Planning Basics: How to Do Something You Don’t Want to Do

Even if you’re a pro planner and obsessed with productivity, there are still going to be times when you just… don’t want to do something. We’ve all been there. After many years, and lots of things I don’t want to do, here’s the biggest secret I’ve found that helps me personally get them done – plus some smaller tricks to help yourself cross those pesky items off your to-do list that you just can’t seem to get finished.

A spread from my bullet journal, with a habit tracker, thoughts header, and "this week" bookmark.
Continue reading “Planning Basics: How to Do Something You Don’t Want to Do”
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Cloth & Paper Monthly Pen & Stationery Box Review – July 2019

I’ve had my eye on Cloth & Paper for a number of months now, and in a fit of self-care treat-yourself stress, I decided to finally grab a subscription to their monthly boxes. Spoiler alert: I was NOT disappointed. Read on for a detailed review of the box!

Cloth & Paper is an American, woman-owned (yeah!!) stationery company that produces their own luxe and minimal planner accessories and paper goods, as well as sources pens and other writing instruments from Asia and beyond.

Cloth & Paper might seem like an unusual brand to gravitate to for a bullet-journaller like me: most of the folks on Instagram I see using their products are in the planner world, using leather covers with discbound paper printables/dated packs – which is definitely a big part of the C&P shop!

However, the thing I find most unique is the C&P aesthetic. There really aren’t any other companies out there doing something like it: minimal, luxe, professional, something you could take to work, versus a rainbow of cuteness. Now, don’t get me wrong: I LOVE a good rainbow of cuteness (has anyone else discovered Rainbowholic and her amazing YouTube channel!? I am obsessed) but alas, I can’t take (too much) kawaii to work, especially as I keep rising up in my field. So I was super excited to discover this brand and even more excited to discover the subscription box. I’ve always wanted to try a stationery subscription box, but they definitely tend to the cute side.

In Japan, there are lots of “adult” work-friendly stationery items, but what you find in the US commercially is more on the basic agenda/Office Depot side of things, or perhaps the very glam, hyper-illustrated, very crafty, or teacher-y Erin Condren type style. All of those options are great in their own way, but just not my style. Cloth & Paper fills the minimal, mature, business-but-still feminine aesthetic void, with a very specific focus on planners and organization. Russell + Hazel is probably the closest brand to C&P I can think of, but as much as I love Russell + Hazel, they’re not as in tune with the planner community as Ashley, C&P’s founder, clearly is – you can tell from following them on Instagram that Ashley has the MOST fun posting previews and new products. She’s a true stationery nerd!

Okay, enough preamble: on to the review!

Penspiration Box

C&P has three subscription box options: penspiration, stationery, and pen + stationery, which includes both, and is the one I went for, in order to do a thorough review of this planner box from a bullet journaller’s perspective.

It was super fun to unbox this little envelope full of unique pens! I love the envelope, which reads “there is luxury in simplicity” (yesss) and you can use as an everyday carry; the giant gold paperclip (which is actually a pen holder!) is a great extra touch. I also adore the pen test card because you can try out your new goodies right away without having to dig out a notebook.

All of these pens are 0.5 gel pens. Although I usually like very thin pens, the black pen on the far right in the photo below is my favorite. This pen is tested on the the first line on the “pen test” card. It’s weighty and feels amazing in the hand. I also like the mint pen, which looks lovely and writes super smoothly. The blue pen’s my third favorite, and the multi-pen is nice though pretty standard. The penspiration box also comes with two refills, and it was unclear to me which pens they were supposed to match with.

I do wish they had printed a card with the box to describe the different pens! You can find all the information on their blog on their website (the pens for August are listed here if you’re curious) but it’d be nice to have it with the pens themselves in the box, too.

I’ll be honest: the pens weren’t my most favorite, BUT to be fair that’s because I’m a super-thin pen person, and although it was fun to test all these beauties out, I probably won’t use them regularly, because I prefer a 0.3 or 0.4 pen. The pens themselves are great quality, though, and definitely unique! If you love pens and aren’t quite as picky as me, you will LOVE this box.

Stationery Box

To me, this is the real star of the show. For this box, you note which type of insert you use (there are tons, from Travelers’ Notebook to A6 to Personal and more). I chose the “I don’t own a ring or discbound planner” option and got the same items in the box in an A5 size, unpunched, which was exactly what I was hoping for. Here’s every single little thing in the stationery box!

A big trend in the planner (vs. bullet journal) community are decoration cards. You can collage them onto your pages or tuck them in the many pockets of a leather planner cover. I’ll probably use the August card in my bullet journal, as well as the out of office one for an upcoming vacation, but the others are a bit girly (“lipstick, Louis, and lashes”) for me personally. Still, the aesthetics and fonts are great!

Oh my lord, how gorgeous is this!? This is a 2020 dated dashboard, used in a lot of ringbound planners to divide different sections within the binder. I’m definitely going to use this as a bookmark/writing board for the new year. I love the matte frosted semi-transparent design.

