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 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 (
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! 


Lynneth said...

I agree with you. I bought an Arc planner, bought the punch, then had to move up to larger discs. Now the size of the planner is awkward to hold and pack in my rolling bag. Definitely prohibitive to carrying around all the time. Would love to go 100% digital, but our technology at school is unpredictable. Maybe I just need to take out some of the things in my Arc planner and go back to the smaller discs. So right now everything in my planning system is paper-based except my to-do's which I keep on my phone with Google Keep. Love the look of the Eric Condren planners, though!

Nik said...

Thanks for the comparison. I too was a bit worried about buying the arc hole puncher. I actually found a much cheaper and more portable version on the site. The circa system sold on is completely compatible with the Arc. They also have some pretty interesting refill pages for the organizing geek.

I'm wondering if I can purchase an EC cover for my Arc system.

Ms. L said...

Thanks for the comment! I've actually moved to a (slightly awkward) Arc-EC hybrid at the moment. At the moment, EC has moved to changeable covers, but they are not Arc compatible. I haven't looked at the Levenger system yet; I'll have to do that!

GreenButterfly said...

There are a lot of videos on youtube that show how the EC planners have been Arced very successfully and easily. Also in terms of planners becoming heavy (Im millimetres close from buying into the Arc system) is there no way you could leave some of the pages at home or in your bag- and then carry a smaller Arc notebook/lighter planner for your daily travelling needs? That's what I am planning on doing at the moment I think, is to have a 'mini' lighter version to carry with me, and then dump the heavier one somewhere nearby at work to go back for reference as needed. I think it will show you as well, how much of those pages you really need with you at all time.

GreenButterfly said...
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Unknown said...

I am a teacher too, and a diehard Eric Condren fan. I have used her planners for about 3 years now, and even her teacher plan book. I am going to bite the bullet and "ARC" my Erin Condren planner. I just found out about the discbound systems, and LOVE the customizability of being able to take out and put in what I want. I love just plain paper when I am planning, so I will be able to use that and have that, but in my planner too. It is going to be the best of both worlds!!

quilterjen said...

If there is anyone here that arcs their ec planner, I would LOVE your ec spiral. I get frustrated when my arc pages fall out.... email me at if you have any extra spirals you'd be able to part with. :)

Jen McCoy said...

If you want EC but in an Arc system Me and My Big ideas has that at Hobby Lobby and Michaels called the Happy Planner

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