Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Showdown: Day Per Page Diary Vs. Undated Notebook

This is a story of trials, tribulations and happily ever after. Or is it? Let's begin.

If you've been reading my What I'm Currently Using page you'll know I've gone back and forth a lot this year, not with my weekly planner (which has consistently been my Plannerisms planner) but with the accompanying day per page diary that I use for daily records and notes.

For most of this year I used (and LOVED) the Time Traveler A5 day per page diary, which I reviewed with lots of photos here.
I absolutely love this diary: the soft cover, the white paper, the full-color maps and loads of excellent features.
For a long time one of my Planner Fantasies was to use a day per page diary to record my whole life for the entire year, so I was determined to follow through with it.

But all year I’ve had some problems with it. In this post I listed the Pros and Cons of using a dated day per page diary to plan and record each day. The bottom line was, it was too heavy in my bag.

Actually, that was only part of the problem. I eventually got used to the weight in my bag, it was fine. But it WAS too much to carry the day per page book AND my weekly Plannerisms planner. 

The two of them together were too much to lug around.

So the result was, I left the Plannerisms planner at home. I carried my daily book around with me everywhere, to capture information and notes throughout the day. The Time Traveler day per page diary does have monthly calendars, so I used those for planning on the go.

My Plannerisms planner became my home planner and goals book. But I still needed the weekly view for planning and it’s also where my weekly lists are. So I had to back-copy things from my daily diary into my weekly planner every time I got home. That was a recipe for disaster.

When the school year started and I was inundated with the school calendar, after-school activities and new schedules, I hit a crisis point. I was planning on-the-go in my daily diary, and back-copying at home to my weekly planner. I was writing everything in FIVE different places: the monthly and daily pages of my daily diary, the monthly and weekly pages of my Plannerisms planner, and the family wall calendar in the kitchen. I was totally overwhelmed and it was only a matter of time until something slipped through the cracks.

As if that weren’t bad enough, I didn’t have any place to put lists and other non-day-specific information. For example, I needed to plan my son’s birthday party, which would take a couple of pages. I didn’t have a place for that, and I didn’t want to start an additional separate notebook for it. Similarly, I went to a jobs fair a couple of weeks ago and needed a place to take notes about it. Job searching ideas. Home maintenance.  Blog posts. A list of who I’d promised guest posts to. Ongoing multi-step process things and tracking each sub-task. I didn’t have any place to write this stuff. I tried using a small booklet in the back of my daily diary but, annoyingly, the line spacing was too narrow and I couldn’t read my handwriting in it. And the pages were too small.

So I had my weekly planner that really I needed to carry everyplace with me but didn’t, and my day per page diary that I did carry everywhere but couldn’t handle my lists and non-day-specific information. I didn't want to add a third book to the mix. I needed to figure out a new solution.

Just a few days later my friend Rori sent me the link to the Bullet Journal, and it was just what I needed at the time.  After some experimentation figuring out what worked best for me, I settled on using my Plannerisms planner for all planning and goals, and an A5 notebook for recording days, lists, and notes.

The notebook I chose to use is the Daycraft Signature Inspiro notebook I reviewed here recently. I love the smooth paper and soft cover, and the front has advice that is very pertinent to me right now.

The book is almost exactly the same size as my day per page diary, but much slimmer.
The pages are the same size.
Wait a second, you might say, didn’t you try an undated notebook earlier this year and it failed? Well yes, that is true. The reason it failed was the pages were too small.
I do a lot of back-filling of my daily pages, and usually I fill an A5 page each day. If I were to back-fill this pocket size book, I’d have to leave about 4 blank pages each day to give me enough just-in-case space.  
With the A5 book, if I don’t have time to write everything I want on that day’s page, it doesn’t cause a backlog. I just start a new page the next day and fill previous days’ pages later, just like I did in the A5 day per page book.

My Plannerisms planner and my A5 notebook together are about the same thickness and weight of just my A5 day per page diary. So I don’t mind carrying both the Plannerisms planner and notebook with me everywhere.  

Now I have everything I need with me all the time. Planning and recording, lists and notes, and the ability to schedule and look up information wherever I am.

This is similar to how Christine uses her Uncalendar planner and separate notebook, which she guest posted about here.

After some experimentation with my notebook I settled on this system:

I left 3 empty pages in the back of the book, where I put my Index. I numbered all the pages. My daily pages start from the front of the book, and my lists and non-day-specific information starts from the back. I note things in my Index as they happen. So for example in my index I noted that on page 67, Tues Aug 27 I ordered my business cards, and there I can find the phone number and email address of the company I ordered from.