These are undated daily inserts (and they give you a generous amount too!). The paper quality is lovely and smooth. I’ll definitely tape these into my bullet journal for busy times of the year!

Stickers! Gold-foiled “self care” stickers on matte black paper. These make me want to make monthly spreads again just to use these!

Dated inserts for the month of August! These I wish I could think of a better use for, but I do love the layout (what a great idea to have a monthly home for birthdays, dates, and habits). Then there are weekly layouts that are similar to these but are a newer design for 2020. They’re beautifully done.

Last were three (three! count ’em!) A5 notebooks that you can use as Travelers’ style inserts or solo notebooks. The covers are this gorgeous velvet-y matte and feel so nice – I have actually never felt anything like them! This one has a horizontal weekly layout.

This one has lined (task list) interior pages.

Finally, this one is dot grid.

You can see the inside of these notebooks on my IGTV.

Final Thoughts

While I’m definitely still firmly a bullet journaler, I love the idea of using the C&P items as a collage in my bullet journal, using the undated dailies for particularly busy days, and as inspiration for my own spreads.

If like me you’re more on the minimal side of stationery obsession, I highly recommend the Cloth & Paper subscription box. I’ll admit that it’s a bit pricey as far as subscription boxes go, but for the quantity of stationery you get and the quality of the design, I definitely think the price is worth it. This is an extraordinarily high quality box with original designs you can’t get anywhere else, and I really loved unboxing it.

By the way, I like this box so much I actually already renewed! Let me know if you like these in-depth posts, and I’d be happy to post the August box, too.

TL;DR / Cloth & Paper Pen & Stationery Subscription Box (July 2019)
Cost per month: $18 pen box | $38 stationery box | $48 pen + stationery box
(prices lower if you buy multiple months in advance)

ProsCons
• Truly luxe and unique paper goods in a gorgeous minimal aesthetic• Pens come in 0.5 sizes, so if you prefer a thinner pen like me, you may want to opt for just the stationery box
• Design is phenomenal: I haven’t found anything like it anywhere else!• A bit pricey, but in my opinion worth the money: the quality is on point!
• Very high quality • Some of the deco cards are a little “girly”
• Support a woman-owned brand!

PS. This post is not sponsored at all. I bought the box with my own money, just renewed my subscription, and am thrilled to support this brand!

Japan Stationery Haul 2019

In April, I went to Japan! It was the trip of a lifetime, and I’m definitely going to find a way to get back, no matter what. I think it might be one of my most favorite cities in the world: the efficiency, the kindness, the beauty, and of course, the stationery!

If you follow me on Instagram (if not, come join me!) you may have already seen what I picked up in my Stories, but I wanted to make sure I had my little – well, not so little – haul documented here on my blog, too.

So here’s a no-frills, primarily photos haul! I got these items at Itoya, LOFT, and the Nezu Museum gift shop. I’ll try to link to items where I can find them on US sites.

Have you ever shopped in Japan? I would LOVE to know where you went and what you got!

Review: Baron Fig Grow Daily Journal

I’ve had my eye on Baron Fig for a long time. After learning about their products from Jenny’s blog, The Finer Point (one of my favorite stationery writers!), I was really intrigued and wanted to try out their products, but the price point was just high enough that I never could bring myself to place an order. Silly, I know, especially as their quality seems to be top-notch, their witty illustrations are adorable, and the way they write about their products on the website are full of passion and definitely speak my language (“tools for thinkers”! they use customer feedback to iterate products!).

So I was thrilled to see an email announcing their first in-person pop-up store in New York City in late April! Sometimes it’s really tough to justify living here (so expensive, no space, so many people, the smells) but when things like this happen, New York is pure magic. I snuck out of work early to catch the tail end of their first day at the pop-up and, of course, picked up a few products to try.

I bought both the Clear Habit Journal and the Grow Daily Journal, the subject of this review. I’ve tested it out for about a month now so I can definitely give a pretty honest take on using this journal. Let’s walk through it together!

First, the cover. This sturdy linen-style fabric cover is a signature of Baron Fig’s notebook line, and I love the grey color with the yellow accent. The embossed icons are subtle and classy. I love picking up this journal in the morning to write in it because it’s just so lovely to look at and hold. The clothbound cover is very similar to Archer & Olive notebooks.

Inside, the book is divided into three sections: a Quick Start Guide, the bulk of the journal pages, and an in-depth How to Use section at the end with tons of advice and ideas on how to start a daily journal practice.

The idea is to create a journaling practice through this book, by writing just one page a day. They make it super easy for you – eight prompts (with more explanation, quotes, and specific ideas to respond to in the back), metadata, space to write, and that’s it! There’s also some research listed in the back about the benefits of daily/regular journaling.

I’m a stickler for details and good design, and I knew before even putting pen to paper in this journal that the thoughtfulness of this product is out of this world. Each page is like a dashboard, with icons you can circle or highlight to show which prompt you chose, a title area, and metadata at the bottom.

