Leslie's Voice

Finding the Productive Planning System that Works for You

Last we we talked about how to become a productive planner. This week we’ll chat about some of the planner systems available to help you sort through the clutter and make your dreams a reality. This is a hot commodity right now and there are a ton of different planning systems, journals, and notebooks out there. The goal of this post isn’t to tell you why any one of them is better than the other. Instead, it’s all about just letting you know about what’s out there so you can find and use the system that’s right for you. We’ll start with looking at some analog planner systems and then move into digital systems before continuing the discussion in the comments.

As a note, none of these links are referral links. These are all products that I’ve done research on or have heard about, but may not have used. I’ve identified the products I have used. If you have used one of these products, please leave a comment and let us all know how you liked it!

Bullet Journaling

If you have no idea what will work for you, a good place to start is Bullet Journaling. It’s considered “the analogy system for the digital age.”

As shown in the video above, the traditional bullet journal is a rapid-logging system. It’s named after the different types of bullets used to log things. For instance, a dot might be a task, a circle might be an event, an important note might be a dash, an arrow might be something for the future, etc. The point is to create a key and stick with it. There are a few more nuances to how to Bullet Journal (such as creating an index, numbering your pages, setting up monthly views and future logs), but the beauty of traditional bullet journaling is its simplicity. Each day uses however much space it needs. If you skip a day, no big deal, just go to the next one. you’ll notice each day begins with a date, then the rapid logging happens throughout the day, and then the next day starts. Short. Sweet.

A lot of people like to put notes together for similar things, called “Collections.” Some people put their collections on each new page as they work to fill out there journals, while others tuck them in the back of the book for easy reference, and work their way to the middle.

Bullet journaling is popular because it is simple, straightforward, and requires no fancy artistic ability or any fancy products. What’s also great is that you can easily try new things to see what works for you and you can incorporate planning strategies from other planner systems at your leisure. That being said, the system doesn’t work super well with people who can’t deal with a linear layout and who wanted to be a bit more creative. Thus, BuJo was born.

Modern BuJo

BuJo is just a shortened term for Bullet Journaling, but I’m using it to identify the expansion of traditional Bullet Journaling into a whole new community with different methodology. With BuJo, there’s some focus on aesthetics, design, and formatting. Some people like theirs minimalist, others like covering them with stickers and designs. The key to BuJo is to make it whatever works for you. Check out the video above (by BuJo mogul BohoBerry) to see how different people have interpreted the Bullet Journal system and made changes so that it works well for them.

Traveler’s Notebook

Here’s an example of a travel notebook system. (Image credit: JetPens.)

Now, some people keep their personal and professional life in the same journal or planner. But for other people, that doesn’t work for them. If you’re one of those people, a traveler’s notebook system might be for you. A traveler’s notebook basically lets you keep multiple notebooks in one big binder. (Think of it as a really pretty trapper keeper).

An example for how you might use this system is if you had a dedicated journal for Morning Pages and then used a different journal for your “brain dump” (as part of Getting Stuff Done). As Professor Kirsten Holt says:

I could never find a way to balance making [Morning Pages] productive and making them a journal. I need both, but for different reasons. I found the easiest way to go from Morning Pages to “stuff sorting” was to use a note from the page threading tips. Every time I start writing something in my morning notes that needs to be added to my to-do somewhere, I just mark an asterisk in the margin, so they’re easier to find and come back to if I miss something. And any other place I jot down notes in the bujo, I add asterisks in the margins as well for tasks. Often times I’ll know I wrote myself a note but not where I left it, so this helps me flip back and find them visually.

Holt uses a traveler’s notebook to keep her separate journals for Morning Pages, subjects she teaches, and personal day-to-day bujo together. She switches out the journals each day so she only carriers around what she needs. This helps her keep her collections separate but organized.


Now, not everyone has the time and energy to draw out their bullet journal ahead of time. While working full time and caring for an infant, I certainly don’t. But I do know what type of system works for me. So even though bullet journaling works best for me, I’m using a pre-printed planner than has a similar layout to the one I like best, and that seems to do the trick. For you, once you find a system that works for you, you might consider make your own pages following that format or, like me (and many planners out there, you can just buy a pre-made planner that closely matches what you know works for you.

Erin Condren Life Planner


The Erin Condren Life Planners are top of the line, incredibly fancy (and expensive, running you around $55-$60) planners. They’re fully customizable with pretty colors, stickers, cover pages, and you can close from horizontal, vertical, or hourly layouts for each week. There’s a planner culture build around making them pretty as well as functional, and there are additional accessories such as stickers and washi tape and calligraphy and doodles. If you’re incentivized by decorating something pretty, these Life Planners might be a great choice. But if you’re priced out, there are other options available.

