“Do you have time for your day planner?”

Seems like a strange question, right? But, this is a question I asked myself several years ago as I tried out several of the popular planners on the market. Over the course of the last three years I tried out the EVO Personalized Planner, the Panda Planner, The High Performance Planner, and the Clever Fox Planner.

Four planners pictured left to right: High Performance Planner, Panda Planner, EVO Planner, and Clever Fox Planner.

Years ago, I used the Day-Timer® system. It was my first foray into personal organization for my life and career. I used a 5.5 x 8.5 inch size which I found handy for having open on my desktop. The zipper-binder was roomy, as I kept business cards and others nick-knacks inside for reference. My teammates used to joke, saying my Day-Timer was so fat, I could use it as a weapon if necessary.

Over the years, the refills became too expensive so I looked at other options. I tried small sketchbooks and Composition Notebooks for a few years, but found I missed the organization and page layout of a planner. After years away, I was ready to head back into the world of personal planners. As I plunged back in, I quickly became budget conscious. Gone were the days of a budget-friendly 1-year planner. Now, it was a quarterly planner for the cost of what had been a year’s worth of data sheets. Regardless, I set off on my quest and began trying the most popular planners.

In this three-part series, I will cover the first two planners I tried, followed by the second two, and then wrap up with my personal pros/cons for each planner/system. Here is the criteria I used to rate each planner:

  • Physical size
  • Features
  • Format
  • Cost
  • Fun

EVO Planner

First up, I tried the EVO planner. The unique feature for this planner is it’s promise of personalization to fit your “flow” and brain type. After taking a brief survey, you are guided toward one of several different planners best suited for you. What is “flow” and how do you know if you have it? A simple way to think of it is when you are in your “zone” or your “sweet spot” and work/life seems fun and effortless. At those points you are considered in your flow. The four brain types EVO break across a four-point axes. The points are: Relational (top), Strategic (bottom), Determined (left), Compelled (right). Each of the four quadrants have a unique and fun name. I was an Alchemist. Apparently, I gravitate toward the abstract and theoretical.

EVO Planner cover
The Alchemist EVO Planner cover

Physical Size

The EVO Planner I used was 5.5 x 8.5 inches. I believe it is the only size the planner comes in. It has very nice metallic embossing and copper colored page edges. There are two ribbons for place holding marked: Week, Today.

Features

The planner is a quarterly planner (you have 4 months to allow for overlap or a mid-month start date). Pages in the front go over the various brain types. Then there are several pages that discuss Brain Type theory. Next, are a series of pages that illustrate how to fill out the planner as you go through the next several months.

One notable feature of the EVO Planner is a companion smartphone app. With the end of each day, you snap an image of your planner page and get a running report of how well you are doing. It’s a progressive idea.

EVO Planner daily page example
EVO Planner Daily page example

Format

Four monthly pages in the front encourage you to work on habits for health, relational, cash flow, fun, and contributions. Following the monthly pages are pages for fourteen weeks. You can list work and personal to-do’s as well as your top three focus items for each week. In the weekly review, you can capture your favorite moments and anything you learned. Finally, on the week review page you rank 1-10 how well you feel you did on each of your habits and what you can do to improve. A QR code will allow you to add this data to your phone app.

The remainder of the planner are the daily pages. My Alchemist planner day begins with an inspirational quote, followed by an area for noting things I am grateful for. Since, I like to share what I learn, there is place for me to highlight discoveries I have recently made. Next is a space to capture a wellness and fun activity, and then room for ideas. I have a “most important” task area followed by sub-tasks and then any other items I need to prioritize for the day. At the end of the day I am encouraged to rate my “flow score”, whether or not I worked on my habits, and a space to write the biggest takeaway from the day. Finally, I have a QR code to capture each day in my app.

Cost

The EVO Planner is $45-50 US.

Fun

The EVO Planner can be fun to use, based on your Brain Type. For me, a place to capture ideas, to highlight a fun activity each day, and to capture what I learned and can share later, made using it engaging.

Panda Planner

The Panda Planner website states this planner was “born out of necessity”, by founder, Michael Leip. Leip had symptoms of Lyme disease, a brain injury, and cancer. His need to stay organized and positive spawned the creation of Panda Planner. Leip’s optimism is apparent throughout the companion website and video emails you get when registering online.

Panda Planner cover
Panda Planner cover

Physical Size

The Panda Planner I used was 5.5 x 8.5 inches. It also comes in 8.5 x 11. Colors range from black, cyan, orange, to purple. I used a purple Panda Planner. There are three unmarked ribbons for place holding. I kept a ribbon at the month, the week, and the day.

Features

The Panda Planner comes hardbound or ring bound. There is a quarterly version (hardbound), an annual “weekly” version (52-weeks ring bound), or annual “daily” version (365-days ring bound). A recent addition is the VIA Institute version. Panda partnered with the VIA Institute on Character for a personalized and customized approach to the planner.

Format

Three blank monthly pages in the front act as a calendar for you to fill in and track a habit you’re trying to develop. There is also space for setting goals for the month, distractions to avoid, and places to capture monthly wins and insights you may have learned. Following the monthly section are pages for thirteen weeks. You can list your wins from the previous week and how you will improve. There is a section for planning the week ahead. Here you have four quadrants to capture Personal, Work, Family/Friends, and Relationship items to do for the week ahead. Underneath you have four sections to capture: what you’re looking forward to this week, any habits to focus on, what you want to learn this week, and a “passion project”. Finally, on the facing page you have space to breakdown four projects for the week and your top goals.

Panda Planner daily page example
Panda Planner Daily page example

The remainder of the planner are the daily pages. You are encouraged to fill out the Daily section each morning. You start with writing what you are grateful for and excited about doing for the day. Next is an affirmation, area of focus, and exercise activity to note. There is space to capture five top priorities for the day. On the facing page you can list your schedule and tasks for the day. Finally, at the bottom is a space to review your day by capturing wins and how you will improve tomorrow.

Cost

The Panda Planners ranges in price, from $9.99 – 36.97 US. Mine was $24.97.

Fun

The Panda Planner does not come with, what I would call, fun features. If you register on the website, you get access to a bunch of videos by the founder. You might consider those fun. However, I did like the weekly area for capturing what I was looking forward to for the week. It gave me a sense of anticipation.

Next week, in Part 2 of this series, I will review the High Performance Planner and the Clever Fox Planner before wrapping up the series. In the interim, let me know your thoughts below. Tell me what your favorite planner/system is and why.

See you next week!