The metadata sections includes date, time, location, mood, and weather. The lines and text are printed in a medium gray, which makes your writing stand out beautifully against the cream colored paper.

The paper is slightly toothy: not nearly as smooth as the Maruman Mnemnosyne notebooks, but nothing that would make your fine-tip gel pen scratchy. The pens move comfortably across the paper, not a glide exactly, but definitely allow the thoughts to keep flowing.

The paper might be hit or miss for you for that reason, though I do really enjoy it, and much more than I expected given that I usually go for a smoother texture. I found one pen I love journaling with and kept using that one in this book, so apologies I don’t have more pen tests here, though I do know they are fountain pen friendly.

As I wrote in the journal entry in the photo, I used to really hate journaling before I started morning pages (whose 3 pages often felt really challenging at the beginning). I’ve grown to love morning pages and this daily journal for different reasons, but I think if I had started with this journal instead, I might have drunk the journaling koolaid a lot sooner!

Like all of Baron Fig’s “standard” size notebook, this is close to an A5, but not quite there. It’s a little smaller, and feels nice to hold in the hands – not too heavy, but not light, either. The pages do lay flat as you write, which is also great. I’ve used the journal or a little over a month now. These photos were taken earlier in the month, but the cover, pages, and ribbon all look brand new still. That said, I’ve used it mainly at home and not traveling around, so your mileage may vary, but everything still seems very sturdy and crisp to me!

I think there are only a few cons to the notebook, and none of them are insurmountable, moreso things to think about before you buy to make sure this is the right fit for you.

I think the biggest con for me personally is that each entry is only a page. Perhaps it’s because I started out doing morning pages, or because I’m a naturally verbose person, but I really want a two page entry spread! I know, I know, I could absolutely use this design as is and just go onto the next page, but something about that gorgeous design makes it hard for me not to follow its well-thought-out instructions. If you’re not as long-winded as I am, or you’re just starting your journaling practice, you shouldn’t find this an issue. Clearly, I just need to go rogue in the book, OR use the entries as a low-pressure exercise in being more concise! (Easier said than done if you’ve read any blog post on this site!)

Addressing the price, at first glance, the journal might seem expensive at $24, but for what you get – a guided journaling practice, beautiful design, and great quality materials – I don’t think that’s a steep price to pay. After all, a dot grid journal with no bells and whistles can cost between $20-25 – and this has a lot of great extras!

If you don’t need the extras in your journaling practice, this might not be the particular notebook for you – the guides and icons might annoy you, for example, if you like a freer journaling experience – but if you’re a beginner starting your practice, or you’re giving this as a gift, it’s a great choice. It comes packed in a lovely box that you can use to store the book in, or pens and other office supplies. If you want to try a Baron Fig product that’s less “guided”, this size, cover, and similar minimal design can be found in the Confidant notebook, their star product.

Materials wise, a few things to note. As I said earlier, there is an ever-so-slightly toothy paper texture that isn’t a pro or a con, but merely to taste! In addition, there was a faint amount of ghosting, as you can see in the photo above. It’s not major (nothing like Leuchtturms, for example), but it is there, so if that’s important to you, take note. I didn’t mind at all: it makes this polished journal feel a bit more “in use” and loved.

TL;DR / Baron Fig Grow Daily Journal

ProsCons
• Seriously beautiful, minimal design• Paper texture might not be to everyone’s taste
• Friendly, accessible prompts to help you learn to journal every day• 1-page limit to each entry, based on design (you might find this a “pro”!)
• Quality is extremely high
• Well-researched, concise background information on the science of reflection and journaling

To finish up, I have to share that one of the coolest things about the pop up was that as I was checking out, the staffer let me know that she wrote the content for this book. How cool is that!? She also (in true Baron Fig fashion) invited me to email them what I thought of the products, which I thought was great too — exciting to see that they really live their values as a company.

In short, this is a wonderful journal and a great gateway into starting or growing your journaling practice. And even if you aren’t at the beginning, but maybe just need some new inspiration, structure, or want to try to be more concise like me, I absolutely recommend this journal. By the way, now I REALLY regret not getting one of their pens – although, considering I had just carried my weight in stationery and writing utensils back from my Japan trip a few days before, it was probably the prudent choice to hold myself back!

Would you be interested in more reviews on Baron Fig products? If so, which ones? Let me know below!

Inspiration: Japanese Planning Instagram Accounts

If, like me, you’re super inspired by how much planners are a part of Japanese culture, this is the post for you. A while ago, I managed to get myself and my limited amount of college Japanese down a rabbit hole into the amazing world of Japanese planning accounts. There, you’ll find an amazing mix of business use, personal/minimal accounts, and gorgeously illustrated or sticker-collaged spreads. Not to mention the stationery products. Oh goodness gracious, the stationery products.

If you’d like to see some inspiration and follow some of my favorite Japanese planner accounts, read on!