There are so many great things about this system. The best part is, I don’t think about how to use it. I just use it. The Plannerisms planner is the best planning system for me. And the notebook as I’ve set it up is the ideal capture device. I don’t get a backlog, I just start a new page each day. I never have to make decisions about what is worthy of being written on the day’s page for fear of filling it up. I can write as much as I want each day. Some days I write two full pages. Most days it’s one full page. Some days it’s less. Over the weekend I didn’t feel like writing, and that’s okay. With this system I can pick it back up again whenever I want.

I do miss my Time Traveler diary, and if I could function using just a day per page diary that would be the one. But I have to admit I'm enjoying the freedom of not being restricted to a dated page for each day.

Do you use a planner and a notebook together? How does that work for you?


  1. I'm starting to move towards this type of system too and I'm finding your posts very enlightening on the pros and cons of each type of system. Currently I'm using a pocket sized Clairefontaine notebook for daily lists. I love it because I can shove it in my pocket, but it is too small to write a lot in! So today I bought a pack of Moleskine cahiers to try out. I love the 13x21 size, just a bit smaller than A5, which I find to be a slightly awkward size. And they are thin, so I can just slip it in the front of my A5 weekly planner. I imagine I'll get 2-3 months out of each one. So I'll see how that goes.

    1. I'd love to know how you get on with the Cahiers. I agree I prefer the larger page size, I need it so I can stretch out my thoughts. Everything gets broken up too much on smaller pages. I know people who use cahier notebooks along with their planner with a lot of success. I hope it works well for you! :)

  2. I feel like our Day Per Page struggles have been very similar this year! It looks like you've got a good system going right now.

    I just switched back to an undated notebook. I have monthlies printed out on card stock clipped in one of the first pages of the notebook. Every Sunday, I date a page for each day of the coming week. This leaves the rest of the notebook free for lists and notes I might need to make throughout the week and solves the forward planning issue for me. The monthlies are more than enough for jotting down plans further out than a week. I start the next week's pages on the first blank page immediately after my notes and lists from the previous week. I've debated creating an index, but for now I like the simplicity of not having one. If I need to refer to something later, I can always tag it with a sticky note flag or tab.

    Finally, I'm truly happy with my planner for the first time this year. I don't feel like I'm settling. Better late than never!

    1. I really like your system! I would love to have everything in one book.

  3. I use a Filofax so I have the planner and paper all in one. I also use those large lined post-it notes to make lists on which I can move from one week to the next.

    1. I would love to be able to use a Filofax as all in one. I had a lot of success with a Personal size for many years, but as I got busier I needed a larger page size. The A5 binder is just too big and heavy to carry everywhere. So I went to bound books, which have their issues too but I love the permanence. No more lost pages!

  4. Hey, Laurie! I currently use a large, unlined, heavyweight Moleskine for my daily journal/planning/notes. It's about (exactly?) the same size as your Plannerisms, thinner than the Moleskine page-per-day, and with the heavy paper, tolerates all pens. I believe it is designed for drawing. I do all my long-term planning on Google Calendar, with access to that via computer/phone/iPad. When I was carrying a paper planner (and Plannerisms was one of them - love the feel and design of it!), I used to use a large Moleskine cahier for daily planning. I love how I can completely open and flip back the covers so I can write on a small space at my desk or in the car. The spines even tolerate a sharpie to indicate dates that ARE legible when lined up on a bookshelf. Since the paper is so thin I only use one side if I'm using a heavy pen. Yes, it's 'wasteful', but the positives far outweigh that negative.

    When I am done with my current journal, I will use the other journals I have on hand that are the same size. I have a PaperBlanks waiting in the wings and some cahiers. I've found that page size is one of the most important qualities for me and I love this size. Oh, and I tried (and finished! my new practice, amazingly enough!)a Rhodia in the same size , but didn't like it. The paper was beautiful, but it just didn't stay open/flat enough for me, unlike the Moleskines and Paperblanks.

    Hope you are well!!

    1. Hi Nancy, great to hear from you! I remember when you used your cahiers as your daily pages, I thought that was a great idea. I used a Moleskine notebook like you're using as a self-drawn planner a few years ago, I think it's the sketchbook where the paper is very heavy weight. I really liked it!

      And yes, after years of experimentation I've found I have to have a big page size. A5/ 5 1/2 by 8 1/2 is perfect for me. I could go a little smaller, but not much, and a little bigger, but too much bigger would be too large of a book! I'm tempted to say I'm picky, but really it's just that I've finally figured out what works best for me after years of trying!

  5. Yep I love this system! Ive been using some form of notebook for the pasr 2 or 3 years and I love having all that note/journal/brain dump space in addition to a planner. So even though my planner has changed over and over, the notebook stays :)

    1. Yes!! I'm so glad I finally figured this out! I was dissuaded for awhile after my too-small notebook fail. But when I realized (duh!) that I just needed a notebook with a large page size, I was off to the races.

  6. I'm super excited thinking that I could just be packing around Plannerisms planner/notebook for next year! :D :D