How I’m using 7 Planners/Journals for 2020

I’m not crazy, I’m just a hopeless stationery addict!

The planner craze of September (when all major brands released their newest designs and layouts for 2020) is over. I’m left with an overwhelming sense of indecision. There are SO MANY great planners and journals out there, which one should I use?

This major life decision I have to make at the end of each year is one I’m looking forward to most, and also the most excruciating because it’s SO hard to choose. There’s also the period of waiting for the dream planner and new items to be shipped and delivered so that I can actually test it out with my pens and see if the layout works. Thankfully, I didn’t regret any of my decisions and were able to nail down the analog system I’ll be using for 2020.

For 2020, I’ll be using 7 planners/journals

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You didn’t count wrong! One was just a cover and it will house the 5-year journal

Ring in 2020, I’m armed and ready with 7 planners/journals that I plan to use consistently. Before I scare anyone away with the crazy quantity, let me further explain myself. As a stationery lover, avid reader, enthusiastic writer, artists, and creative journaler, there are a lot of projects and things that go on in my life which I love to document and record using my favorite tools and the best kind of paper. Through trial and error in the past four years, I feel like I’m finally at a stable stage of my life where I have creative ventures going on, and at the same time growing steadily in my career. Balance that with my personal life (relationship and health), there is quite a lot to record in my life.

Here’s the video version if you prefer it in this medium:

I’m also careful to not be redundant and repetitive in the planners/journals—not just using it for the sake of using it (although tempting). Here’s the short (?) list:

  1. Hobonichi Techo Cousin Avec (A5 size)
  2. Nolty Listy (Vertical Layout) – Loft Edition
  3. Hobonichi 5-year Techo 2019 – 2023
  4. Hobonichi Techo Weeks Tokyo Tower
  5. Hobonichi Techo Weeks Mega Apple Green
  6. Muji 2020 Planner
  7. Take a Note Planner (A5/Taiwan version)

Now, for those who prefer the TLDR version, let me highlight the purposes for you:

  1. Hobonichi Techo Cousin Avec (A5 size) – Creative Journaling (daily)
  2. Nolty Listy (Vertical Layout) – Loft Edition – Everyday Planner (daily)
  3. Hobonichi 5-year Techo 2019 – 2023 – Life/milestone log (once/week)
  4. Hobonichi Techo Weeks Tokyo Tower – Health tracker (daily)
  5. Hobonichi Techo Weeks Mega Apple Green – Marketing/Reading/Project Note (on-demand)
  6. Muji 2020 Planner – Work Planner (on-demand)
  7. Take a Note Planner (A5/Taiwan version) – Creative/mindfulness Journaling (but in Chinese!) (once, twice/week)

Now, is that less overwhelming? I have to admit, #7 is the only journal that I would consider to be repetitive in terms of usage. I could easily use a blank notebook or other journals for this purpose, but I really want to support the Taiwanese designer Take a Note, especially since it is the brand’s 5th anniversary. You may also ask: “Why can’t you just combine Health tracker with your Everyday planner? (or Planner B with Planner C?)” Well, the answer is, with how I’m using it, there’s just NOT ENOUGH space! Each books’ unique designs mean limited writing space and optimization for different functions. If I try to be efficient, I might as well be carrying an encyclopedia-size notebook with me everywhere,…LOL.

Ok, if you’re still following at this point, I figure I might as well explain all the reasonings for these planners, in-depth (I did put thoughts into it, I promise!)—let me go into the details of each book and how I’m using them.

How I’ll be using all 7 planners

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These first three planners will be carrying the most weight, and the ones I’ll value the most (meaning they go with me as carry-on luggage whenever I fly.)

Hobonichi Techo Cousin – Creative journaling and my LIFE book

This. Is. My. Holy. Grail. I started creative journaling every day since 2014 and never looked back. I wrote quite a few posts about the Hobonichi—about how I build a journaling habit, why I love the Hobonichi, and made friends around the world through the Hobonichi. I don’t think I’ve missed a day yet. Even on boring or blank days, I filled them with doodles, washi swatches, paintings, and postcards from friends. These chunky Hobonichis embodied the creative journey of my mid-twenties (heading into 30 in 2020!!!) I truly consider it my LIFE book—the only planner I know that could hold all my memories, ephemera, and stories together in one book each year (or 2 halves.) Each year I look forward to collecting new covers to dress it up. I enjoyed the ability to give my LIFE book an exterior theme that matches my ambition and mood for the season. For 2020, it’s no different. I’m already looking forward to filling up each page of the brand new year.

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For the past year, I’ve been using the vertical weekly spreads to do a simple daily life-log—jotting down things I did, people I met, food I ate, and spendings throughout the day. This way, even if I decided to procrastinate and skip a day, I can always revisit this log to remember what I did. Since the columns are so spacious, I want to start writing longer entries that include feelings, sentiments, and thoughts as well. Therefore, in 2020, I’m migrating the shorter life-log to my new everyday carry: the Nolty Listy.

Nolty Listy 1 リスティ(vertical) – Loft Edition

The Nolty brand is a very popular brand in Japan that releases a multitude of sizes and shapes of planners each year. Their target audience is mostly business people who want a no-frills schedule planner they could carry on the go. This is why the color scheme is typically a no-nonsense black.

