It might sound crazy what I’m ’bout to say…
I’m officially a planner addict.
Earlier this year, I mentioned that I was on a mission to get better organized. I’ve always had a penchant for planning, but I can’t say that I’ve ever truly had an effective system for my daily life. I have had tons of notebooks, each serving a different purpose, list pads, spreadsheets, and none of them seemed to be a manageable solution. Enter the old-fashion paper planner. On steroids.
Usually, the end of a calendar year stirs up a renewed sense of purpose… and a renewed sensitivity to the clutter in my life. I’ve always been big on logistics and information for special projects, but I had never really committed to a consistent method for my personal life. So I set forth to put together a home organization binder. While flipping through Pinterest to find ideas, I ran across all kinds of printables. I wasn’t completely satisfied with what I found so made my own. I didn’t stick with using it for a good two or three months. First, I was discouraged by the time and cost of printing these pretty designs (ink isn’t cheap!). Then I had to confront how disjointed and clunky my binder was. I cut my losses.
This year, I had the resolve to try again. Outlook and other digital means had ruled my professional life for so long that I didn’t even know what was out there. As great as digital planning may be, I am still very partial to paper. I was immediately overwhelmed by all the options. There were bullet journals, travelers notebooks, binders, and spiral-bound books. And then there was the Happy Planner. In the past, I had expressed open disdain for discbound notebooks. I remember one of my bosses trying to convince me to order one for myself, and I just didn’t get this newfangled system with the mushroom-shaped holes. Being big on archiving printed material for reference, I hated the idea of having to have a specialized punch to add things. Fast-forward a few years and I am happily eating crow.
Why a Disc-bound Planner?
My first foray into the personal planner world showed me that binders were no longer my cup of tea. I also knew that I didn’t like the limitations of a saddle or case stitched journal (bookbinding). In weighing my options, I narrowed them down to spiral and discbound. I love spiral notebooks for the ability to peel the pages all the way back and easily write out to the margins. However, I knew I would miss the ability add important documents.
Discbound planners offer the best of both worlds. They have rings like a spiral notebook, allowing them to be peeled back cover to cover, but the special open punched pages allow you to add, move, and remove pages easily to suit your needs. Several office supply companies now sell disc systems, such as Staples’ Arc and Office Depot’s TUL.
Why happy Planner?
Happy Planner is Me and My Big Ideas (MAMBI) flagship planner system. If you have ever dabbled in the scrapbooking or paper crafting world you may recognize MAMBI from their vast offering of fun stickers. What makes the Happy Planner so cool is that it is the perfect blend of fun and function. As much as I love planning my life, I think I wasn’t committed to doing it before because it felt like work. And who needs more of the that?! My Happy Planner not only gives me a great base to plan functionally, but it offers me a built-in creative outlet.
MAMBI offers a wide assortment of exciting designs to suit most tastes, in a12-month version, for those that plan around the calendar year, and an 18-month version who plan around the academic year. They can be purchased online or at most craft retailers, such as Hobby Lobby or Michaels.
Happy Planners come in three sizes ($19.99-$34.99):
- Mini – Cover: 5.125×7.5/ Pages: 4.5×7
- Classic – Cover: 7.75×9.75/ Pages: 7×9.25
- Big – Cover: 9×11.25/ Pages: 8.5×11
The first planner I chose for general purposes was the Big planner. I figured I would need as much room as possible to squeeze my life onto those pages! I accidentally ventured into a couple Classic planners, but more on that later.
There are also two available layouts:
- Vertical – Each day in the week has a vertical column with three rows.
- Horizontal – Each day in the week has its own row.
So far, I have stuck to the vertical layout, because it allows me to compartmentalize my life a bit.
The fun thing about decorative planners is that the possibilities are ENDLESS. You can lose your mind (and all your money) planning. You aren’t limited to the accessories made for the Happy Planner, but MAMBI offers a wide assortment to choose from. Here are the ones I use.
- Stickers – My absolute FAVORITE products for the Happy Planner. There are sticker packs to suit a huge variety of needs and subjects (Planner Basics, Productivity, Fitness, Budgeting, Faith etc.). Colorful and creative, these stickers are meant to help decorate, organize and encourage you through your days. My favorite sticker book is the Faith pack.
