Choosing a Planner Setup for the New Year – Part 1

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m currently in the process of revamping my planning system after experimenting with a bullet journal ‘inspired’ setup for the past 4 months—read more about it here. Traditionally, I’m a ‘functional planner’ meaning I like simple, dated layouts that enable me to write down and track as much information as possible. So, for now, I’m back to using my dated weekly pages. In addition, I’m also trying to determine my planner setups for next year. In this week’s blogpost I share my thought process for reviewing, tweaking, and choosing a planner setup for the upcoming year.

The biggest struggle most plannernerds have is finding a planner that serves all their organizational needs. As someone who’s been using planners for the past two decades, I strongly believe that FIRST you have to understand your planning needs (what you need to keep track of) as well as your planning ‘style’, THEN look for a planner that has a layout to support it. Most people, however, follow these steps in reverse order: first they buy a planner then try to make it work for them. Last year, I wrote a blogpost that explained step-by-step the process I recommend to help identify your planning needs and style so you can CHOOSE the planning system that works best for you—read more about it here, here, here, and here. All that said, let’s jump into my thought process for selecting planner setups every year.

One or Multiple Planners?

I’m a working mom managing a family 4—8 if you count the ‘fur babies’—with both a regular ‘day job’ and blog/YouTube ‘side hustle’. Some of these life areas overlap, some don’t and some require tracking/documenting a lot of information while others do not. As a result, I’ve determined that my ideal setup would involve using a planner dedicated to managing each of the following 4 major areas:

  • work (day job)
  • blog/YouTube
  • personal/family/home/fitness
  • on-the-go

How did I come up with these 4 areas? To begin with, my day job follows a set weekly schedule and there aren’t any tasks or activities that ‘spill over’ to my personal time; I also have to manage multiple projects. As for my blog, YouTube, and social media activities, my technique for planning and tracking is very different than how I plan and track work or personal items. Next, the most complex life area I manage involves personal, family, home, and fitness because there’s a lot of overlap and coordination required among them. Lastly, I need a portable, condensed version of my personal/family schedules for reference ‘on-the-go’ to avoid any conflicts when making future appointments.

planner, planners, day designer, vds, van der spek, foxydori, kate spade, traveler notebook, zip binder, new year

Planning Needs

So what do I need to manage in each area? I find it helpful to either create a list or draw a mind map when trying to figure this out—see my results below:

  • Work: timed schedule (for meetings), task lists (daily, weekly, monthly), notes section (for meeting minutes, reference information, project details, weekly project updates, yearly accomplishments, yearly training completed, etc.)
  • Blog/YouTube/Social Media: monthly editorial calendars, statistics (monthly, yearly), post/video ideas, task lists, notes, site maintenance tracker, daily/weekly/monthly routines, yearly goals, project tracking, etc.
  • Personal/Family/Home/Fitness: monthly and weekly overview of appointment/event schedules, task lists, notes, habit trackers, exercise/steps tracker, home projects tracker, goal planning, etc.
  • On-the-Go: monthly calendar with personal and family appointments/events, monthly index logs (read more about it here), errand lists, on-the-go notes, etc.

Planner Type/Size

Ah, the million dollar question! I have found the best way to determine what type (ring, disc, bound, coil) and size (pocket, personal, A5, letter) to choose depends on: (1) how much information I need to capture, (2) if I need to add/remove pages, and (3) if I need to carry other papers, items, and/or supplies. Once again, see my results below:

  • Work: ring or disc so I can add/remove calendar and note pages; letter size because A5 did not provide enough space to write things down in the past or carry the supplies I needed
  • Blog/YouTube/Social Media: coil or bound is fine because projects usually span a year and therefore can be easily archived for reference; ideally an A5 size because it provides a lot of writing space but is still portable enough to travel with if necessary—letter size would be too big
  • Personal/Family/Home/Fitness: ring bound to easily add/remove weekly pages (monthly pages always stay for reference) and note pages throughout the year; A5 size to provide enough writing space, decorate (if inspiration strikes!), and hold bills, papers, and other important information; due to it’s size and bulk, this planner usually stays home; if there’s not much going on, a personal size ring bound planner will also work and double as an on-the-go planner
  • On-the-Go: either personal size ring bound or A6/personal/B6 Slim/standard booklet—easier to travel with than the A5 size described in the bullet above
planners, erin condren, van der spek, kikkik, gillio, chic sparrow, passion planner, midor, foxydori

Partial Planner collection 😉

Page Layouts

This is the other million dollar question and the cause of much frustration if you get this part wrong. Over the years, I’ve learned which layouts work best in which environments that also compliment my planning style. I’m an avid note taker, list maker, and ‘big picture’ person so for my 4 major areas, these are my ideal layouts:

