like the Pilow Spotlighter fared best on this paper.

That being said, there is a lot of flexibility in the horizontal weekly spread. I experimented with separating the spread into two columns, one dedicated to tasks (I do this with my bloom planner). You can use this planner as a place to journal, start a gratitude practice, or write down assignments for school. You can break up the horizontal lines however you wish to make them work best for your needs.

This would be a great planner for someone who wants a simple planner to carry around with them. The FRANK Weekly Planner is great purse planner material. It’s pretty, well-designed, and the elastic keeps all your loose papers together. Plus it’s lightweight and won’t bog you down as you lug it around town.


This would be a great planner for someone who needs a simple book to help them stay on track and doesn’t want to sacrifice quality or beauty for cost. At its price point, the FRANK Weekly Planner is an excellent choice for the planner on a budget who still wants more than a $5 Target planner. This is also a wonderful planner for socially conscious planner babes who want to know that their purchase is giving back somehow. With FRANK’s dedication to providing school books to children in poverty, you know that your purchase is helping more than just you. And that’s a pretty awesome thing.

I would recommend this planner to someone who doesn’t want a lot of bells and whistles but still wants a place to keep track of the day-to-day. This is a clean, beautiful planner with a unique design that you probably won’t see everywhere. It’s also a great option for an inexpensive yet quality book that helps you carve out space for mindfulness.

If you tend to write with one or two pens that are always in your purse/bag and don’t care that much about decorating, stickers, or being able to use a plethora of colorful, inky pens then this planner would be great for you. If you do care about those things–then maybe look elsewhere. I should also mention that this planner is a great unisex or non-gender binary option, as it comes in multiple colors.


I absolutely love how FRANK gives back to their community. Snaps for FRANK, for doing fantastic work to address child poverty in New Zealand! I also love the soft cover material and delicate gold foiling, as well as the inclusion of an elastic band and page ribbon. FRANK products are thoughtfully designed with a gentle nudge towards encouraging mindfulness, being present, and encouraging reflection. Their inspirational quotes are a lovely reinforcement of these values. I also love how affordable this option is, even for International planners.


I wish the paper was a little thicker and not quite as off-white as it is. I also would like to see the designer(s) make a little better use of their two-page monthly spread. The large blank space at the bottom feels a little open to me, and I would rather have larger daily boxes in the monthly layout.

There you have it! My review of the 2018 FRANK Weekly Planner in pink. I hope you enjoyed learning about this wonderful company and one of their star products! If you have any questions I didn’t get to or if you have a FRANK planner and want to share your take, please leave a comment! I would love to hear from you. 🙂

Until next time!


Ashley Shelly Signature Planner 2018

Ashley Shelly is a product designer and graphic designer with a passion for paper! She started her paper product brand in 2014 with her first Budget Notebooks and then launched the Ashley Shelly Planner for the 2016 calendar year. That means we are in year three of this colorful, organized beauty!

Ashley wanted to offer something different with her planner, and designed a book that would make planning both fun and functional. As she says on her website:

I saw a need for a planner that included a calendar for scheduling and to-do lists, with a mixture of inspirational planning at the beginning of each month. Life is so much more than just our daily schedules. To me, it has to include heart! It has helped me run my own business and live life to the fullest, so I know it will do the same for you.

This emphasis on “heart” is reinforced throughout the Ashley Shelly Planner via Ashley’s design choices. Little hearts serve as part of her header designs and can be found at the top left of almost every page in her planner.

I was instantly attracted to the Painted Floral design–both for its white space and the cool color palette. Ashley kindly gave me a discount code to purchase the planner for a review.


I chose the 2018 Ashley Shelly Planner in Painted Floral and Silver Binding (it also comes in Rose Gold!) It runs the 2018 calendar year and is a weekly planner with a functional yet flexible horizontal spread. After I ordered it, the planner was shipped out quickly and I received it super fast. This planner retails for $49.95 plus shipping and measures 7.25″ X 9.25″ including binding.


Part of Ashley Shelly’s vision was to create a planner that was fun and functional. She wanted it to incorporate inspiration into living your best life as well as standard calendar offerings to help you through the day-to-day. This planer includes perforated corners to help you mark your day and instantly flip to it.


The planner begins with a folder attached to the inside cover opposite from a clear catch all pouch. Ashley includes a sticker sheet for you with round icons that help give your planner pages a visual pop. The pouch seals very well and isn’t too bulky–which is nice, especially at the beginning of a planner.


Then you have the nameplate page with Ashley Shelly’s full logo. The planner comes with a welcome card letting you know all the relevant information for sharing posts to Instagram.


Then you get a page sharing Planner Tips from Ashley. She includes a thank you note, information about what’s inside the planner, describes the purpose of her Creative Spread design, and invites you to dig in to the planner and make it your own. Essentially, Ashley is providing you with a key for how she designed the planner, but inviting you to use it however best works for your creative life. 🙂

Next is a 2018 Inspiration Board page, where you can “Write, draw, and tape all of the inspiration here for the year ahead!” Use this space as a vision board, or a brainstorming space for priorities, or tape in clippings that inspire you. It’s a blank space, and it’s all yours.


