Lessons from a Planner Addict & Best Planners for 2018

Illusions of Productivity


This is probably the most exciting time of the year for a planner addict. Lists, resolutions, and goals galore. I haven’t always been a planner junkie- meaning, I haven’t always been a multiple planner user, with stickers and markers and washi tape. But I’ve always been an avid list maker, and I’ve always been a creative person, so when a friend introduced me to this whole planner world, I was immediately hooked because I got to combine two things that I find very therapeutic.

Last year I decided to share this little hobby of mine on social media as I swapped and shared inspiration with other planner junkies, and after having one full year under my belt, I have discovered a few things along the way using different planner systems, trying to find my groove. So below I’ve tried to synthesize and combine every question and conversation I’ve had with colleagues and friends who get curious about my hobby and who are also looking for systems that work for them and their busy lifestyles.

Below I’ve also listed links to some of the best (in my opinion) functional/wellness planners on the market!


Why I’m a multiple planner user:

This past year I used three different systems- the Bullet Journal, The Happy Planner, and my Google Calendar. I’ve found that using the Google Calendar was the best option for master planning, future planning, and sharing/making plans with my fiancé and friends. I was a strict user of the pen and paper planning, but found that I had a hard time committing to plans because I didn’t always have my planner on me.

I always get this question:  So if you’re using a calendar app on your phone, what is the point in using another planner?

I’m sure many of you have heard that people have different learning and perceiving styles:

Visual or Spatial– meaning you prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.

Aural or Auditory-Musical- meaning you prefer using music or sound.

Verbal or Linguistic– meaning you prefer using words both in speech or writing.

Physical or Kinetic – meaning you prefer using your body, hands, and sense of touch.

Logical or mathematical– you prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.

I find myself to be very verbal, visual, and logical. I had to re-write out powerpoint slides in school to fully understand the material (very time consuming, I know!). So when it comes to preparing for the week, it really helps when I am able to sit down on Sunday, look at my plans made on Google Calendar, and write them down in a visual monthly and weekly layout. When I do this, other goals or list items come to mind that I just can’t track efficiently on a mobile app. For instance- if I see that I have a dinner party on Thursday night right after work, I will probably then try to squeeze in a little trip to the market earlier that week to grab a bottle of wine and something to contribute. Or if I plan a creative project and aim to start it next month, I’ll want to write it into the month and have the space to write my thoughts and possible action items, and most likely some doodles to go with it.

Planner Systems I’ve used – Pros and Cons:

I toggled between two different planning systems knowing that writing things down, and outlining a logical process was the best way for me to successfully “adult”. I’m a fan of the weekly layout, because I like to see the week as one big picture, rather than one day at a time. But I also know I need space to brainstorm and write notes, while also having visual access to my whole week.

The Bullet Journal

I was drawn to the Bullet Journal system because I loved the freedom of creativity you get to experiment with using different layouts, fonts, and trackers. For those of you who don’t know the Bullet Journal analog system, it is essentially a blank notebook where you draw out your calendar either simply by listing the dates vertically (“The analog system for the digital age”- as they call it), or as some people do it, they draw out a whole month and week with full on trackers, meal plans, and other fun things.


But unfortunately, I wasn’t able to keep up with drawing my layouts ahead of time, so it became a journal for random braindumps, project brainstorming, and budget planning with no particular creative direction. Which is fine because the whole point of the Bullet Journal is to “do more with less” but I of course have to be extra and add doodles, stickers, trackers, and all that stuff in order for me to feel creatively satisfied- but I just don’t have time to draw out my layouts the way I want them to be- bottom line.

The Happy Planner

The Happy Planner is the planner I’ve settled on because of it’s scrapbook-like qualities and functionality. This planner uses the arc system meaning you can move sections of your planner around and add sections as you see fit. . It comes in two layouts – horizontal and vertical- and three different sizes.


I started out using the classic 7×9 vertical layout for work and the mini 5×7 horizontal layout for a personal journal and memory scrapbooking. After a few months of using the classic planner, I found that I was wasting precious stickers and washi tape for a bunch of chicken scratch, so I switched to the bullet journal because it seemed more appropriate for work and for my wallet. I ended up giving my classic happy planner to someone else who needed it, so I didn’t have so much buyer’s regret.

Planning lesson #1- Stick with a Top 3 list 

After using up the Bullet Journal for work. I found that I really didn’t need much space to list out action items for each day. I learned that setting a goal of 3 major assignments per day was more realistic instead of including smaller items. For these, I keep a running list. Keeping a running list of smaller admin items separate from my 3 daily goals helps ease anxiety and stress when it seems that I can’t cross off all my check boxes in one day. Visually, it motivates more productivity vs. stress because the important items are grouped together, and not over crowded with a long list of smaller back burner items.


This is where the Happy Planner arc system has served me better than the Bullet Journal. Instead of having to re-write the list, I can just move it into the next week. Good news is, there are other brands that use this same system, so if you are not into the girly themes, you can check out these brands:

Russel and Hazel Mini Binder Collection

Staples Arc Notebooks

The Martha Stewart Discbound Planner

Into the new year I have settled on using the Happy Planner Mini as my work planner, and the Classic Happy Planner as my personal planner, wellness planner, fitness tracking, goal setting journal all in one- that I will post more specifics on in another post 🙂 .

Planner lesson #2 -Put your list away!

For me, that most important thing I learned this year was that I spent too much time in the weeds. I often times got carried away with the decorating and goal setting, that I didn’t spend enough time taking action. So this year, when I do my daily reflections, I want to focus on just that, I will leave all the decorating and sticker playing (lol!) for Sunday.

All decorations, stickers and doodles aside, this goal even applies to my work life. Some days, I write out my top 3 and close my planner, so that I am not distracted with other projects. It helps me focus on one thing at a time- ESPECIALLY when I have a lot of work to do, this is how I stay efficient – by putting that list away!

Best planners on the market!

I know that the Happy Planner and the Bullet Journal is not everyone’s cup of tea, so I’ve put together a list of other planners I find very efficient.

The Passion Planner

The Panda Planner

The Happiness Planner 

Bluesky Planners

Day Designer

The Self Journal

The Dreambook Planner

Check out this article in the New York Times making the case for paper planning and a guide on how to pick the right one for you.

Happy 2018 and Happy Planning! 😉