My Husband & Productivity Planner

For this Thursday’s blog post, my husband let me take pictures of him with his planner–the Productivity Planner ($24.95).

I had tried to get my husband, Frank, into planning for a while. The dated planners–a Moleskine and a FRANK Stationary planner–just didn’t do it for him. He would lapse in using it and feel guilty picking it back up and seeing all the blank space. So I tried an undated approach and purchased the Productivity Planner for him.

It’s no secret that the world of planners and planner products is dominated by women. This means that a lot of planner companies and product designs are created with a female audience in mind. While adhering to a gender binary system is a conversation for another time and tied to the idea of performing gender in pre-determined ways, it is still nice for men to have unisex or masculine planner options. The Productivity Planner delivers in its minimalist, unisex design.

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The Productivity Planner went into production after a successful kickstarter in 2016. This compact but content-packed planner is filled with 35+ pages of tips, productivity hacks, instructions, and advice on how to best use this tool. When you buy their product (at least off Amazon–it can also be found in anthropologie and paper source) the company sends you a PDF of their first 35 pages of content so that you can get started before the planner even arrives. Frank loves productivity tips/books/advice and dug right in.

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I chose this planner for Frank because he works on a lot of projects and is trying to juggle a full-time job with rigorous research on the side. This planner is meant to be a non-work planner for him, a place where he can return to when he has time to work on a research paper or collaborative project. The undated system is perfect for his fluctuating schedule of availability.

With the Productivity Planner, you get 6 months of undated pages in a compact 5.2 x 8.5 inches. Frank carries it in his work bag almost every day and brings it along to our coffee shop dates. He uses it to manage multiple projects and to map out research strategies and progress. With so much going on in his head, he has really been enjoying using this planner to get everything down on paper in an organized, intentional way.

As mentioned, Frank primarily uses this planner for specific projects. He does a lot of original research with the goal of producing academic articles and often has multiple ongoing projects. This planner helps him focus on being productive and sticking to his research goals and process. He does not use this planner for daily life, which is why the undated system works so well for him.

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The Productivity Planner includes a Weekly Planning section followed by five day-per-pages. The Weekly Planning page lets you write in the week you are working during and list the Five Most Important Tasks of the Week, asking you to consider that “If these were the only tasks you completed during the week, you’d be satisfied.” Then there is space for Tasks of Secondary Importance. We love that the tasks are numbered and that secondary tasks continue with #6–10 instead of restarting with another set of #1–5. This reminds you that your secondary tasks literally come after whichever ones you set as your primary. Then there is space for any additional tasks. The bottom of the Weekly Planning page includes a space for you to make a commitment to being productive that week.

Daily pages follow the prioritizing method of primary, secondary, and additional tasks. Daily pages also include an inspirational or motivational quote to get you hyped. The Daily pages only give you space for five tasks with #1 as the most important. This helps you narrow in your focus and attack your goals in more bite-size, digestible chunks. There are check boxes and circles for using different productivity techniques like the Pomodoro method. Then there is space for Notes and a Productivity Score that you can give yourself at the end of your day.

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The paper quality is decent. There is some ghosting but Frank can use his Pilot G-2 07 or 10 pen without any bleed. He’s left-handed and writes a bit large, so he often packs these pages. I’ve never heard him complain about the paper or the size of the planner, even though he has mentioned writing in a small space can feel a little cramped.

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I asked Frank what he likes best about his planner and he wanted to do his own Loves and Nopes. So I will let his words speak for themselves:

Loves

  • A great collection of quotes, weekly and daily, to help you stay in the zone.
  • The planner is so flexible.  I use it for side projects that I go through on/off phases working on.  It would be wasteful for me to use a dated planner for this because whole weeks worth of paper would go unused (or I would have to cross out and rewrite dates all the time).  So, it’s perfect for organizing sessions to move forward on side-projects that are timeline fluid rather than planning every workday.
  • Great size, about the same as a Moleskine notebook so it’s very portable.
  • I really like the textured cover.  It feels sturdy and yummy when I pick it up.
  • The focus on one solid to-do each day should be the primary goal is really good.
  • Weekly reviews prompt you to reflect on how things are going and how you can improve.

Nopes

  • I’m conflicted about the introduction in the start giving tips for how to use the planner and helping you build good habits.  I enjoyed reading it and found it very helpful, but I don’t like so much space in the planner being dedicated to it.  Not that this is a major issue, I’m going to get a fresh one when I run out of space and I’m positive I will re-read the introduction.  Another option is for the creator to package the introduction into a small booklet shipped with the planner.
  • Productivity scoring yourself at the end of every day can be useful for starting to build habits and finding what works and doesn’t work, but it can become anxiety-inducing because life throws up roadblocks that aren’t your fault.

