Picking the Right Planner

August 28, 2015 , In: Design, Misc, Personal, Professional , With: No Comments

The school year is back and in full swing, so naturally, my life has already spiraled completely out of control. Between homework and real work and extra curriculars and socializing, I feel like every minute of my day is booked. My to do list most days is so crazy long that just looking at it makes me want to cry or sleep. (Pro tip: crying yourself to sleep does wonders for time management).

But even though my life is crazy, I know I wouldn’t want to change a single thing. My biggest challenge was figuring out how to manage it all.

So what exactly do you do as a total control freak with zero ability to control anything in your day to day life?

You buy a planner.

My planner is my go-to for anything and everything – whether it’s planning my day, marking off my to-dos, keeping notes, or just doodling curse words, my planner has me covered.

But it hasn’t been an easy ride finding the planner of my dreams – I’ve gone through 5 throughout my college career so far, and it’s only halfway over. And after reading review after review of planner-lovers telling me the same old thing about every planner on the market, I’ve decided that it’s time to cut the BS. Not all planners are created equal, and it’s time someone told it to you straight.

So here’s my no-holding-back review of three of the most beloved, most popular planners on the market, and perhaps why you should think twice before grabbing the first daily agenda you spy:


They say you never forget your first love, and that’s exactly how I feel about the Kate Spade planner. It was my first big step into becoming a certified planner nut job, and I fell for this beauty hard. For starters, it’s absolutely gorgeous. I have never experienced greater joy when I realized that the Kate Spade brand had single-handedly made polka dots cool again, and who could resist that gold foil cover with elegant type?

The planner itself was organized in a minimal and beautiful way, and there’s a cute little quote divider at the start of each month that just helped to pull the whole vibe together. Half of the time these little monthly dividers didn’t even make any sense (“Flirt with a handsome stranger?” “Steal the spotlight?” Whatever you say, KS). But they were just so pretty that I almost felt obligated to do whatever it said.

Unfortunately, your first love also hurts the most when it ends, and this planner ended up in the trash can about four months after I initially purchased it. The biggest prerequisite of my planner is that it has to be durable, and the beautiful gold foil that I had adored so much was essentially destroyed after only a week or two of use. The cover itself was tearing and faded, even though the most action it had seen was being gingerly placed in my school backpack.

The fact that this planner was meant to last 17 months and looked horrible after only one was an absolute deal breaker for me, but I found other problems with the planner as well. The space to write notes and daily tasks was so minimal that I could hardly fit a fourth of my daily activities within the sparse lines of each day. Ultimately, I had to bid this planner adieu with a simple “it’s not me, it totally you” and move on to bigger and better things.


After my initial heartbreak over the Kate Spade, I was a lot more cautious purchasing my next planner. I now knew what I liked and what I didn’t in my planner, and I wasn’t about to purchase anything that couldn’t live up to my planner standards.

I ended up with the Erin Condren life planner after what felt like thousands of raving recommendations.

It’s customizable! It has a durable, plastic cover! It has huge spaces to write down morning, day, and evening tasks! It has built in to-do and notes sections for every week! There are STICKERS!

After months of resisting the EC craze around me, I gave in and ordered. And to be honest, it almost lived up to the hype.

It is the most well-organized planner I’ve ever used – by breaking up each day into three sections, there was so much room to organize the day that even Obama would have trouble figuring out a way to fill it up. I stopped making my to-do lists on my phone, and there was nothing more exciting than the days when I got to put a little “Party!” sticker at the top of my Friday evening block.

Unfortunately, the Life Planner had two huge, deal breaking “cons” that caused me not to return to it after I’d filled my first one up. The first was the cover: while it was true that the cover was made out of a durable, plastic material, the Erin Condren planner I ordered had the bonus feature of letting you interchange the cover. As a result, my cover popped off my planner almost constantly, and the little nubs that were supposed to keep it attached to my planner quickly became frayed.

The second con comes at the risk of me sounding like a total graphic design bitch, but I am a total graphic design bitch, so here it goes: the Erin Condren planner hurt my eyes to look at. To this day, I cannot stand those bright colors and obnoxious patterns. Even as I excitedly ordered my planner the first time, I remember half-heartedly scrolling through the customizable cover options for the third time and sighing “Is that really the best you can do, EC?” Compared to the Kate Spade planner, the inside design of the Erin Condren planner had the exact opposite effect on me: instead of ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the cute motivational quotes each week, I was horrified at the bright, clashing colors and overly-busy patterns.

To be fair to Erin Condren, however, I know many women who live and die by their life planners and absolutely love the design of it; I’ve even heard she’s gotten newer, cuter cover options. This particular review is purely a personal preference; it just so happened to be one that made me start up my planner search yet again.


The Ban.do planner came into my life unexpectedly this summer while browsing around the Sugarfina candy shop in San Francisco. I had just started my blog, so naturally I was obsessed with all things pink and hand drawn. I also had more work than ever before, and trying to organize it without a good planner was becoming maddening. As soon as I saw the blush-colored cover with gold foil letters that spelled out “I AM VERY BUSY,” I knew I had found a planner that spoke to me on a very deep level – finally, a planner that said exactly what I needed it to, essentially broadcasting “I don’t have time for your shit” to the world. It was the quintessential planner for a workaholic who likes pretty things, so I decided to purchase it on a whim.

The inside of this planner is even better than the outside. Each month is sectioned by dividers that feature original, adorable artwork form kickass female artists – they even give a whole page shout out to all the artists in the back of the book and provide a link to their portfolios! The fun continues from there. With cute little stickers sporting phrases like “Dance your ass off” and little weekend reminders like “eat breakfast for dinner tonight!” or “did somebody say karaoke?”, it’s hard not to fall in love.

I’ve had this 17 month calendar for three months now and it’s held up better than both of my last planners, durability wise. The gold foil is still fully in tact, and the only issues I’ve had have been some scuff marks on the front that make it look a little dingy.

Perhaps my only problems with this planner are its lack of a to-do list and the fact that each day is not broken up into sections. If I could combine the functionality of Erin Condren with the absolutely-perfect-everything-else of the Ban.do, I think I will have created the perfect planner. There’s still plenty of time for me to totally change my mind and start despising this planner too, but for the time being, I’m extremely content.

And with the conclusion of this blog post, I get to check one more thing off my to-do list in my planner. If you use a planner other than the ones I mentioned here, let me know why you love it/hate it/are extremely apathetic towards it. Knowing myself, I’ll be on the planner hunt again in just a few months.


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Emily Sermons

Creator & Coffee Addict

Emily is studying user experience and web development and works at Adobe in web applications support. She enjoys Hershey's kisses and shouting her thoughts into the void of the internet.

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