I suppose the first thing to say is that this article started out as a bit of a personal quest, in two parts.
Firstly, I’ve never been any good with planners or diaries, I always start out with the best of intentions but usually by March it’s all over; but this year I decided I would attempt to make it all the way to December.
Secondly, I’ve always wanted to try out a Hobonichi Techo and I decided this would be the year.
Now as you will have gathered this year was meant to be the year of the ‘Hobonichi’ and it did start out as that and then things got ever so slightly out of hand.
So, this is the new plan for the year:
- In this article I will review each planner and what, if anything, makes it different from the others and take them out for an initial test run.
- Then, as far as possible, I will use each planner in the same way e.g. monthly/weekly/daily plans, notes et cetera.
- About once a quarter I will add an update saying how things are going with the planners.
- The final review and recommendations.
These are the planners I am putting to the test:
- Generic ‘Traveller’ style planner with monthly planner inserts.
- Hobonichi Techo 2019 complete with Hobonichi pencil board, Midori A6 clear plastic cover and a Papelote A6 Notebook Strap.
- Brownie Techou Planner 2019
- Trigg Life Mapper 2019
- Harry Potter 2019 Weekly Planner
Ok, the first thing to say is this is going to be a long one so get comfortable; if, however, you decide to skip to the one/s that interest you I won’t be offended but if you do I would ask you to come back when you have a few minutes to spare and have a look at the others, you might be surprized by what you find.
Right, everyone sitting comfortably, then here we go.
The Generic ‘Traveller’
Originally, I was interested in the ‘Traveller’ concept but couldn’t justify the cost of a Midori and all the add-ons, so I started to look for an alternative that would let me test the idea before committing to a more expensive option such as the Midori.
A quick look at Amazon and I found a generic traveller with all the usual inserts and I also noticed the same seller had undated monthly planners; so, I ordered a traveller and a pack of the undated monthly planners.
The planner is a brown imitation leather with a matching elastic cord to keep it closed, the cord has a piece of imitation leather that protects the edges of the cover when it is holding it closed. Internally the cover is very nicely finished with a soft lighter brown material and has elastic cords that will hold three notebooks. The notebooks are staple bound with brown craft card covers, light cream paper and are printed to a very good standard.
By this stage I had decided to test the concept by using the planner to track blog reviews and articles to give me a better understanding of time commitment, rate of posting et cetera.
However, my initial test of the planner has meant this one is the first casualty of the five. I find the traveller concept uncomfortable to use unless I take the notebooks out but then that defeats the purpose of the traveller. The next problem is the notebook paper which is not fountain pen friendly and whilst there was no bleed through the show through meant it was difficult to use both sides of the page. To be fair this is not a surprize given the cost; if you use pencils or ballpoint pens this shouldn’t be a problem. So, don’t let this put you off, this is a nice quality ‘traveller’ style notebook that is available for around £10.00 GBP and is worth the money if you want to dip your toe in the traveller world.
Hobonichi Techo Planner 2019
The first thing to say is that this is the most expensive diary/planner I have bought in recent times but I have long wanted to try one of these out to see if they live up to their reputation so I decided this year I would do it.
These planners have a cult following and tend to sell out quickly so when I saw it was in stock, I ordered straight away and then I decided to get a clear cover to protect my investment. This proved harder than I thought; what I didn’t realise at the time, was that people often put decorative covers on their Hobo’s and then add a clear cover to protect this, and those are the covers you can buy easily but are too big for an uncovered Hobo. Finding a clear cover just to cover the Hobo was hard.
Eventually I found a seller on Etsy who stocked the Midori A6 notebook cover and advertised it as being suitable for the Hobo; it is, but it is a very precise fit and there is no wiggle room. If you are looking for a cover I can recommend the seller; I felt the prices including shipping from Japan were very reasonable and the service was excellent; the seller is YAMAMOTOkamiten and the link to the covers is: Midori A6 Clear Cover
Buying things for my Hobo did not stop at the cover when I accidentally discovered an eBay seller stocking the Hobonichi Pencil Board, which is an A6 plastic board that you slide between the pages to absorb the pressure when you write, stopping the pages below getting dented and it also acts as a bookmark. The final addition was an A6 Papelote notebook strap to keep it closed, I’ve got a few of these in various sizes and they are worth the pennies; I picked mine up from Bureau Direct : A6 Papelote Notebook Strap
I’ve done the initial test and as expected the Tomoe River paper is wonderful; the pencil board is useful but having said that a piece of A6 card would do the same job. The monthly planner pages are all at the front and I found that they are not very useful; they’re fine for marking out blocks of days/weeks but the squares are too small to be of any practical use. The main diary pages on the other hand are really good with plenty of space to make notes. Overall my first impression of the Hobo is good; this is a pocket size diary with a day per page which makes it very useful.
Brownie Techou Planner 2019
This was another last-minute addition to the line-up following a review on https://eastwesteverywhere.wordpress.com (it may be time, for the sake of my wallet, to stop following so many blogs).
The Brownie is made in Japan and is an interesting concept, with pages that offer a mix of vertical and horizontal use and like the Hobo it has its monthly planner pages at the front, then the daily pages and at the rear it has a full year across two pages. However, for the Brownie a ‘full year’ is fourteen months. This Brownie starts in November ’18 and finishes in December ’19 with the obligatory first few days of January ’20, I like this idea as it makes it easier to migrate from an old planner to a new one.
The cover has a rubber feel to it and is very tactile, at the front it has two inside pockets suitable for business cards and the inside rear pockets are one small layered on top of a full-length pocket which holds a slim dot grid notebook which is designed to give the user to have more note taking space.