Also, quick note: Japanese planner accounts include A LOT of text in their captions (yet another reason I’d like to learn Japanese: participate in this extensive discourse around planning techniques!). The way the images are embedded in this post mean it’s a long one; so don’t be deterred – settle in for some planning goodness!

INDIVIDUALS

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︙FLEX NOTE︙  FLEX NOTEやっと埋められました 使い方としてはずっと滞ってた持ち運び用スケジュールとタスク  トラベラーズノート ↓ マイクロ5にしようか悩む ⇡⇡⇡ ここで止まっていて たまに持ち運び用のノートに書いたりはしていたものの ほぼ保留のままでした  トラベラーズノートはただいまお休み中 マイクロ5は自分だけのメモ帳として使う事に決めたので FLEX NOTEをスケジュール管理に☺︎   ウィークリーのリフィルにはタスクやスケジュールを  方眼のリフィルにはそのタスクの結果や そこから新たに出たやるべきタスク、気づいた事や決めた事など   ……………………………………………………………………………………………  使ってみて思ったのは方眼がとても良いということ この大きめのマスが絶妙で 自動的に行間が空くのですっきり見える!!   マイルドライナーなどの裏写りを懸念して片面を選んだけど スタンプは裏写りしたけどマイルドライナーは全然セーフ 濃い色のものでも大丈夫でした 書き心地も良くて裏写りも無し…紙質的にも良かったです(*´∀`)   そして今出ている限定色… 限定色ということでスルー出来ず グレー予約してしまいました\(^o^)/(笑) 気分でカバーの色変えられるし良いかなと←   もっといろいろリフィルの種類が出てくれると良いなぁ   #バレットジャーナル #バレットジャーナル初心者 #bulletjournal #bulletjournaling #minimalbulletjournal #minimalbujo #bujolife #手帳 #手帳時間 #手帳初心者 #手帳の中身 #bulletjournallove #bujo #手帳ゆる友 #手帳好きさんと繋がりたい #ノート #note #notebook #ノート好き #文房具 #文房具好き #無印良品 #マステ #mt #マイルドライナー #flexnote #hightide #penco

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↑ I think @note0105 is probably my most favorite Japanese planning Instagrammer, from the gorgeously minimal style they use in their spreads to the perfectly coordinated neutral dark tones in their stationery set-up. Swoon.

↑ @aoi_3103.86 and their lovely Jibun Techo planner make my heart and eyes happy. So minimal! Yet so color coded! I’d love to know all the various things they’re tracking in the top and bottom portion of this spread.

↑ @penri23 makes the most adorable, tiny illustrated journal reflections in their Hobonichi. Such an inspiration for any sort of artistic planner! (Also: they are clearly a tiny handwriting pro.)

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☘︎  Week 22. June is coming this week, so I used more washi tapes than usual😊  ❤︎❤︎❤︎ Calendar Washi Tapes are available in my Etsy shop! Link in bio 👉 @bujo_nao ❤︎❤︎❤︎   今週のウィークリーページ。 今週は月替わりの週なので、6月のテーマカラーの水色も登場。 いつもより多めのマステを使いました😊   最近耳につく、次女(2歳10ヶ月)の日本語⬇︎  「こぼれした(=こぼした)」  きっと「こぼれた」と「こぼした」が混ざってるんだろうけど🙄  日本語の活用って難しいねー。ガンバレ次女💪                     28/05/19 #bulletjournaling #bulletjournaljunkie #bulletjournaladdicts #bulletjournals #bujojunkie #bujobeauty #bujoaddicts #bujoideas #thejournalcuration #bulletjournalss #bujogram #bujo2019 #showmeyourplanner #scribblesthatmatter  #バレットジャーナル #バレットジャーナル初心者 #手帳タイム #手帳生活 #手帳ゆる友 #手帳好きさんと繋がりたい #手帳好朋友 #手帳術 #手帳の中身 #手帳分享 #手帳控 #時間管理 #手帳時間 #手帳2019 #じぶん時間 #手帳 

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↑ @bujo_nao writes in both English and Japanese, and lives in France. (Her account definitely introduced me to a ton of Japanese planner hashtags!) Her colorful spreads are a cool mix between a Japanese aesthetic and the style you might see on an English-speaking account.

↑ @coco_hortensia has basically single-handedly inspired me to start drawing my own outfits every day. Such a sweet and clever idea. As someone who’s always loved fashion illustration, her account is an inspiration! (Also, do I need a Hobonichi weeks now? … Answer: NO! But…also, maybe, right?)

BRANDS

↑ I wish I’d been able to get to Cute Things From Japan when I was in Tokyo! Still, their online shop is where I’ll be heading the first time I need a stationery fix after my trip. They stock a ton of great Japan-only items and seem like the sweetest people.

↑ Although there are lots of Japanese stationery brands whose accounts you can follow (like Zebra or Pilot pens for example), my favorite are ones who show you how to use their products. For that, I think there’s no account better than Nolty. Every post is a demo of their products in use, and they even show you “what’s coming up” on their Instagram page – handwritten in one of their planners!

