My First Planner Obsession

Every planner journey begins with a plannernerd falling down a ‘rabbit hole’ and being swept up into the magical world of binders, inserts, and planner accessories. BUT…who was the ‘white rabbit’ that lured them there? Let me take you thru the ‘looking glass’ and tell you about my very first planner obsession. 🙂

Mr Rabbit

For me, it all started in the early 90s when I received an innocent looking pamphlet in the mail from a company I never heard of describing a small collection of wire bound planners, leather covers, and time management tips. It was mesmerizing and I was HOOKED.

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My first planner Circa 1990s

During this time in my life, I was a full-time college student, with an active social life, a part-time job, and involved in various campus clubs. I had outgrown my checkbook size month-on-two-page (MO2P) system which had carried me thru high school—barely!—and now I was struggling to keep track of a full, hectic adult schedule. This little marketing mailer that had ventured into my ‘forest’ turned out to be the perfect solution!

Drink Me

Just like Alice in Wonderland who encountered the bottle with the tag ‘Drink Me’, I took a leap a faith, took a ‘drink’ and was quickly engulfed by the large world of planners. The company was called Day-Timer® and they had an innovative day-on-one-page (DO1P) layout—innovative to me!—divided into four distinct sections to plan and track different things.

  • ‘Appointments & Scheduled Events’ section – for timed and date-specific events
  • ‘To Be Done Today (Action List)’ section – for daily tasks
  • ‘Expenses and Reimbursement Record’ section – for daily purchases and refunds
  • ‘Diary and Work Record’ section – for notes and other information. (This section had numbered lines that could be used to generate an ‘information index’ at the end of the month: start by creating a separate list with the date, DW&R line number, and a brief description and you could quickly locate any information in any monthly booklet—brilliant!)

I chose the Pocket-size system (3.5″ x 6.5″) which came with 12 wirebound booklets (one for each month), a separate address book, an ‘Advanced Planner’ book (month-on-two-pages for the whole year), a blank booklet with a blank table of contents, and a storage box with 12 folder dividers (one for each month) to hold all the wirebound books as well as bills, receipts, papers, etc.

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Day-Timer booklets

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Day-Timer storage boxes

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Day-Timer Pocket setup

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Day-Timer month-on-two-pages in Advanced Planner booklet

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Day-Timer day-on-one-page layout with 4 sections

The Cheshire Cat

Amidst all these wonderful booklets, was one inconspicuous little treasure that could easily be overlooked if you weren’t paying attention. A small booklet titled ‘How to Use Your Wirebound 5-in-1 Pocket Day-Timer Planner/Diary System’. This book had a wealth of information not just for setting up the system but also time management and productivity tips and, like Alice in Wonderland, I quickly became enthralled by this entity full of wisdom—this amazing little booklet,  my ‘Cheshire Cat’.

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Day-Timer Instructional booklet

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Instructions on how to arrange the booklets in a planner cover

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Explanation of each section and recommended uses for each of the page layouts offered

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Time Management/Productivity tips

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Lots and lots of great information!

Planner Wonderland

Day-Timer also had a small, modest collection of add-on accessories and beautiful leather planner covers—a perfect way to complete the package! I had just entered the workforce and was in awe of the gorgeous leather binders and padfolios carried by all the executives. “THAT…”, I thought to myself, “…will be ME someday!” To start, I chose a simple, burgundy Western Coach leather cover which I still own till this day and over the years, experimented with other styles (ringbound vs wirebound) and sizes (Portable, same as Pocket but for rings; Journal [wirebound] and Desk size [ring], both 5.5″ x 8.5″) including one that had an outside pocket to hold my PalmPilot electronic organizer—remember those?!?!

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Day-Timer Pocket – small and compact

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Inside planner cover–vertical slots on the right are for ‘nesting’ the monthly, address book, and blank notes booklets; the Advanced Planner booklet goes on the left

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Top row: Journal Size; Top right: binder with PalmPilot pocket (yes, that’s the original PalmPilot!); bottom Portable binder (same as Pocket size) with 50mm or 2″ rings!

