Planner Review :: Erin Condren vs. The Day Designer
Despite recently transitioning to a mostly paperless household (no paperback books, no notebooks, all digital-files), there’s one paper product that I can’t let go of:
For years I tried to make one of the fancy digital planners/time-trackers work, but for whatever reason, my schedule is one area of my life that I need to write by hand in order to stick with it
This used to mean the Erin Condren Life Planner. Those of you longtime LL-followers out there know that I pimped the EC Life Planner hardcore for a couple years, and I know several of you bought it based on my recommendation.
Which is why I feel slightly awkward admitting …
In mid-2015, I had an affair with The Day Designer. At the time I wasn’t sure if it would be a brief fling or a lasting love affair, but my thought was I’d use the Day Designer for the latter half the year, and see which I liked better for 2016.
The Day Designer won.
That said, I am still a huge proponent of the Erin Condren Life Planner, and think it’s absolutely the right choice for some people—actually, I think it might even be the right choice for most people.
For those of you debating taking the plunge and buying a planner (note: neither of these brands are cheap, so we’re talking a bit of an investment), I’ve listed the three top pros/cons for both planners so you can make the right decision for you.
The Erin Condren Life Planner:
The EC Life Planner is monthly + weekly planner, meaning that it’s divided into a monthly view, as well as a weekly view. On the weekly view, Mon-Wed is on the left side of the book, with Thur-Sun on the right side (Saturday and Sunday “share” a space.) It has a customizable cover, and the dimensions are 7x9, making it just a bit smaller than a “regular” notebook.
Why It’s Great
When I ordered my first EC planner a couple years ago, I didn’t pay close attention to the size, and was expecting it to be 8 1/2 x 11. I was pleasantly surprised when it arrived and I realized it was a bit smaller. While this is by no means a “pocket planner,” it’s an easy size to throw in your purse. It has a nice sturdy, compact feel to it (especially if you buy one of the elastic bands to keep it closed)
Although EC does offer a “as is” planner that’s a bit cheaper and ships a bit faster, the hallmark of her brand is really the customizable covers. They release new designs for every holiday, offer a huge variety of colors, and even allow for you to upload your own picture/logo!
Now that EC’s gotten rid of her Morning/Afternoon/Night delineations (which I always covered with washi tape) and added multiple format options, it’s a wonderfully flexible format. I’ve seen people use it more as a journal, others use it as a daily-appointment tracker, author friends use it as a word-count tracker, blog-planner and so on. The “vertical” layout is her original, and my favorite, as it provides three “boxes” for each day, allowing you to compartmentalize your day in the way that works best for you. She has some new layouts now, although I'm not familiar with them.
Why it’s Not So Great
The downside of the EC Planner being so wonderfully portable is that it’s a bit small. Too small for me, as it turned out, and the main reason I decided to try something new. The weekly format of the planner (multiple days sharing one page) simply didn’t give me enough room to write everything I needed to write. I found I was having to make my writing smaller and smaller to capture book deadlines, blog deadlines, daily social media plan, appointments, revision obligations, to-do lists, word-count tracing, meals, exercise, interviews, etc. And that was just me not even having kids! If you’re the type of person that likes to write down everything, you might find the EC planner a bit tight.
Mediocre Customer Experience
Here’s one thing you should know about the EC Life Planner: it’s going to take a long-ass time to get your planner once it’s ordered. I suppose we should be patient given that each cover is customizable, but I can’t shake the sense that it’s simply not quite worth the wait of over a month. Maybe I’m just impatient and too accustomed to instant gratification, but I increasingly found myself frustrated by the long wait to get anything from them. I wish they'd take fewer orders, maybe put an “out of stock” message up on the site when they’re back-logged, rather than accepting more orders than they can handle in a timely manner and taking weeks to produce/deliver. I’ve also had ongoing battles with their ordering process, a long delay hearing back from customer service, and issues with their website being buggy.
Too … Colorful
Yes, this one is a personal preference, and yes this makes me sound a bit like Grinch/Scrooge/the devil, but the EC planners are too colorful for my tastes. I’m not saying Erin Condren should change this; she’s unabashed about bright color being a big part of her brand and I totally respect that. It’s just not right for me. I like to be in control of my own color schemes, and every month being another (bright) color just didn’t work for me, nor did the rainbow-colored fonts and quotes all over the place. Not only was this a style-preference, but it became a practicality issue. I had a hard time making the things I needed to stand out (deadlines, release dates) pop because even if I wrote it in bright red, it'd easily get lost amid all the other colors on the page. I’d heard rumors that she was working on a more monochromatic or neutral color scheme and held my breath for 2016, but it didn’t happen, and though it wasn’t my primary reason for ditching, it was a factor. I prefer a cleaner professional look.