- Inserts – I also love inserts. I personally use the meal planner on a regular basis. It’s so convenient to be able to work my meal plan and grocery list at the same time as my schedule for the week and keep it in my planner. I use the hourly half-sheet inserts on days where hourly scheduling is a must, and I use the project planner sheets in my blog planner. All in all, between the subject-driven inserts, to-do lists, and filler papers, there is a combination that will meet most needs.
- Covers – Do you need a more durable cover than what your planner came with? Or better yet, wanna design your own discbound notebook from scratch? Have no fear, extra covers are here! You can customize the outside of the planner with stand-alone laminated covers, Snap-In hard-covers, or a Deluxe faux-leather jacket cover.
- Discs – If you outgrow your current discs, want to start a new notebook, or just want a change of look, you can purchase extra discs in a variety of covers and sizes.
- Extension Packs – Happy Planner offers extension packs to extend your calendar an extra six months or help you plan other goals in life, like Fitness, Budget, and Wellness.
- Decorative Accessories – MAMBI also makes washi tape, stamps, dashboards and other accessories for the Happy Planner line.
How I Use My Planner
I typically don’t decorate the monthly pages, but I do color code important events and reminders. The weekly spread is where I go big on decorating. I’m big on compartmentalizing the areas of my life, so I enjoy dividing my plans into three rows: one for personal events, one for to-dos and one for business. (Note: I recently pulled my blog planning into its own separate planner).
Each week, I take the following steps:
- List my events and goals – I find it easier to corral my thoughts if I do a brain dump of everything I have going on. Happy Planner pages have a lined note column at the edge of the left calendar pages, so I often will list major items there. I then place the items on sticky flags.
- Add items on post-it flags to dates on calendar.– The chief reason I use flags is to help me visualize where things go in the week before they are “permanent.” Granted, there’s always whiteout, but I prefer not to mess with things unless they are rescheduled. The other, less important reason I use flags is to know where my stickers can go, lol. Some planner fanatics are great at jumping right in, but I’m not that visionary – yet.
- Decorate! – This is the fun part. I either start with a roll of washi that inspires me or I pick a couple colors as a theme and go from there. It’s your [planner] thang, do what you wanna do.
- Transfer items from flags to planner.– After decoration, it’s downhill. Now, I’m unduly particular – I actually break out a ruler, line my wording with pencil, write, then erase the lines. (Do better than me. LOL!)
- Add inserts or extensions. – While I’m at it, I try to go ahead and knock out my meal plan and grocery list for the week and insert into my planner. Also, if I’m traveling, I’ll punch and insert travel related items.
The Bottom Line
- Specialized Binding – If you want to use non-discbound printables, you will need to invest in a planner punch. However, this is not terribly uncommon amongst planner brands.
- Color Palette – Happy Planner is mainly aimed at women, so the color palettes of the products tend to lean toward pinks, pastels, flowers, etc. If you’re like me (I like brights and darks), you may not necessarily find something in the exact color combo you’re looking for in a particular product. However, the options are so vast, you’re bound to find something you like.
- Limited selection of 12-month planners – There are more 18-month planners to choose from than 12-month. If you jump in January, you may not be able to get the exact plan you like at that moment. Happy Planner solves this issue with 6-month extension packs.
- Customizable – Again, unlike a bound planner or a digital program, you can pretty much make this planner whatever you want to be, both with the MAMBI branded products and things available from other places.*
- Efficient – Happy Planner has options to plan many aspects of your life, and you integrate them together in one handy tool.
- Durable – You get the customization of a binder, but the flexibility of a spiral notebook.
For me, the pros far outweigh the cons. Of the planning systems I’ve attempted to use, the Happy Planner system is by far my favorite. It’s a multi-faceted option that allows me the structure to organize my life with the flexibility to customize it for my needs. As a creative, the decorating aspect alone makes me look forward to sitting down and planning things. It’s one of the highlights of my week.
*Bonus: I currently use a Staples Arc notebook system for my desk at work. I can confirm that big sized products are interchangeable.
The Verdict: High and Migh-T
I love my Happy Planner and I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a great planning system or an excuse to get creative on a regular basis.
Have you tried the Happy Planner or a discbound system? How do you currently organize your life? Let me know in the comments below!