Then you have a page for Important Contacts. Ashley leaves most of the space for filling in your contacts blank, choosing instead to simply write “Name” for each block of lines. I really like that she does this, because you never know what information you’ll need to write down for someone. Or, if you don’t use your planner for contacts, you can repurpose it for something else like @planningwithkristen did.

You also get a page for Favorite Meal Ideas, where you can write down go-to dishes for Breakfasts, Lunches, and Dinners. This is a great page for easy-to-prep meals that are a staple in your home, or for writing down impressive meals to cook for guests, or even for writing down meals that are gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, nut-free, etc. if you need to keep track of that for you or a loved one.


Then you have a 2018 Planning Overview spread on two pages. There is a box for each month, which makes this an ideal space for writing down important dates, birthdays, season-focused things (foods, etc), mapping out a big project or goal (like a thesis), keeping track of monthly habits, etc. Ashley leaves this space open so that you can use it to meet whatever your current needs are.


You last beginning pages are a Yearly Overview on one page–very minimal, but you get both 2018 and 2019 at a glance–and a list of the 2018 Holidays. Then you move into your first calendar section!


Tabbed pages are a little thicker than the rest of the pages and feel like a standard cardstock. You get a month on two pages with a Sunday start. The weekends (Saturdays and Sundays) are noted with a bold text weight as opposed to the regular text weight used for the rest of the days. The monthly spread is lined, which allows you to divide up your space evenly or neatly.

There are two tiny month-at-a-glance spreads for the month preceding and the one following the current spread. Beneath these, there is a narrow Notes column for anything additional you might want to put down for the month. Ashley only includes numbered day boxes for the days of that month–there is no grayscale “31” or “1” from different months on this spread. This is actually quite nice, because you get to use those boxes for whatever you want.


After the monthly spread, you move into what Ashley Shelly is known for: the Creative Spread. Every month you get a two-page spread dedicated to helping keep you inspired, motivated, and balanced. There is a blank box for “Your Word of the month/mantra,” where you can write in something important to keep you focused, relaxed, or inspired for the month ahead. Then come the ovals, where you can reflect on “What creates happiness in your life that you want to do MORE of this month?” It could be waking up early to read for fun or work out, spending dedicated time with friends and/or your significant other, setting time aside for self-care and relaxation, etc. Whatever it is that brings you happiness, Ashley has carved out a space each month for you to write it down and reflect on it.

Then you have a section where you “Say NO to distractions and negativity. What are you NOT going to do this month?” Need to kick some negativity out of your self-talk? Note it. Have trouble saying no to doing things that you really don’t care about? Write it down. The act of writing down what you are allowing yourself to say no to is a powerful productivity tool. If something isn’t meaningful to you, kick it to the curb. Don’t host that party or agree to spend your free time doing something that is only important to someone else.

Then there is a box for “What do you want to create this month?” It could be as simple as creating space every Sunday to plan the week ahead, or as complex as finishing a Masterpiece. Maybe it’s NaNoWriMo, maybe it’s working on a photo album. You do you. 😉 Then there is a smaller box for Routines & Habits, where you can list steps in a morning or evening routine or habits you would like to develop. Next to that are three boxes with checkboxes in them for Personal Goals.

The Creative Spread ends with a lined column for Special Dates that month–birthdays, appointments, etc. Whatever you need to put there. Then there is a list with checkboxes for your Monthly Bucket List. What do you really want to do this month? Read three books, take a weekend trip, book your vacation?

The Creative Spread is a section that encourages you to take some time every month to reflect on what your personal goals are, what habits you’d like to build, where to put your creative energy, what motivates you, and what brings you happiness. It is a mindful section that guides you in how to make the most of your time.


The Creative Spread is followed by two notes pages, One is broken into two lined columns for freeform list making, and the other is a standard page for notes.


Then you reach the weekly spread! There is a space at the top for you to write your monthly word so that it stays fresh in your mind. There is also a notes section in two lined columns at the top of the weekly spread. The week starts with a Monday and provides equal space for each day–no tiny weekend sections here! This weekly layout is unique and is designed with both flexibility and routine in mind.

There are 9 lined spaces for your schedule with space to write in the time something is happening as well as whatever the thing itself is. This means that you can write super specific times–11:10am!–in, and aren’t restricted by a standard hourly format for your schedule. On the righthand side of the day you get a To Do List with 6 lines with checkboxes. Below those are a Due Today line and a Dinner space.

The back of the planner includes a few lined notes pages, as well.


The 2018 Ashley Shelly planner comes in five different cover designs: Aqua Glam, Blush Glam, Black & White Stripe, Painted Floral in Rose Gold, and (the one I have) Painted Floral in Silver.