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こんにちは☀️明日から3日間、大阪で初めての文具女子博が開催されます(。>∀<。)👏🌸東京にはなかなか行きづらい関西の方は是非お越しください❤️今回の文具女子博では、手作り手帳マイジャーナルをメインにブース作りをしています❤️より多くの人にマイジャーナルを知ってもらいたい‼️その思いを胸に日々新しい商品を考えています✨  バレットジャーナルはやってみると本当に効率的で便利‼️アメリカ発祥の手帳術ではありますが、日本人がより使いやすく、簡単に手作り手帳が作れるようマイジャーナルは色んなアレンジをして変化させています☘  今日の写真は使い方提案になります(๑′ᴗ‵๑)❤️ 参考にして是非自分に合った手帳を作ってみてください✨マイジャーナルはマスキングシールを組み合わせて貼っていくだけ‼️イラストを描くのが苦手な方でも可愛く素敵なバレットジャーナルが作れます❤️  写真に使用した、マイジャーナルマスキングシール、マスキングラインテープ、フリーダイアリーマスキングテープなどすべてパインブックの商品になります✨文具女子博ではまとめて商品を選べますよ😉✨ 前売りチケットは完売になってます。 今回のイベントは前売り券のみで、当日券もないようですので、チケットを購入できた方のみのご来場となります、よろしくおねがいします🤲✨  文具女子博 petit大阪  開催日 2019年4月12日(金)~14日(日) 第1部 9:00入場開始 11:30まで (最終入場11:00) 第2部 12:00入場開始 14:30まで (最終入場14:00) 第3部 15:00入場開始 17:30まで (最終入場17:00) ※各回定員入替制  会場 カンテレ扇町スクエア イベントスペース 大阪市北区扇町2-1-7 カンテレ扇町スクエア 1F  アクセス 地下鉄堺筋線「扇町」駅より地下連絡路で直結 JR環状線「天満」駅より徒歩1分 JR「大阪」駅/阪急・阪神「梅田」駅より徒歩約15分  詳しくは文具女子博公式アカウントまで→ @bungujoshi   #myjournal #マイジャーナル #bulletjournal #bujo  #バレットジャーナル  #バレットジャーナル初心者 #ジャーナル #pinebook #パインブック #マスキングシール #マスキングテープ #フリーダイアリーマスキングテープ #文具女子博 #文具女子博petit大阪 #文具好きと繋がりたい  #文具女子 #手作り手帳 #stationery #madeinjapan  大阪のスタッフが今、一生懸命搬入しています💪✨ステキなブースになってると思います✨お楽しみに(๑′ᴗ‵๑)❤️ 

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↑ Pinebook Stationery is combining a Japanese planning aesthetic with bullet journaling, so I love following their account to see what they’re coming up with. They make washi tapes that you can use to create your bullet journal spreads – you can find them in the US at JetPens.

↑ ZenPop is just for fun. They’re a Japanese subscription box out of Osaka and they have ramen, sweets, and stationery boxes. How fun does that sound?! I haven’t subscribed myself yet (waiting for an excuse to treat myself!) but I love the way they mix up their product offerings with slice-of-life from Japan, explaining customs, holidays, and vocabulary. Learning made fun through stationery and treats!

HAULS & FLATLAYS

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Happy mail from @smidapaperikigaishop 🥰💗

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↑ Momo Loves Paper is one of my favorite accounts! She writes in English and lives in Japan, and showcases tons of new products all the time. Her stories are also wonderful, always showing beautiful detail shots.

↑ @dosukoi.k is one of my favorite flatlay/haul accounts, always showing products in a lovely muted aesthetic! The colors are beautiful.

↑ @_sha.la.lan.koharu_ always makes me want to go shopping. They choose such great minimal products to feature, and lay them out in the most wonderful things-organized-neatly way.

↑ @__mukuri__’s account is just as much planner inspiration as flatlay! Their monochromatic feed is so lovely.

ROOMS & STORAGE

↑ How can I make my desk setup look like @roxe754? Someone teach me.

↑ @m.o__study has the most coordinated desk I’ve ever seen! Their feed is also a study account, so if you like both lovely desks and study inspo, this is the person to follow.

MISCELLANEOUS

↑ If you like calligraphy of any kind, Hoshino Youryu’s account is going to make you so happy. Japanese kanji calligraphy is so beautiful to see, and Hoshino’s real-time videos are a prime example of why they’re also beautiful to watch being made, too. This would be a great account to follow if you’re learning Japanese, too!

↑ Finally, if you’ve liked the zentangles you’ve seen on my feed recently, you defnitely want to give Izumi Sato a follow. Zentangles are repeating patterns you can draw in squares or other shapes, and they are so fun and calming to draw. Izumi literally wrote the book!! Plus there are a lot of free challenges and tutorials in her feed.


I love how planning is one of those topics that can transcend language – even though I don’t speak Japanese, I’ve found so much inspiration in these accounts. Do you have any favorite planning or stationery accounts you follow whose primary language you don’t speak? Share them with me!

