Find your Mate: Selecting the Right Paper-Based Planner

Aug 14, 2012

As I give workshops around the country, many of my participants self-identify as “hybrid organizers;” they use an electronic or web-based system along with a paper-based system. But, some Together Teacher enthusiasts are exclusively paper-based purists. Sadly, these traditionalists often tuck their planners away in shame for fear of ridicule by the technophiles in the crowd.

Paper-based purists, this post is for you! I’m here to say. . . embrace the paper! Own it!

For those of you who love paper, you’re probably combing Staples or Office Depot right about now to find the perfect organization tool for the upcoming school year.

You want that perfect match. Something that keeps you calm, but makes sure you stay challenged…lets you see things easily in your own way, but also gives you fresh perspective on your time and life…gets along well with your friends and family…and is, of course, strikingly attractive.

Just like not every date leads to wedding bells, not every planner can live up to a teacher’s expectations for performance and commitment. Luckily, some do, and we’re here to help make your search a successful one.

Characteristics of a great paper-based planner for teachers:

  • Thin enough that you can easily carry it around school all day and take it home
  • 8.5 X 11 inches in size (or larger) so you can insert other printed electronic tools into it
  • Doesn’t require hole punching
  • Firm enough to take notes on
  • Includes a monthly view with lines in the margins to write on
  • Has daily views with times for each day
  • Not too many extraneous tabs
  • Not too expensive
  • Bonus: Has fancy pockets or pouches

In no particular order, here are the commercial brands teachers embrace with our thoughts on what works and what doesn’t: 

  • Moleskine. We like this version. It’s large enough to print out other tools, like your Comprehensive Calendar, that you may keep electronically and binder clip to the back.
  • Franklin-Covey. Franklin-Covey has totally cool stuff, but you have to be careful not to get caught up in the extraneous features or get one that is too fat to carry around your school building. The customization is great. We like this version because it doesn’t require hole-punching, but you also need to purchase a monthly view to ensure you have a long-term take on the year.
  • Arc by Staples. This is a super-neat customizable notebook, and it‘s affordable. You can print your own electronic tools and slot them in, plus take advantage of those nifty pocket add-ons. It is also a lot less expensive than its Levenger cousin.
  • Uncalendar. We have seen a lot of teachers love these lately. The daily and monthly views are great, and it even has room for taking notes. The one big drawback is that it is spiral-bound, so you lose your ability to customize. I heard a rumor Uncalendar is producing a binder version.
  • BlueSky. Many teachers show up to our workshops with these planners. They tend to be “prettier” than some of the other products, but be careful not to get swept up by too many extra bells and whistles. For example, BlueSky planners have a Contacts section built in. But if you keep your Contacts electronically, you won’t need this.
  • Day Runner. This is a classic planner with a ton of options. As always, we like the ones that are 8.5 X 11 or bigger and have monthly and weekly views.

Of course, once you buy the perfect planner, you actually have to USE it. Picking the right one for you matters a lot. More and more planners hit the market every year, but we’ve seen many Together Teachers actually assemble their own. They use this tool and create tabs using Together Teacher templates, or purchase a binder and create a larger teacher planner. Check out Sara Cotner’s “life binder” here on her blog. She also just so happens to be one of the best teachers I have ever met!

Together Teacher Discussion Question:

What is your favorite brand of paper planner? How have you customized it to make it work for you?