The front cover is a shiny, smooth material with a flat texture and metal corners to protect your book. It simply has “2018” in large text centered on the front. This really gives the design room to shine–the painted flowers and vines are cute and mildly abstract. From what I understand, Ashley painted them herself. so you get a little bit of her creative energy with this cover choice. There is ample white space so even though there’s a lot going on with this pattern, it doesn’t look cluttered.


The back cover is also kept quite simple–Ashley Shelly’s logo is centered at the bottom of the back cover, but it doesn’t detract from the overall cover design. I think that one of the reasons for this is that Ashley uses a very specific and deliberate color palette. This is reflected throughout the planner. Everything is laid out in aqua, lilac purple, and a few shades of gray. So while the Ashley Shelly planner is colorful and definitely doesn’t shy away from incorporating color–it’s not going to overwhelm you.


The color pattern can be seen in the planner’s tabs, as well, which are laid out in a single line down the book. The tabs are coated in plastic and feel sturdy and thick. The paper used throughout most of the planner is 80# text weight, which gives you a small but hefty 1.5lb book with quality paper. The paper has a matte feel and is a little bit textured, which I tend to like. 🙂


One of the things that sets Ashley’s design apart from other planners is the lined approach to the monthly spread. The lines are aqua so they are relatively light but still heavy enough to easily use. As I mentioned, Ashley’s color scheme is used consistently throughout the planner. She also favors a consistent sans-serif font in varied weights, which adds to the feeling of consistency that you get with her planner.


Despite its thick paper and extra content, the Ashley Shelly planner is not going to weigh you down. It’s a good size–big enough to write in comfortably but not so large that you feel like it’s more of a desk planner than a bag planner. The silver Wire-O binding feels sturdy–it’s not Emily Ley or Get To Work Book, but I have no concerns about it bending out of shape on its own.


Is the Ashley Shelly planner right for you? Well first let’s get to the pen test! I used one of the Notes pages to test my pen collection on the paper.

Writing in the Ashley Shelly felt smooth–there wasn’t really a pen I didn’t like using. When you lift the page, you can see almost every pen, but when the pages are flat against one another you can barely see any indication that a pen was used on the other side of the page. The Sharpie Permanent Marker, as always, bled through, and the Stabilo Boss highlighter is a little noticeable, but the paper quality is there and should be able to handle most of the pens you throw at it.


The Ashley Shelly Planner would be a good fit if you want a weekly planner with a flexible format. If your days are varied and you don’t have a consistent routine, this would be a great planner for you because you could write in your schedule with complete freedom. This would work well for you if you want a place to write down appointments or your schedule but don’t have a 9am–5pm job. If your work mainly has you in meetings–let’s say that you’re a consultant–then this planner would be great for you because of the open-format schedule.

This would be a great planner for a busy mom who wants to keep track of appointments, meals, and important to-dos. It would also be a good fit for a student who wants to keep track of assignments and tests–the Due Today line could be a helpful tool for noting when papers are due, for example. You could use the schedule side of the day to write in when there are tests or assignments due in your classes. I could really see this working for both high school and college students. Plus, the colorful design makes it a fun agenda to use! Especially if you’re a Zeta Tau Alpha. 😉

This planner, as mentioned, is colorful but in a controlled way. The Ashley Shelly Planner is a great choice for someone who wants a functional planner but doesn’t just want an ultra minimalist design. What’s nice about this planner is that it manages to offer a lot of structure even though the design is inherently flexible. If you aren’t sure how you might want to use this planner, look through Instagram for some inspiration. There are several directions you could go–you certainly don’t have to adhere to the most obvious one. And that’s good design.

I wouldn’t recommend this planner to someone who needs to take copious notes and likes to do that in their planner. There are some notes pages (10, I believe) but not enough to carry a consistent habit of notetaking. I also wouldn’t recommend this planner to someone who wants a minimalist approach to planning–while the content is super functional, this isn’t the right planner for people who prefer black-and-white spreads and zero planner decor.


I love that Ashley Shelly is so open about how this planner has worked for her. She shares her Creative Spreads on social media and engages with her customers. I love that the layout is flexible and can accommodate multiple ways of planning. I love the inclusion of checkboxes in the To Do section, and that you are limited to giving yourself a relatively normal task load rather than feeling overwhelmed by a seemingly endless to-do list. I also love the lined design of the monthly spread. I always approach my monthly spread wishing that there were lined sections so that I could more easily separate and compartmentalize what I choose to put there. And, of course, I love the design of the cover.


I think that the monthly Creative Spread could be polished. The content of the page is thoughtful and comprehensive, but the layout could look a little sleeker. I’m not a huge fan of the ovals–they distract me from the prompt that goes with them. Perhaps if the lines were a little thinner, not quite so bold? Otherwise, as always, Wire-O is not my favorite type of binding, but the coil Ashley uses seems to be quite sturdy–they arrived with no damage whatsoever. 🙂

There you have it, my review of the 2018 Ashley Shelly Planner! Do you have an Ashley Shelly Planner? Are you planning on using one for 2018 (I’m looking at you, @planningwithkristen! ;))? How do you use your weekly spread and make the planner work for you? Share in the comments! I would love to hear from you!