Review: Hightide Diary Planner (NZ-Vertical Type, A5)

I am SO excited to sit down and share this detailed overview and review of a Hightide Diary planner! It is very difficult to find these planners in the US, let alone find anything written on them in detail in English, so I am both very happy to have my hands on one of these as well as to share lots of images and thoughts with you. This is long overdue since I got this in December (!) – but I tested this planner from January through March and really got to know it, so this will be an in-depth review rather than a “look at this layout!” kind of post.

In this post, you’ll find an introduction to Hightide, an overview of each part of the planner, an explanation of how I use it, a review, and finally where you can buy it if you’re interested (I know these are hard to find!). So grab some coffee, settle in, and let’s get going!

PLANNER INTRODUCTION

Hightide is a Japanese company that makes lifestyle products, with a number of different brands under its umbrella. You might be familiar with their more popular brands like Nahe (known for pouches and cubes, some of which are occasionally sold in places like Madewell in the States) or Penco (which makes retro cube storage, massive binder clips, and other plastic-forward office supplies).

The Hightide Diary brand is their planner arm. Like many Japanese stationery companies, Hightide Diary creates planners in several different layout types, and then sells the same book with different covers (you can then also get refills). Since they come in standard European sizes like A5, you can also insert them into any cover of that size by any company.

This specific diary/planner is the NZ Type, A5 size, with a PVC cover that from afar looks a little like leatherette. You can find this specific planner on their Japanese website here.

They make tons of different cover styles and colors, from classy/business-friendly like the one I got, to cute floral pattern designs. Since I’m a planner junkie, I already have a few A5 covers and didn’t particularly want one like this, but they didn’t have the one I liked the most (if you’re curious, that’d be a branded Nahe style with a clear cover over a kind of felty soft paper cover). So I just got this one and later “reskinned” it myself using old covers I had.

PLANNER OVERVIEW

This planner has a lot of bells and whistles that I love. Let’s take a look at an overview of this planner, before use.

2019/20 Overview
A standard spread in most planners, but one laid out in a pleasing, squished minimal format. (Look at that font! Condensed gothics are my jam.)

Habit or Project Tracker
Definitely unique to Japanese planners, these project (or habit) trackers are such a smart way to lay out your progress. Going horizontally, you can track specific projects (or pieces of projects), habits, or use the relatively generous-sized boxes to make notes on your progress (such as miles ran, hours slept, etc.). You could even use this to track weather! Be still my heart.

Year-at-a-Glance
Again, standard in many Japanese planners and not so much in America, this year-at-a-glance vertical allows you to make notes of holidays, birthdays, and other important dates.

Monthly Spreads
The monthly spreads carry the same beautiful minimal design, and they’re the first in the tabbed sections of the planner. The holidays are, of course, only in Japanese and such days are in a deep red color, just visible in these photos. I just noticed the moon phases are also indicated here – a nice touch.

Weekly Spreads
The weekly spreads are always what sell me on planners, and Hightide’s are some of the best. Because of the slim font, they’ve fitted a ton onto these spreads (which I now want on all of my bullet journal spreads, but gosh darnit if even my tiny handwriting can’t totally fit all these neat additions…). These details include: three daily checkboxes, calendars for the current and following months, a full 24-hour time schedule, and gridded notes area below.

Also, note that everything is printed in GREY – not dark black. Does it bother anyone else when planners print guidelines, text, etc. in clunky black? Drives me crazy – I want my handwriting, appointments, and tasks to stand out, not the design of the planner!

The other thing I love about this planner that you can see in this shot are the tabs for each of the months. They even came with clear stickers to reinforce the first tab in each page block, so it stays in good shape throughout the year.

PLANNER IN ACTION

I used this planner from January through March. It took me a minute to figure out how best to use this planner, so I’ll show you an overview as well as some detail shots of how I made this work for me.

In the space below each day, I included the weather and any special holidays, birthdays, or notes. The top checkboxes were for any personal to-do’s. The scheduling area was, of course, taken up by schedule, and the bottom area for daily work-related to-do’s. A teeny habit tracker using stencils from Ink by Jeng rounds out the left side of the spread.

Since I don’t work on weekends, that task area became a gratitude log for the week instead. A gold open binder clip was needed to hold the pages open – this planner isn’t really a lay-flat type.

I spent a few practice weeks in the month of December (the start month of this planner) and struggled enormously to figure out how to use this planner. Although I use a weekly view in my bullet journal, the task layout that works for me is a running list for the whole week rather than a daily to-do list – and before you say it, yes, I know I can barely call myself a bullet journaller at this point!

In any case, what did it for me was an impulse buy from JetPens of the Hi-Tec-C multi-pens. My hope was that a semi-chic looking multi-pen would allow me some color coding which would help me click into using this planner more. It TOTALLY changed the game and made this planner a joy to use. I think I missed my color accents in my bullet journal more than I realized, so using this was such a great way to add that in.