There you have it! A #plannermatch featuring my husband Frank and his Productivity Planner! If you have questions for me (or Frank) leave them in the comments below and we will answer them! 🙂

xo
Ara

Alina & STARTplanner (Daily Hustle)

My friend and colleague Alina is a busy mom and just passed her Masters defense! Woo! When I gave her this planner in early 2017, though, we were both still in graduate school and struggling to manage our time and work. I had purchased the 2017 STARTplanner for myself but found the content overwhelming for my needs and the gigantic spiral both cumbersome and difficult to write around. In order to use the STARTplanner to its full potential, I felt like I needed to have children, live with my husband (we were briefly long distance while I finished up my second Masters), and manage a household instead of my chill roommate situation.

But my friend, Alina, was the mother of a toddler, married, and rented a house near campus. She had a fellowship and a Masters final project to work on that was overwhelming in the way that grad school usually is. The topic of planners came up in our Thesis Group, where we met with our advisor every other week to discuss the process for finishing our thesis/final project (Alina was making a film) and tried to stay on track with all of the demands and deadlines. Alina mentioned something that made me think she needed a planner (I tend to think that about everyone), and I offered to gift one to her. The STARTplanner 2017 Daily Hustle was perfect for her. It had room to keep track of her schedule, assignments, work tasks, and the flexibility to help her manage her daughter’s needs.

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STARTplanner has a ton of content. Their Daily Hustle planner is super thick and runs for 12 months with one day per page and shared weekend pages. There are goal setting pages, project planning pages (perfect for school), medical appointment pages, vacation pages, monthly grocery pages, financial pages, and more. The STARTplanner is everything in one book and has thought of things that you didn’t even realize you needed.

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Each month includes this spread for mini goals, health check, groceries, and cards & gifts.

Shortly after I gave Alina her STARTplanner, she told me that she loved it but was afraid that even her busy life wasn’t busy enough to fill the planner. We talked about making a system work for you and letting go of the guilt of not completely filling a planner out. Later she looked at me and said, “I have done everything I’ve written down in that planner.” Your don’t have to fill every little box out in order for a planner to work for you. STARTplanner fit Alina because she only wanted one space to manage multiple things and a tool to help her keep everything together in an otherwise busy and hectic time.

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Randomly, when I went to our favorite tea shop to meet Alina and give her the planner, my favorite barista was there and saw the STARTplanner. She immediately gushed over it and asked where I got it and what kind of planner it was. I told her all about STARTplanner and explained that I was giving this planner to a friend because it just wasn’t right for me then. A few weeks later the barista told me that she had purchased the STARTplanner and absolutely loved it. Much like Alina, she looked at me and said: “It’s crazy but I’ve done every single thing that I’ve written down in that planner.”

Magical productivity? Maybe. A planner is a tool, and in the case of STARTplanner it can be a powerful tool, but it still needs your to make it work. 😉

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STARTplanner has three lines of planners: Hustle, Fancy Pants, and Legit. Hustle comes in daily and weekly formats, and the new 2018 line has a casebound daily hustle, which is awesome. Fancy Pants is an A5 binder system and comes in daily and weekly options as well. Legit is their student planner and comes in academic year only and includes a school section for keeping track of assignments, etc. Legit is also casebound. Right now, the midyear line of 2017-2018 planners is on sale, and STARTplanner is accepting preorders for their 2018 planners (shipping in early November). These are not cheap planners, but they are functional and comprehensive. The daily and weekly hustle planners are $60, and the Fancy Pants binder system is $98 (includes all pages AND the binder), or just $64 for the inserts. Legit is usually $60 but right now it’s on sale for $51.

I purchased a 2018 Fancy Pants STARTplanner, so keep your eyes peeled for a review of that in mid-to-late November!

xo
Ara

Kim and Kate Spade

My sister-in-law Kim had a busy career in HR, where she had a million emails a day to respond to, employees to look after, and a demanding workday. Recently, she told me that she was thinking of resigning from her job and trying to forge a new career in consulting. In late July she took the leap and has been just as busy with Lunch & Learn events, meetings with professionals, searching for a part-time job to help support her refocus in freelance consulting, and taking multiple courses and workshops to build up her consulting chops.
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I believe that planners aren’t just for people with routine schedules or busy days in the office. A planner is a tool that can help anyone organize their priorities, plan out their strategies, and check-in with how they are spending their time. I thought that a planner might be just the think for Kim as she embarked on this new chapter!
She’s a stylish lady and needed a stylish planner. I knew she would be on the go, out pursuing opportunities more than staying home and clicking through job postings. I had also noticed one of her Kate Spade bags, and thought immediately that a Kate spade Agenda would be perfect for her.
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I chose the Large Kate Spade agenda because I thought there would be more room for lists–Kim likes long to-do lists. I also wanted the hidden coil planner for her because I thought the outside hardcover would protect her planner as she toted it around. The strap keeps everything together and tightly bound.
The Kate Spade Agenda has generous notes pages, a folder, some fancy gold foil stickers, and lots of space to write out lists, plans, ideas, or notes for each day. Being able to see her week at a glance would help Kim visualize where she was spending her time and energy that week, while also leaving plenty of room for jotting down any changes or notes. The beginning pages also include a year at a glance calendar, a space for important dates, and a list of holidays to watch out for.
The Kate Spade Agenda is sized at 9.25″h x 7.5″w, which means it’s big enough to be a substantial planner but small enough to carry around easily. The agenda includes a pocket at the front of the planner, laminated tabs for each month, monthly and weekly spreads, and goes 17 months from August 2017-December 2018. I chose the Zodiac design because I loved the 1950s style artwork, and it gave the agenda a twinge of fun while still being sleek and professional.