The Day Designer
The absolute biggest difference you need to know between the Erin Condren Planner and the Day Designer is that while the EC version is a weekly planner (as described above), the Day Designer is a day planner, meaning that there’s one page for every day (except weekends, which have to share a page. More on that below). It was created by an entrepreneur, and if you’ve ever met an entrepreneur, you probably know that their days are jam-packed to the max. A weekly format with a little column for each day just isn’t going to cut it.
Why It’s Great
My main reason for defecting to The Day Designer was the daily layout I just mentioned. Simply put, I have more room to write all the things. Not only does every day have room for your hourly appointments (great for time-tracking!), but there’s also a spot for your daily to-do list, your meal planning, what’s due that day, your finances, your daily gratitude, a miscellaneous notes section, and so on. If you’ve ever found yourself writing on the margins of your current planner to fit everything in, the Day Designer might be exactly the right fit for you! You can actually download a free print-out of the Day Designer layout and try before you buy!
My favorite thing about the Day Designer is the “Today’s Top Three” section on every page. I can’t tell you how much much productivity and stress-levels have improved since shifting my focus to the idea of three top priorities every day. In the past I’d have a to-do list of about fifty times and get overwhelmed, ending up completing none of them, or only doing the easy ones. With the Top Three, I start every single morning with my coffee while I figure out the three most important things that need to happen that day. I make sure I've checked those off before doing anything else. This ensures that I go to sleep every night feeling accomplished, never feeling like I spent time on the wrong things.
The overall look of The Day Designer is a better fit for my brand. There are fewer cover options, but the choices are better suited to those preferring a subtle/professional look. My current cover is black and white with minimal gold accents. They also have a gold-and-white one that’s gorgeous. If EC’s brand is “fun,” the Day Designer’s brand is “classy.” The pages themselves are black and white, which I prefer as it uses me to use my own colors to make things stand out (deadlines in red font, etc). Colored text/schemes tended to get lost in the EC Planner, my important deadlines and release days overshadowed by EC's own high-color concept.
Why It’s Not So Great
Bulky as all heck
While my primary reason for switching to The Day Designer was the daily (as opposed to weekly) layout, there is a downside: there are a lot of pages in this planner, and as a result, the planner is thick. Similarly, the metal binding is great quality and feels sturdy, but it’s not slim. If you’re one of those people who spends much of your day running around on-the-go, you’ll either need a huge purse, or to leave The Day Designer at home.
The pages aren’t as thick as the EC planner, so if you like writing with markers or pens that bleed, you’ll run into some problems. I used to be more upset about this until I realized that the thinner pages is to prevent the planner from becoming even more heavy/bulky than it already is, and I adapted with my writing utensils, but if you’re used to the EC Planner, these pages will feel flimsy at first.
Saturdays and Sundays have to share a page. Now, this is one area where the EC Planner falls down too, but it bugs me especially with The Day Designer because it was supposedly created by a crazy-busy woman who needed more room to write All The Things. Tell me this: what woman do you know whose weekends are less busy than their weekdays? I don’t know a single one! For starters, this was planner was created for entrepreneurs, but entrepreneurs don’t always have a 5-day work week. A lot of times it’s a 7-day work week, or maybe a Wednesday-Sunday work week. The Mon-Friday focus feels wildly old-school for a planner supposedly built for the modern woman.
And even for the non-businessy types out there, your weekends are just as busy (if not more so) than your weekdays, right?! There’s kid stuff, laundry, date night, catch-up days, birthday parties … I need more than half a page! And yes, I do realize that adding individual pages for Saturday/Sunday would add to the bulk, but the thing’s already dictionary-size. I’d rather it be a slightly bigger dictionary that I can use on the weekends! (can you tell I feel passionately about this?)
These are both exceptional planners—I refuse to say one is better than the other, so I’ll simply say that you need to figure out which is better for you.
The Day Designer is the best option for me, but I don’t know that I’m typical, given my unusual disdain for bright colors, the fact that I release a rather unusual 6+ books every year, and the fact that I like to track my daily word count, hourly word count, hourly appointment, social media posts, deadlines, release dates, interviews, running-schedule, meal planning, daily weigh-in, etc.
But for those who are simply looking for an attractive, easy way to keep track of birthdays, carpool, hair appointments, soccer practice and dinner plans, the Erin Condren planner is likely a better fit. And like I said, EC has the very big benefit of being smaller, so if you’re a woman constantly on the go, it’s absolutely going to be the best option for you.
Ready to Buy?
The Day Designer
$59 for the Flagship Edition — I’ve never tried the mini, and know nothing about it). Note, this is a popular-limited time edition planner, so some of them are sold out! But don't freak. They usually release a mid-year edition as well.
The Erin Condren Life Planner
$50-$75, depending how fancy you want to get with your cover