My brand new Life Planner!

Erin Condren 2

I don’t know about you, but I feel this first half of 2012 has been pretty hectic. I’ve had numerous new projects, long term priorities, meetings with long lost friends, catching up on older acquaintances, and on top, lots of hard work, at work.

It’s been getting hard to juggle all of these, and I knew something was wrong when I started to lose track of emails. I never leave an email unread or unanswered, but recently there’s been a huge pile of dust accumulating in my inbox, overlapping emails, and missed phone calls.

It seems my dear Moleskine notebook can’t handle it all. So I needed a new solution to balance personal, work and life to-do’s.

So here’s the brief:


One notebook/organizer/agenda which can accomodate:
- A space for prioritizing work tasks
- Weekly agenda
- Long term planning (goals, projects, vacations etc)
- Personal priorities section
- Money and budgeting
- Inspiration (have some blank pages for creativity)
- Design (yes, it has to look good)

That does seem like a lot, right?
Well, after a few hours of research on the Internet, here are the runners-up:

1. Filofax and Franklin Covey organizers:

Organizer Franklin Covey

They’re pretty similar, I’ve had one of each. Upper price range (around 100 Euro for one).
-  very polished and elegant look
- customizable sections (you can order anything your heart desires, from project sections to finances, to personal goal setting areas).
- the Goal separator from Franklin Covey is brilliant, I used it to keep a close eye on my weekly goals.
- the Franklin Covey planner “forces” you to prioritize items and then mark them throughout the day.

- Filofax doesn’t ship to my country ( :( :( ) and the Franklin Covey representatives are kind of on a break;
- I don’t like the paper in Franklin Covey planners (too grey, the lines are too narrow, can’t write in them)
- they both ask for extreme discipline, I feel like the planner is wasted  if I don’t write for a week in it.
- no “creative” section.

2. Moleskine:


I’m a huge fan of Moleskine, been using these babies for years. I have large notebooks, small and tiny notebooks, sketch books, watercolor notebooks, travel notebooks…you get it. I love their paper quality and the simple look. Right now I’m using a thin A5 notebook which I can carry everywhere with me, mostly for business/work writing, and a small notebook for ideas and sketches.

- huge creative space (I use blank/plain notebooks)
- can be thin and easy to carry around
- love the paper (how many times can I say that?)

- no place to prioritize and assign in calendar (unless you buy a diary, but that one doesn’t have any blank pages. In a word, they’re single purpose.)
- a blank notebok can be split into more sections (personal/work/tasks for example). But you would still need to use a separate calendar.

3. Buttoned Up Life planners.


I heard a lot about the Buttoned Up Life.doc binder, and was actually considering to buy one, but for some reason their web site doesn’t show it in the shopping list. It’s available here however, and also in digital format. The price is reasonable for a large binder (29$).
However they have a lot of useful tools/products, I felt most attracted to the  Do/Delegate work tool. But both Life.doc as well as Do/Delegate are single usage (either just personal or just work). Can’t I find a tool that integrates them?


- seem pretty neatly organized, I love the sections


- single usage docs
- the online shopping/ordering process doesn’t seem to work.

4. The Home Executive planner:

home executive

This is a very neat organizer for overall life planning. I loved that it had integrated shopping lists, recipe planners (what to cook) and it’s very colourful and happy. It’s also pretty cheap, 10$ (compared to other planners).

You can look inside at all the sections here. The ordering process is not clearly described on the site, but works via Pay Pal.

- excellent for housewives and busy career women who want a separate planner for their home lives
- colourful and neat, a lot of pockets, separate sections, inspiration ideas for cooking, gifts and holidays. Lovely!

- no work section (duh! since it’s a home planner).

5. 2012 Printable Life Planner

Digital Life Planner

Another very neat idea found on Pinterest (very popular there among the DYI-ers). It’s a planner you make yourself, using the templates provided on the site.

- Major one: it’s FREE!
- covers all major life areas – time management, finances, personal planning, even projects.
- has an “inspiration” section
- the graphic design is colourful and nice
- you can obviously add blank pages for notes.