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This planner is new to me. Each year I experimented with different ways to have a planner/scheduler that I can bring with me every day. This year I’m using the Hobonichi English Planner but realized I was only utilizing the monthly view, and it’s too small to fit all my plans. In 2018 I tried using a Weeks, and in 2017 a Brownie Techo. I was like Goldilocks, never finding one that fits JUST right. The Listy is coming pretty close, though. It doesn’t hurt that the LOFT limited edition released it in a beautiful dark forest green cover and printed the interior lines with eye-friendly green ink. It’s meant to be.

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The Listy comes in A5 Slim size, very similar to the Jibun Techo I was eyeing prior to getting this. It has a spacious monthly layout AND vertical weekly spreads just like what you get in the Hobonichi Cousin. Aside from comprehensive planning, I’m using the vertical weekly spreads to track spending, to-dos, and event logging—the short life-log I can write about throughout the day.

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Hobonichi 5 Year Techo

The fun thing about a 5-year Techo is that it gets more and more interesting as you move through the years. The fun of coming across milestones and life events is the best way to savor nostalgia and celebrate growth! I didn’t do a good job of keeping up with my 5 Year Techo in 2019—my attention was distracted by challenges and lazy days throughout the year. It has been a busy year!

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To cultivate the habit, I’ve decided to make writing in the 5-year Techo a once-a-week chore. It would be the perfect habit to digest a whole week’s event in retrospect.

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Weeks Tokyo Tower – Meals and health tracker

2019 is a big growth year for me, where I’m really learning to take care of myself (so cliche but still true.) What does that mean? Tracking meals, trying out low-carb diets, reading more, going to counseling, meditation,…the list goes on. Goes to show how much I’ve been taking my physical health for granted in my twenties. I’ve always been really good at the Asian ‘suppress-all-my-feelings-until-it-suffocate-me’ thing. Now I know that it’s important to have an outlet, and writing them down helps me process them easier. Keeping a health journal has helped me immensely in keeping my thoughts and feelings in check. The size of the Hobonichi Weeks means there’s less pressure to *fill a page*. 

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In the past two months, I developed a ritual of writing in my health journal at the end of the day before I go to bed. On the monthly view, I track fun things like coffee in-takes, headaches, gym, and mindfulness practices. Tracking feelings on a daily basis gives me an overlook of trends as well—and seeing improvements makes me happy.

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Weeks MEGA Apple Green – The catch-all reference book

I wrote about how I plan to use the Weeks MEGA when I first purchased it here. It is going to be my 2020 reference book for all things related to my career growth. Whether it is marketing notes, online class scheduling, or learning materials, they will be documented in the extra blank note pages in the back (funnily enough, in my past experience with Weeks, I never fully used the note pages.)

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I’m reading “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown. It’s changing my life!

I said I’ll report back on what I decide to do with the weekly spread. Turns out, it’s the perfect space to make plans for my volunteer work (social media for Urban Sketchers Organization), podcast notes for The Stationery Cafe (I started a podcast about stationery!) and jotting down reading notes from books I’m reading! I then utilize the monthly calendar as an index to refer to both weekly reading notes & marketing notes.

Muji 2020 Planner – Just a simple planner for work

Last year I used Take a Note (A6 size) for work, the two-days-a-page layout perfect for noting down just enough to-do lists for each week. However, how much I utilize the work planner depends on projects and work tasks, so I decided to just be super minimalistic and use a cheaper planner for this purpose—The Muji 2020 Planner.

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It’s nothing special to write home about. With a big monthly view and a horizontal weekly layout (with blank grids on the right), it’s the perfect planner to use with my other digital project management tools. The best part: It’s in A6 size, which means it could fit into my prized Hobonichi Forest Leather cover.

Take a note Planner – Creative journaling (in Chinese) and mindfulness journal

Bound like the Hobonichi so it lays flat AND also uses the Tomoe River Paper (but a thicker gsm), Take a Note utilizes a two-days-a-page layout. The space you can work in is less overwhelming than a blank page in the Hobonichi Cousin. I’ve started creative journaling since 2014 and in the beginning, I’ve been combining Chinese and English in my entries. Since 2017 I realized I have been unconsciously phasing out my mother-tongue since writing in English is so much faster and easier. I thought this journal would be a perfect medium to let me practice writing in Chinese again—the writing space is less intimidating and the spacing more Chinese friendly (3.5mm grids)

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I’ve picked up the practice of mindfulness towards the end of the year, finding it to be a helpful tool to assist me in coping with challenges and failures in life. What better way to start the new year cultivating the habit of mindfulness journaling—prompts and writings that go deeper than my everyday frivolous day-to-day. I’ve been going broad in my creative journaling spectrum for the past five years, I want to dive deep. I think this will be a new beginning in my journaling habits.

Conclusion… maybe I am a crazy planner lady

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I acknowledge that this really is a crazy amount of analog in my life. But, I’m grateful for a stable lifestyle (no kids, steady relationship, staying in one city for the long term) to allow me to spend so much time with my stationery and journals. I also have a steady community of journaling enthusiasts to meet up with on a biweekly basis. Am I going to go crazy if I miss a day, a week, a few blank pages? No. My system may change in a few months, but that’s what life is. I’m grateful for this hobby and the way I spend my time away from the screen to enjoy all the moments in my life. That’s the most important thing—finding a way to integrate analog into your daily habits in a way that works for you. 

Happy journaling in 2020!

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