Happy Planner

The Happy Planner is another fancy planning system, but it isn’t as expensive or customizable as the Erin Condren Life Planners. (They’ll run you about $30.) You’ll notice they use a disc-bound system, which allows you to add or remove pages as desired (as long as you’ve got the right hole punch for it). This is a flexibility that works extremely well for some people, especially if you don’t wan to copy over the same info every time you get a new planner. Just like with the Erin Condrens, Happy Planner does have a zillion accessories, including themed stickers and packets for tracking handouts and such. I ordered one of these Teacher Planners for my stepmother (she will be starting her first year at a new school this August)–but it hasn’t come in yet so I can’t yet report on my findings.

Passion Planner


Next we have Passion Planner, which is a bit more simple. Its a perfect-bound book that comes in classic and compact size, and it’s geared around helping you meet whatever goals you have. The planner includes a lot of guided mind-maps with weekly and monthly layouts that contain no fancy colors or frills. The neat thing with this planner is it combines an hourly appointment schedule with personal and professional to-do lists, areas to list your focus per day and for the week, and also places to write when good things happen. The monthly view is similar, with places to mark to-do lists, as well as people to see, places to go, and things NOT to do. Some planners who use Passion Planner like to keep it simple, while others like to spice theirs up with color. There’s no wrong way to use it.

The most notable feature of Passion planner are the built in monthly reflections and bi annual reflections. This works extremely well with my work structure, which is why I’m currently using a Passion Planner myself. (This will also run you about $25-$30, but you can get free print-outs and they also donate planners, which is super awesome.)

Cräft Planner

Still in KickStarter mode, the Cräft Planner takes the KanBan approach to getting things done with a 52-week timeframe goals checklist, where major goals are then scaffolded into smaller goals, and then those are expanded as you get to them with weekly to-do lists. The pages are very flexible (like Bullet Journaling) and it’s geared toward helping you be productive. (When it finally comes out, this will run you about $35, but will allow free download with social media push.)

Productivity Planner

The Productivity Planner takes the idea of the morning “brain dump” and gives you a simple and easy tool for setting your intention for the day.  There are daily pages for prioritizing what you want to work on, and there are weekly plans with weekly reviews (similar to Passion Planner) to help revise your goals as you’re working toward completing them. (This little notebook will run you $25, but you could just borrow the questions and embed them into your own planning system.) If you really like the system, you might also check out Five Minute Journal, which is made by the same people.

Volt Planner

This planner by Ink+Volt formerly known as the Spark Planner, is also focused on goal-setting, planning, and productivity. The primary objective for the Volt planner is to give you space to write down your goals and review them regularly. There are spots for writing down annual themes and achievements, spaces for monthly goals and 30-day challenges, and even weekly outlook spreads and journaling prompts. (It’ll cost you $30-40, but if you sign up for their newsletter you can get a complementary digital version, which you can then print at your convenience.)



These full color, undated Dailygreatness journals “guide you to form great habits through the 8 daily steps of meditation and visualisation, intentions, dream journaling, gratitude, evening self-awareness questions, exercise, inspired actions and inspiration.” There are also specialized journals with focuses in parenting, yoga, wellness, training, and business planning. This journal seems to take a lot of the reflection and goal-setting skills discussed in last week’s productive planning blog post and puts them to use in a pretty, easy-to-use product (that will cost you about $50).


All of these analog systems are great, but if you’re not one for writing things down or it is impractical to carry a notebook around with you everywhere you go, these kinds of system probably won’t work for you. In which case, there are some digital options available.

Evernote / OneNote

Most notable is the ability to create a digital bullet journal through a mobile productivity app, such as Evernote or OneNote. The benefit to going digital and using one of these systems is that you can keep years of records in the cloud. Your notes will automatically sync across devices, and it would be super easy to search (even handwritten text) or share notes with team members or family and friends. A lot of people who keep analog bullet journals like to scan their collections into one of these apps once they complete a notebook.

Various Productivity Apps

A lot of the analog systems we addressed above have also created mobile apps that you can use for the same functionality. This blog post is already long enough, so I’m not going to list a bunch of apps to check out–instead I’ll like you to some already-existing reviews which you can find here and here and here and here.

Social Media Communities

Finally, the last (and possibly best) resource for helping you plan and organize your life is other people. If you have questions or want to share ideas, the best place to go is social media! Find a big Facebook Group (like Bullet Journal Junkies or Planners Gone Wild) for exposure to a variety of journaling styles or find your tribe in one of the more specialized groups (like ProJos or Minimalist BuJo or whatever–because the big groups can be overwhelming). The Gloria Sirens has a Pumped Project Planning Facebook Group (ladies and non-binary folk, only–sorry, guys!) so please feel free to join us if you’re inclined.

The best places to look for inspiration—especially if you’re bullet journaling—are Instagram and Pinterest. YouTube is starting to become an important resource as well, especially if you want someone to “talk you through it.” You might want to try participating in one of the frequent “planner challenges” hosted on social media by popular bloggers–these will help you network with other planners while letting you try out new planning strategies to help you meet your goals.

And, as always, have fun!


What did I miss? Have you tried any one of these systems? How did it work for you? Let’s continue this conversation in the comments!



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