Monday, February 3, 2014

Life Organization: Arc vs. Erin Condren Planners

I have yet to find the perfect planner organization system. I want my planner systems to be paper-based, flexible, and very mobile. In the last year, I've tried an Arc system (from Staples.com) and an Erin Condren life planner.

I fell in love with the Arc system because it is highly customizable. The hole punch is an expensive one-time purchase, but the notebook cover was very reasonable. It uses a series of discs to bind the pages together, so I can move pages and sections around and replace covers. I decided on the full-sized poly-plastic cover. This was great because I simply printed the pages I needed weekly or monthly. Crazy week? Different planning guide. While using this notebook, I had a monthly plan, daily plan, and a reference section. 

One negative I found with the Arc system is that regular printer paper tended to curl, as above. Most of the pages, such as the weekly pages, could be tossed at the end of the week. However, I like to keep at least the monthly pages as a record of professional development, major appointments, etc. I did purchase larger discs, but my goal was to keep my notebook very mobile-but then where do I put the record sheets?
However, my biggest problem was simply the size and remembering to print or hole punch, creating a hot mess. I left the expensive hole punch at home, but I did almost all my printing at school on standard paper. Really, a slightly heavier paper would be better. My Arc will stick out of my beloved Timbuk2 purse, so I tended to leave it in my school bag on the weekend. This was a problem because I constantly needed to add to my calendar when out with friends or at church.

I have now switched to an Erin Condren Life Planner. While expensive ($50 before adding accessories), it is very sturdy. The paper is a good weight, the spiral is metal with a plastic coating for smooth page turning, and the tabs are laminated. While I have largely been impressed with the excellent quality, the plastic zip pouch in my planner split along the side a few days into carrying two felt pens. The company credited my next purchase for $10, and I duct taped the split closed- a hassle, but not a deal breaker. 
I did not purchase the additional pen holder ($8 really?!?), but perhaps this pouch was not designed for pens; if so, they should fix that!
 
The best parts? It easily fits into my bag! Its basically adorable! I bought my planner, and then my mother, school counselor and her daughter all bought one: serious planner envy. 



 The monthly planning squares are a decent size and I use the note section to record flexible deadlines and the like.
The weekly pages are on two pages with spaces for notes to the left and below. However, it's automatically divided into morning, day, and night categories. This doesn't allow for as much flexibility for crazy weeks as my Arc. Generally, the list of things I need to complete during my second period planning period fills the morning square completely, never mind the things I complete from 5:30-7:45 before school!
Weekly Worksheet copyright of The Together Teacher (thetogetherteacher.com).
You should really consider checking out the blog and The Together Teacher by Maia Heyck-Merlin
 if you are into creating an organized teacher life! 
By comparison, I could easily customize my weekly worksheets in my Arc, with spaces to divide my goals for the week by my role as a teacher, friend, etc. I could break down my day by hour or by morning and night. 

In summary: I like my Erin Condren planner and will definitely finish the calendar year with it. However, in the long term, I feel my planning needs will force me back to my Arc. I can easily print several months worth of weekly planning sheets.To improve on it, I would suggest printing paper that will be referenced constantly on heavier stock or put into a page protector/folder insert. I also need to position my hole punch near wherever I'm doing my printing, and create a designated place to put old monthly and weekly sheets. I have also considered buying the half-sheet sized cover for the Arc or (*SIGH*) resigning myself to an even larger purse- thoughts?

Feel free to share any suggestions, or share your organization systems in the comments!