- the hassle of having to print and assemble it yourself
- what if you want to make other sections?
- you’re restricted to the A4 size (makes it kind of difficult to carry around, so this will be a “stay-at-home” planner).

And the winner is…

6. The Erin Condren Life Planner:

Erin Condren Life Planner(Source)

Doesn’t it look gorgeous? It reminds me of my Colour Office Book from years ago , except this one has tons of sections (not just three), it’s coloured on the inside not just on the outside, and tackles work as well as personal life. Too good to be true? It seems it’s quite well known across the ocean, since I found lots of positive reviews on it. Take a look yourself on the company website.

- combines work and personal life, tackles short term, long term as well as personal planning.
- includes blank pages for creative sections  and I also added notepads. I plan to stick my thin Moleskine in the pocket once they finish.
- very very nice design (the design is half the motivator to buy this planner!) plus tons of nice add-ons you can get (notepads – I got two!, stickers, pens etcetera).
- it’s personalized! Mine is going to say “Mer Dinu” on the cover. Or you can even personalize it with a photo!

- the price! It’s rather expensive (75$), which is within the range for a reasonable premium planner…but the big hit comes when you click the Shipping button. In my case, that doubled (!) the value.  Not a cheap investment.  I really hope it’s going to be worth it and that I won’t abandon it like I did with the other planners after a few months.

*later edit: The price list has been obviously updated, and planners start at 50$, notebooks at 35$. So for a cheaper (!!!) price I now got not just a planner, but also a pouch to carry it everywhere I go, plus some other add-ons (laminated cards, stickers, etc). So far it’s my third year using a planner from Erin Condren.  Yay!!


In conclusion, it all depends on what you want from a planner, be very clear from the start and devote some time to research solutions online. Nowadays there are so many tools, ranging from free to super expensive. It’s your choice to pick the one that’s most suitable for your current needs.

NOTE: All opinions above are only my own and this is not a sponsored post.


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  • Shannon
    June 26, 2012

    I love love love the erin condren life planner! I had ordered my first one back in February and now I’m ordering the new one (I spilled tea all of the other one). I honestly couldn’t live without it and wish I had it in college. Still waiting for my new one to ship :-)

  • Blinds
    July 16, 2012

    I’m not sure if you’ve read Get Things Done by Paul Allen, I got an idea from that to use an Excel spreadsheet with a different worksheet for each category, so I have a Projects sheet, a Next Actions sheet and then a Done sheet and each task moves thru each sheet, it’s not as cool as some of the planners you have here and you need to be at your PC to use, but it is effective

  • Maria
    August 4, 2012

    Yes, isn’t it wonderful? I started using it already and I just love the colored pens.
    I notice however that it’s (kind of) targeted for women. I can’t really imagine a man using one of them – perhaps with a monochrome cover… :)

  • Maria
    August 4, 2012

    I did read Getting Things Done, and found it immensely useful.
    Your idea is indeed helpful!
    Personally I prefer to use paper planners, but splitting the task lists into Projects and Next Actions seems completely do-able also on paper. And also let’s not forget the personal satisfaction I get when crossing something that’s “done”!

  • JR Rosales
    September 11, 2012

    Hi Maria! Can you give a follow up review on Erin Condren planner? Do you still use it? How do you use it? Do you follow the Morning, Day and Evening formats? I would love to buy one but the price is not cheap, especially that I’m based outside the US. Í bought a notebook from her though, so I could still experience the “pretty stuff”! :D

    Btw, have you heard about It is super customizable! I hope you make a review on that. :) Thanks!

  • Maria
    September 24, 2012

    Hi Jacqueline! Yes, i think I might give a follow-up review.
    I also love the Personal Planner you sent the link on. It’s quite similar and the price is more affordable, too. However it doesn’t have all the pretty colors inside and neither does it have the monthly tabs :)
    But I’ll include it in my follow-up review nevertheless. Thanks for the tip!

  • Christi Wilson: Founder, Girlfriends Coffee Hour
    March 30, 2013

    This is my first order for a Life Planner, and I am really looking forward to seeing how this new planner will fit into my lifestyle! I always have such a hard time finding the perfect planner! Praying this one is it!! :)

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