The Mad-Hatter Planner Party

The rest, as they say, is history! I remained faithful to Day-Timer’s for the next 15+ years, only stopping for a short time to experiment with electronic organizers (e.g. Lotus Organizer, Palm Pilot, Blackberry, MS Outlook, iPhone) and eventually returned to paper planners a few years later. That’s when I discovered that the planner and crafting worlds had collided and A LOT had changed! There were a lot more planner brands, inserts, systems (e.g. disc, travelers notebooks), online resources, etc. In addition, there were also stickers, washi tape, stamps, color coding, Etsy shops, ‘plan with me’ videos, etc. and it quickly got overwhelming—welcome to the Mad-Hatter Planner Party! This style of planning went by many different names: ‘pretty planning’, scrapbooking, Project Life, art journaling, etc. And how beautiful were those pictures on Instagram, Pinterest, and Youtube?!

I looked at my ‘naked’ planner pages and thought to myself, “Wow, I have to ‘up’ my game!” and decided to give it a try. Truth be told, it never came close to looking like all those gorgeous pictures on social media and I also found it distracting—there was too much going on on the page that made it difficult to focus on my daily plan. As a result, I quickly realized that this ‘pretty planning’ thing just wasn’t for me so I scaled back—once again—to my functional planning ‘roots’. That’s when I realized that there were SOME things I missed about ‘pretty planning’ that I found enhanced my functional system like colorcoding (read more about it here and here), using functional stickers to highlight important tasks and events, and using decorative elements to create ‘memory keeping’ pages of our family vacations and other special events, it just had to be added in much smaller doses. With my tried-and-true system back in place and a new clean slate, I tried again but this time sprinkling very small amounts of ‘glam’ here and there and what da ya know? It worked! I had found the perfect balance!

Back Thru the Looking Glass

While I no longer use the Pocket Day-Timer system, I still use paper planners whose formats are closely based on my first planner as well as all the time management/productivity tips I learned back then (check out these links to learn more about my current work planner, blog planner, primary planner, and on-the-go planner setups).

This whole journey has taught me that I will always be, first and foremost, a functional planner but I can still learn something new from all these talented, creative crafters in the planner community. They have taught me that I can have a little fun, be artistic, and make my planner a reflection of ME so I want to open it, use it, and admire it every day—thank you!!!

What about you? What was your first planner and do you still use it or has it evolved? Are you a functional or crafty planner or a mixture of both? Please share in the comments below!

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Until next time,

♥ LilD ♥

11 thoughts on “My First Planner Obsession

  1. Ah, another ‘I got my first planner in the 90’s gal’ 🙂 Me too. Found mine in a clearance bin at TJ Maxx in 1995. Then shortly after I came upon an article in Mademoiselle about this planner called a Filofax and swore the one I found looked exactly like the one pictured in the article (though my bargain planner had no name, tag or markings on it) Didn’t matter – I LOVED it

  2. Carla says:

    +1 for the 90s sisterhood! I started out with the FC Monarch size, 20+ year downsizing journey, and now using a FF Pocket size. Yes, the stories we could tell.

    • Oh yeah! Back in the day, Daytimer and Franklin Covey (aka Franklin Quest) were THE planning systems to have. They paved the way for all planning systems of today.

  3. Very fun article! I like the comparison to Alice in Wonderland! Would you be willing to make a video showing out all those booklets fit into your first planner? The way you’ve described it is reminiscent of a Traveler’s Notebook.

    • Thank you! My old system had booklets that would slide into vertical pockets instead of around bands found on a travelers notebook so i guess it could be seen as the TN’s ancestor. 😉 A video sounds like a great idea–I’ve added it to my list. (I’m sorting out my video setup now). Thanks for your comment and have a great weekend!

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