  • Work: yearly overview for current year and next year; a month on 2 pages with Sunday start and a separate column for monthly tasks; week on 2 page vertical layout with a Monday start and a condensed weekend (Saturday and Sunday are stacked in one column); each daily column has a timed schedule spanning 8am thru 6pm and lines for tasks/notes; there’s a separate column for weekly tasks; lots of lined pages for notes
  • Blog/YouTube/Social Media: yearly overview for current year and next year; a month on 2 pages with Sunday start and a separate column for monthly tasks; lots of lined/dot/grid pages for creating monthly index logs, task lists, goal and project planning, notes, reference information, etc.
  • Personal/Family/Home/Fitness: yearly overview for current year and next year; a month on 2 pages with Sunday start and a separate column for monthly tasks; week on 2 page vertical layout, Monday start, with Saturday and Sunday separated and the same size as all the other days of the week; each daily column is blank and unlabeled; there’s a separate column for weekly tasks; some lined/dot/grid pages for notes
  • On-the-Go: yearly overview for current year and next year; a month on 2 pages with Sunday start and a separate column for monthly tasks; a few lined pages for monthly index logs, a ‘future log’ for capturing appointments/events beyond the current year, and quick notes on-the-go


Planner Product Selection

After going thru my thought process described above, the last step is choosing which planner products to use. I approach this step in two ways: first, I try to ‘shop my stash’ (use items already in my collection or design/create them myself) and second, I try to choose the most effective, affordable option. At this time, I’ve made some choices but not all—see below:

  • Work: I’ll be using my existing Martha Steward letter-size, disc bound planner with my own custom designed pages
  • Blog/YouTube/Social Media: I’ve chosen the Erin Condren Deluxe Monthly planner which has just monthly calendars (I don’t need a weekly or daily layout), an abundance of blank pages that I’m planning to use in a bullet journal style, and monthly project planning layouts—learn more about it here
  • Personal/Family/Home/Fitness: ***no selection yet (still reviewing several options)***
  • On-the-Go: ***no selection yet (still reviewing several options)***


October is almost over—can you believe it!—so I still have some time to finalize my selections. As I said before, I believe the most important part of this process is taking the time to really think carefully about what you need a planning system to do for you before jumping into buying the next ‘hot product’—it’s hard to resist, I know!–but trust me, it will save you a lot of money and frustration in the end. In the next installment of this blogpost series, I’ll start going into more detail regarding each planner setup I’ve selected to use next year. If you’d like to read about my previous planner setups for the start of this year, read more about it here, here, here, and here plus a bonus post here. 🙂

What about you? How do you go about selecting a planner? What are things you look for in a planning system? Have you chosen your planner for next year yet?—if so, which one and why? Please share in the comments below and don’t forget to like, share, subscribe!

Until next time, 🙂

♥ LilD ♥



8 thoughts on “Choosing a Planner Setup for the New Year – Part 1

  1. Maria says:

    This time of the year a lot of planner setups for the new year pops up. I love to read about them and see if some of the ideas I can use.
    I have my planner for next year: personal size with the Filofax inserts. I love the thin paper of Filofax. True, not the best quality for all pens, but the thin paper wins over all pen use. I have a month, year, week and day view in my planner. This worked for me this year and I am keeping this layout.

    • Hi Maria!
      That’s great that you know what works for you–it’s the part most people struggle with. Personal size has been my comfort zone for a long time but recently I’ve experimented with other sizes because I needed more room to write. Looks like we’re ready for next year. 😉
      Thanks for reading!

  2. Carla says:

    I’ve been a Franklin Covey Classic D2P girl for years. Life has changed and I no longer need that much space. So, I’ve downsized to a Filofax Personal. I have the year foldout from Philofaxy which I use to track legal holidays and any travel, the M2P, and W2P. These are my own design with the weekdays on the left hand page (horizontal) and Saturday and Sunday on the right hand side and a large grid space for any free-thinking . This allows me tuck in any project pages and trackers that are relevant to the week, but leave my weekdays still visible. I love Daytimer’s paper, so I’ll try to print my weeklies on the unused leftover pages. If that works, I’ll be one happy camper, uh planner-nerd.

    • Hi Carla–fellow plannernerd!
      Franklin Covey and DayTimers are oldies but goodies! Like you, I’ve changed my layouts over the years based on how my life changed (check out my blogpost titled ‘My first planner obsession’) and I’m happy to see I’m not the only one. It sounds like you have a great understanding of your planning needs and are very resourceful something many people struggle with so thanks so much for sharing! Hopefully others will find it helpful to learn that it’s ok to change things up when it no longer works. 😉

  3. Bette says:

    Like Maria said, I love reading how other people use their planners, especially if they use multiple ones. I’m currently in one traveler’s notebook that has a a daily insert for work/personal to-do’s/appointments, a budget booklet and checkbook, a monthly view book, and a notebook for bullet notes. I’m so tempted by the other planners out there and feel like I’m neglecting them!

    But I really liked what you said about determining your sections and your size before anything else, and not letting the PLANNER dictate your PLANNING. Whew! I’ll be taking your advice to heart as I plan out 2017 🙂

    • Hi Bette!
      I’m glad you found it helpful. I also like learning from others and try not to get caught up in the ‘glitz n glam’. Mostly, I stick with a functional setup which it sounds like you’ve done successfully so congrats!
      Thanks for reading!

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