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This planner should last Kim a long time and also has the benefit of being one of her favorite brands. The price is reasonable at $36 for the Large (there are two other sizes–medium and mega), and if you join Kate Spade’s mailing list you can get %15 off your first order! But the reasonable price (really, it comes out to $2.12 per month of use), designer brand, and comprehensive layout make the Kate Spade Agenda a solid choice to savvy women who want a fun yet professional paper planner.

Kim’s Thoughts

After she had the planner for about three weeks, I asked Kim to tell me what she liked about it so I could share her thoughts with you. She said:
1. I enjoy the stickers that I can add in for days such as party, meeting, working out vacation, play hooky, date night, cocktails and oodles more.  It’s a great way to spice up the planning details.
2.  There is space that breaks out celebrations in a monthy format, a great way to plan ahead and see it all on 2 pages.
3.  I like that you can write in details in a calendar view as well as write details for each day on seperate pages for detailed tasks that need to be done for the day.
4. The quotes for each month are inspirational!
5.  Also each month just has pages for notes–in the event you just need to jot down different important items this is a great place to write this down.
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There is no right or wrong way to use a planner–I’m so happy that my sister likes her Kate Spade Agenda and finds it helpful!
Do any of you have a Kate Spade Agenda? What are your thoughts on it? Feel free to comment with any questions!
xo
Ara

Hannah and Passion Planner

Welcome to my first #plannermatch post! Occasionally I get friends, family members, or my wonderful followers asking me for advice on which planner to get. I love these questions because they allow me to talk in-depth about one of my favorite topics (planning & organization!) and help someone take one step closer to elusive planner peace. I like to ask a series of questions to determine which planner would be a good fit for them:

  • Do they prefer seeing a whole week at a glance, or day by day?
  • Do they want something bright and colorful to encourage them to plan, or would they prefer something more neutral?
  • What type of binding do they like to use? Wire, coil, book or case bound, or disc?
  • How large (or small) is their handwriting?
  • Do they need a portable planner, a desk planner, or something that can serve both functions?
  • What are their main goals for the planner? What are they hoping the planner will help them accomplish?
  • Do they need a structured layout, or something more free-form and flexible?
  • What is the price range?

& more. I like to make it a conversation over coffee so I can show them examples of my recommendations immediately after and we can chat about what would be a good fit. If I could start a career as a planner consultant, y’all, I totally would. #dreamjob

My little cousin Hannah is a busy 23-year-old with two dog babies, a wife, two jobs, and a recent certification in the pharmaceutical field, where she’s looking to start a career while juggling everything else. Girl is BUSY, and she needed a planner work horse to help her stay on top of all her to-dos and a fluctuating, full schedule.

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Enter Passion Planner.

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Passion Planner Classic Birds & Bees in Blush

During my conversation with Hannah, I was able to sum-up her preferences as:

Hannah’s Preferences:

  • Appointment times to write down and manage a full schedule.
  • Weekly spread to see the entire week at a glance.
  • Help organizing priorities and general to-dos.
  • A tool to use for trying to figure out long term decisions and goals.
  • A book that can take a beating.
  • A big enough planner to write in comfortably.
  • Bonus, because I know my cousin: she needed something bright that was difficult to ignore.
Mock-up I did of a week in Passion Planner using my own schedule.

Why Passion Planner Matches:

  • Weekly spread with appointment times.
  • Organized space for a task list that separates personal and work life.
  • The signature Passion Planner Passion Map that helps conceptualize goals and makes you think about your future.
  • Flexible book format that can be tossed around and still look fabulous.
  • Plenty of notes pages for long to-do lists or shopping lists.

Passion Planner is a well-known planner brand and known for reasonable prices (Hannah got this 2017 planner on sale for 50% off). The Classic size is 8.5″ x 11″ and usually goes for about $30-35. The Compact size is 5.5″ x 8.5″ and runs $25-30. They have limited edition cover designs, dated and undated planners, and both academic and calendar year options. Passion Planner also has an amazing Instagram, and they continuously provide tips on how to best utilize your planner.

Passion Planner’s CEO, Angelia Trinidad, created the planner and launched it out of her garage by 2014. As a young woman recently out of college, she harnessed her feelings of “analysis paralysis” and created a tool to help her envision her future. The company continues to grow (they have a kickstarter campaign live right now to launch a new eco-friendly version of the planner & a pledge to plant a tree for every planner sold) and maintains a strong ethos of giving back. Learning about Trinidad’s story made me think about my young cousin, 23, and launching into a new, exciting, scary chapter in life.

How do you use your planner?

Hannah’s first dip into using her new planner.