Here’s the key I made and taped to the inside of my planner.

Now for detail shots! I used a grey gel pen to note the weather and any holidays or special notes for the day. The checklists at the top were personal items. Since the week was on one spread, I didn’t “migrate” to the next day. (Again, am I even a bullet journaller? Oof. Existential planning crisis ahoy.)

One thing that was tough to fit in was my tracker. I had to vertically align it, heavily shorthand what I was tracking, and squish it in there! It works visually, though, I think, and if I didn’t have it on a weekly spread I know I’d never be motivated to keep up with my habits and fill it out.

Here’s a closeup of the task section. I usually use circles to check off (and cross out – does anyone else do both, or just me?), but there was no space here, so I went with bullets and crossed off. Again, like the above, I didn’t migrate but instead (since they were all in the same view), just added new tasks to each day. It was kind of cool to see which tasks were added which day, which isn’t a way I’d ever have thought of tracking to-do’s.

Also, you’ll see I actually drew in ruled lines each week with a pale grey Tombow Dual Brush Pen. The grid is just SO SMALL – perfect for kanji, but I needed a bit more guidance to write on a straight line, so I added one in!

Here’s the monthly view filled in too. I used washi tape to note days off (hey rollover vacation days! miss you), and color coded various work commitments or personal/fun things.

Closeup of the monthly spread. Alas, I never use these spreads, even in my bullet journal, and this was the only spread I really filled out when I was in this planner.

PLANNER REVIEW

There are things I LOVE about this planner, and they almost outweigh the cons. Its design is top-notch, for me at least – minimal, professional, every detail beautifully thought out. The tabs are gorgeous, the font size is small and compact, and the ink color is visible but fade into the background so your tasks stand out. Plus, the spreads are super unique, especially the tracker one. Those are the kinds of spreads that it’s hard to re-create in a bullet journal (believe me, I’ve tried!) so having it here and ready to go is amazing.

Onto the cons. As beautiful as this planner is, like all dated planners, it’s somewhat restricting, especially if you’ve been used to a bullet journal (like I have!). First, it’s got dates, so of course, you’re pinned to those times as far as using it. (And I’ve yet to find a way to reuse past-date dated planners that I like…anyone out there have ideas?)

Also, because there’s an existing layout, you may find it hard to personalize like I did. I’m much more on the minimal/functional side of the planner community, so if your aesthetic is beautifully building up a Hobonichi with doodles and washi and journaling (I’m super jealous if that’s you!), you may find planners like these totally unintimidating to decorate and personalize. For me, somehow I need the blank sheets of a bullet journal to even feel comfortable dipping my toes in a decorating pool, so I definitely remained very minimal here and mainly used simple color coding as my decorating comfort zone.

In addition, the beautiful design also makes it so that you do need to do things in a certain way in this planner. For example, you’ll need to use relatively small handwriting to fit it all in. Since Japanese as a written language has a smaller “footprint” and can also be written vertically, most Japanese planners (obviously, and of course!) are made in a format that works well for that. That didn’t bother me much since my handwriting is pretty small, but if you have large writing, this would not be a great planner for you. The thing I found trickiest for me was the thin columns for each day, which necessitated me trying daily-ish tasks – I ended up liking using daily tasks in the end, but still found I needed a bit more room. So it was fun to try something new but be aware that if you’re trying a Japanese planner and writing in English, there are a few things you’ll need to test and try out to make the layouts work for you.

And of course the big con is that this planner is hard to find in outside of Japan. For me that made this planner feel really special, but I think when I was posting it on my Instagram, that was understandably frustrating to a lot of you who wanted to get it for yourself. I have a section below on where you can buy this planner, if you’re interested.

So, to review: If you like minimal, gorgeously designed, high-quality, thoughtful planners, try to get your hands on this thing, and you will not be disappointed. It is super professional, incredibly efficient, and just an all-around lovely thing to hold in your hands. That said, if you’re more on the creative journaling side, you may want to stick with a bullet journal – unless you know you feel cool with personalizing the heck out of dated/printed planners. If so, you could have a field day with this one!

WHERE TO BUY

I just went to Japan, and I expected these planners to be everywhere. In fact, I actually found Hightide planners a little difficult to find (and I went to a LOT of stationery stores!). Places like Itoya and LOFT, both in Tokyo, did have a selection of some of their products but it was far from the full range, and I didn’t see this specific planner at all. I suspect they might have had a dedicated store elsewhere I didn’t realize existed (like the Stalogy store I didn’t know about until after I got back home…sigh).

Anyway, if you’re from the States like me, it is very tough to find these planners. BUT! I’m here to help! Here are the locations I’ve seen them:

  • Last year, Hightide opened an American outpost in Downtown LA’s The Row. I got this planner there on a holiday trip to Los Angeles. For a lot more detail about Hightide’s LA store and what I got there, go here! You could try calling them to see if they could ship you a planner. Calling them is what I’d suggest as your best bet to get one of these planners!
  • I have found Hightide planners at Kinokuniya’s Main Store in Bryant Park in New York City, but only in the new year when they stock planners (of many different Japanese brands!). It’s not the whole catalogue, but this is where I fell in love with this planner in the first place.
  • They have really old dated versions on English Amazon, so avoid that. But Japanese Amazon or Rakuten is probably your best bet if you can’t swing the above, however, note that you’ll need to find a shipper who will ship to the US or use a third party shipping site.

