Bullet Journal, Notebook & Planner Systems
How many different planners have you tried? Just when you think you’ve figured out one planning system, you discover another one you’d never heard of before. Then all of a sudden you want to abandon your current planner and try the new one. Join the club! That’s my life in a nutshell. Some people might call it shiny object syndrome, but I prefer to call it being a stationery nerd.
Over the years, I’ve tried the vast majority of the types of planner systems available. In fact, over two years ago I started out traditional Dayrunner zippered ring binder with pre-printed calendar pages. Since then I’ve migrated to many different types of planning and tracking systems, I even went digital for a while. But I’m back to analog because I love the feel of paper in my hands and need to tactile feel of writing stuff down in my own handwriting so I can process those things in my brain and help me retain the information better (there’s science behind that action – writing stuff by hand helps us retain information better).
Before we begin, you might want to check out what My Current Setup looks like. My methods change and evolve, see what I’m doing right now. Now… let’s go through all the major types of planner systems on the market these days. Hopefully, this will help you figure out which one would work best for you.
Disclaimer: This page contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. I only recommend products that I actually use and like.
Bullet journaling is the current craze, isn’t it? You see beautiful, artistic planner spreads all over Instagram and a lot of people have jumped on that bandwagon. The overall concept of tracking tasks and events and keeping yourself organized and capturing your memories or notes in a notebook isn’t new, of course. Leonardo DaVinci and Benjamin Franklin are known for keeping Commonplace Books that are similar to the modern version of bullet journaling. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. The modern definition of bullet journaling was coined by Ryder Carroll and is actually a specific method of using a notebook to create a customizable planner that works for your life. It includes specific sections:
- Index and Key
- Future log – to track upcoming events far into the future
- Monthly log – a record of what appointments you have this month
- Weekly / Daily log – planning for the current week or day
- Rapid logging – a way to quickly capture tasks and appointments in a bulleted list
- Collections – special pages to plan projects or track key events or categories of things
Bullet journaling starts in a blank notebook – often in a dot grid notebook, but lined, squared, or blank pages work just fine too. You don’t NEED any special tools or notebooks or pens for bullet journaling. Just a regular old notebook and a pen. It also doesn’t matter what kind of notebook you use. You can create your bullet journal in:
- bound journal
- ring binder
- travelers notebook
- discbound notebook
Stay tuned – I’ll be writing in depth about each of these planning systems so I can show you my own version of each. (Yes, the Stationery Nerd owns every single one of these systems and has used them extensively at one point or another. Don’t judge.)
Pre-printed planners have come a long way in recent years. You are no longer stuck with the At-A-Glance monthly calendar we all remember from the olden days (I know, they’re still used!). These types of planners are usually where we all start at and sometimes we come back to after trying other methods. A traditional planner will always have these features:
- Monthly calendar layout – usually a month on two pages with space to write in appointments
- Weekly layouts – usually a week on two pages or sometimes a week on a single page with an inspirational/decorate page facing each week
- Extra pages for contact information, annual planning, notes or project development
There are so many beautifully designed planners these days. They come with spacious monthly views followed by weekly spreads with plenty of room for your appointments, tasks and even a stray doodle, sticker or stencil drawing. Some of the more popular planner systems available include:
- Life Inspired Planner – this clean-lined, minimal (yet effective) planner was designed by my friend Lona Garcia. I’m so proud of her and the amazing planner she’s created!
- Happy Planner by Me & My Big Ideas
- Erin Condren Life Planners – either spiral bound or hardbound planners
- Blue Sky Day Designer Planners – they’re so pretty! I love the academic year version that lasts 18 months
- Katie Daisy On-The-Go Planners – I love that there are journaling pages interspersed between the planner pages. Who doesn’t want a “happy list.”
Am I missing your favorite? Let me know and I’ll add it to the list.
Sometimes we just need a little bit of extra help from our planner. These guides or specialty planners give you that extra boost. Whether it’s a goal tracking planner or one that helps you follow your passion, these planners are hot on the market right now. These are a bit more specific than what I need, but a lot of people are passionate about their guided productivity planners, so I want to list them here. Some of the more popular planners available right now include:
- Passion Planner – using time blocking to stay organized and achieve your goals
- Sunrise Manifesto – productivity and happiness daily journal/planner
- Freedom Planner Pro – mastering happiness, productivity and financial abundance in 100 days
- Panda Planner – daily tracking of your time, tasks and gratitude
- Live Whale Planner – budget and habit tracking and goal countdown with monthly and weekly layouts