The cream paper is very smooth and nice to write on, it is fountain pen friendly with no bleed or show through. I’m not sure if this is a heavier grade of Tomoe River than that found in the Hobo or just a different make entirely but whatever it is it is good quality paper.
Like the other survivors in the line-up this is a stitched notebook which means it lies flat when open; if anything, this planner lies flatter than the others making it the easiest to write in.
Whilst this is made in Japan and the majority of the text is Japanese there is sufficient English (months, dates etc.) to make this usable and if you need more, including downloads, their site is reasonably navigable through Google Translate: http://brownie-techou.com . I ordered mine, using Google Translate, from Plain.tw in Taiwan and delivery was impressively quick, especially as I was ordering within a few days of Christmas.
This was an odd one to test and it takes a little thinking about. The monthly pages are more practical than the Hobo being horizontal and giving you a line the full width of the book with the entire month across two pages. The main diary pages give you the whole week across two pages in three columns and are designed for you to use either horizontally or vertically or a combination of the two. So far, I have stuck with horizontal and I will be dabbling with vertical and a mixture and seeing what practical use the columns can be put to.
Trigg Life Mapper 2019
This is another one of those last-minute purchases, a few days before Christmas, that I ‘discovered’ thanks to Joe at The Gentleman Stationer. I had a few issues with the Trigg site, and I emailed Matt and he sorted out a PayPal invoice for me and a couple days later my Life Mapper had arrived in a large square box which made me wonder what I had let myself in for.
When you open the box, you are greeted by what looks like stiff honeycomb paper, that grips itself, wrapped around your Life Mapper. My Life Mapper hadn’t moved in the box and arrived undamaged (Amazon take note, you need this paper not the rubbish you currently use) and when I removed it from the packing paper I had then to take off the tissue paper to reveal my Life Mapper. It’s this type of attention to detail that makes the difference and it’s nice to find people who still care enough to go to these lengths.
The Life Mapper is quite a surprize, this is substantial hard back book and it is easy to see that this is intended to last well beyond its period of use. The colour of this year’s Life Mapper is teal, not a colour I’m fond of and it would have been nice to have a choice of colours. The cover has a compass style design embossed on which stretches across the spine and onto the rear cover. Trigg Life Mapper is also embossed on the front cover (lower right), Trigg 2019 on the spine (lower centre) and the rear cover ThinkTrigg.com (lower centre).
One small but important point is the elastic closure; it’s yellow and matches the marker ribbon but although the Life Mapper arrived with it is place once removed it retained its original size and shape, a rarity amongst elastic closure and one worth noting. In fact, the Life Mapper is so substantial it remains closed of its free will. The paper is thick, good quality and fountain pen friendly and nice to write on.
Now the important thing to remember with the Life Mapper is that this is not a regular planner in fact if you use it how it is intended it is a process and if you want to understand more about the thinking behind this, I would recommend reading some of the blog articles on the Think Trigg website.
As it is a unique process in the first few pages you will find a ‘How To’ guide and following this are the Monthly Focus pages; each month has a different focus but essentially these are the monthly pages found at the beginning of most planners and are a month in small boxes on a single page spread and are only really suitable for tracking blocks of days. At the top of each month in this section is a coloured band for the days of the week however, the problem with this is the choice of colours. The background colours are strong and the text is printed in weaker colours which means they tend to blend in and disappear a similar problem appears at the end of the first week in ‘Priority Planning’ for week two when the text and banners in light grey are difficult to read.
The pages for the days of the week (Mon-Fri) are split; at the top is a what looks like a variation on what is commonly known as the Eisenhower Matrix split into three rather than four boxes and the bottom of the page is for a list of appointments. Saturday and Sunday are blank and get about a third of a page each which is more than they normally get in diaries and planners.
Of all the planners this is the one I am struggling with; it is a completely different philosophy; it’s a thought-provoking process and if you are willing to work through the process it could be very valuable however, I’m not sure if this will work for me.
In its current format I can’t see it being a replacement for a conventional planner; but as it never set out to be a conventional planner maybe the Life Mapper is something to work with alongside your conventional planner?
Harry Potter 2019 Weekly Planner
This is the wild card; I saw it in a book store and decided to pick one up and whilst it’s aimed at Harry Potter fans it is still a practical planner.
It’s a slim, slightly smaller than A4 hardback in deep blue with a matching elastic closure and marker ribbon and the Hogwarts crest embossed in gold on the front cover; the rear cover near the bottom has Insights (the name of the manufacturer) embossed on it. The flyleaves are gold and the first page at the front has a ‘Property Of’ page featuring the Sorting Hat; at the rear there is a pocket and it contains a sheet of stickers that are designed to fold over page edges and create tabs with the name of the month on them. The paper used is good quality and fountain pen friendly.
The planner is easy to use, each month is a different colour and starts with a monthly overview across a two-page spread in box format; but because the boxes are bigger, they are usable for more than tracking blocks of time. I have been able to make brief notes in individual boxes that are linked to the diary entries making this a much more effective monthly tracker. Each week is printed across a two-page spread and allows plenty of space to make notes in each day’s box and there is a further ‘Notes’ section at the bottom of each page. Some of the pages have background images printed on them but this doesn’t affect usage; the notes pages at the rear also have designs printed on them. Harry Potter fans will find a smattering of significant dates throughout the planner.
So far, I have found this one to be the easiest to use but time will tell, each planner has its own attributes and I am looking forward to finding out what works for me and what doesn’t and why.
To Be Continued ……….
Disclaimer: All of the planners were purchased with my own funds at retail price. The opinions expressed in this review are my own; and I am not connected with either the retailers or manufacturers in any way.