CONCLUSION

Ultimately, I stopped using this planner for two reasons – one of which I’m kind of ashamed of, to be honest! First, it was restrictive. I missed the creativity I used when working on my bullet journal, and I actually found when I went back to it after using this planner, I was being more creative than usual. Heck, I started doing calligraphy and drawing on my spreads sometimes, even! I was also inspired to think about how I could translate some of the things I loved about this planner, especially its unique spreads, to my bullet journal. So even though I found it wasn’t ultimately the right fit I’m glad I used it.

The other reason I stopped using this planner: I did not get a huge amount of engagement on Instagram when I was posting photos of it. I know – I know – that is NOT the point of the planner community, I should not care about numbers – believe me, I know! That’s actually why I stuck with it for months, anyway. But in the end, it was disheartening to see such huge dropoff, not only in numbers but in comments and conversations. Since no one could find/buy this planner, I think it was hard to feel like what I was creating and sharing were things we could all try and mess around with and learn from, and therefore just wasn’t as interesting. In addition to missing my main creative outlet, I missed the folks I’d gotten so used to sharing with and talking to. There’s something to trying something new and being creative within spreads that invites more conversation and connection.

I know I tend to make small incremental changes from week-to-week in my spreads and focus on little accents that can be adjusted, which isn’t the norm for a lot of bullet journal accounts, but even in my own minimal way, in my bullet journal I know there’s room for me to experiment and play and be more free in a way that I really missed being in a traditional planner. Even though I use only a little bit of the original bullet journal system now, I’m really grateful for the ethos of the system in teaching me be looser and more forgiving to myself – not just when planning, but in general. And I love that if I wanted to give it a shot, I COULD post a themed or watercolored spread, and we could talk about it!

So overall, I do still truly love this planner. I think if I hadn’t found the bullet journal community through my Instagram account, I actually might not have switched out of it. But I’m grateful for the inspiration this planner gave me to try new spreads, and how its restrictions made me realize I really do love the creativity of a bullet journal.

Hope you enjoyed this super-in-depth review! What do you think of this planner? Have you ever gone back to planning after bullet journaling for a long time, and what did you think? I’d love to hear your experiences!

One Month of Morning Pages

At the beginning of the year, I decided to try a new habit: morning pages. I’d read a lot on the internet about the benefits of this practice, and wanted to give it a shot. Read on for my take on how morning pages are working for me.

Some background on morning pages: it seems like everyone has already written a blog post on what they are, and if you found your way here, you’ve probably already researched the concept a bit and are looking for some ways people have made it work for them. If you’re still confused, check out this article or this one for some more details.

I was most attracted to the idea of clearing my mind. Right now, I don’t have a specific goal to be more creative or generate ideas; rather, I want to stop complaining out loud so much, be a little more “in my head” than external processing, and allow for more quiet time at home. I thought perhaps morning pages would be a great way to help train my brain to do this more.

I’ve been doing morning pages for about a month now. It took me a few weeks to actually sit down and do it. When I finally did, the first week, I was ALL ABOUT IT. I am pretty good with sticking with habits (check out my series on the Four Tendencies and habit tracking to learn more about that!) so although part of it was certainly that it felt good to stick with it – especially since I’ve never been at all interested in keeping a diary or journaling – there was also something else. I was almost on a high from writing every day! I didn’t worry about what I was writing; I let myself be judge-y or complain-y or petty; I did my best to fill up the pages.

The next few weeks weren’t as good, though. I found myself a little underwhelmed, mainly recounting what I was doing that day or being really negative about something. I didn’t feel like it was cathartic beyond having the nice moment of waking up and having quiet moments sipping coffee.

That helped me realize that I have really enjoyed the habit part of it: sitting down in the morning at my tiny New York City-sized dining room table (which I don’t really use otherwise), sipping hot coffee, and having a quiet ritual that isn’t related to a screen right when I wake up.

I wrote about this on my Instagram and a follower, @lalunechacha, mentioned that morning pages feel more like a problem-solving tool through writing. That clicked for me! It has been really useful to think through why I am feeling a certain way, but when I don’t need to do that, it hasn’t felt particularly beneficial. La Lune suggested meditating which I have been trying to get back into.

Next steps? Right now I am alternating between meditating (using Headspace app, which I am considering trying a monthly subscription for) and morning pages. If I feel excited about writing morning pages, I go for it. If I feel like my mind is really scattered I will meditate instead. If I am thinking about something I want to figure out or work through, I’ll write that morning to try to allow myself to go deeper into it.

Have you used morning pages? What did you think? How is it working for you?