New (School) Year, New Planner

new year new planner graphic


For a long time, I have been obsessed with my planner. As a forgetful person, it helps me to have a dedicated space for all the things I need to remember. Having to write things down gives everything a stronger sense of permanence that an app can’t match.
My obsession with planners meant that I needed to have the perfect planner.  I needed to have a planner that had structure but also left room for anything. I know there were countless styles and options available for sale but I found nothing I could picture myself using. And the planners I did sort of like were out of my budget. (If you’re not super into planners (yet), then you’d be surprised at how high prices can go.)
As a result of all this, I set out to make my own planner. In the summer of 2016, while everyone else my age was working or hanging out with friends, I sat in my apartment, dreaming of all the different formats my planner could possibly have. In a blank page of my current-at-the-time planner (a composition notebook) I wrote a list of elements I could incorporate
After picking a few that I wanted, I started making sketches of what the layout would look like. I created a series of small-scale versions before picking one and drawing it in its actual size. For a reason that I have now forgotten, I did the first full-size sketch in yellow marker. I guess I felt that yellow would make it less visible and thus less finalized, which meant that maybe I could completely scrap this ridiculous project? Anyways, I liked the layout so I moved on to the next step: figuring out what kind of color-coded system to use.

planner ideas

I gathered all my highlighters and colored pens and tested various combinations of colors. I wanted my planner to look good besides serving me well. I tried out systems of only highlighters, only pens, a mix of highlighters AND pens, etc.
After all this and more, I was ready to actually make the planner. I didn’t think this project through enough to make the template on a computer, print the pages, and then simply bind them together, so instead I used a composition notebook. I hand-drew every single page of my year-length planner using a black ink pen and a ruler (0/10 would not recommend). In my excitement for having the perfect planner, I somehow suppressed any negative emotions I might have felt in the hours it took me to complete such a repetitive task. But fear not! It was worth it in the end. I finally had my planner!

hand-drawn planner layout

I had decided on a two-page weekly spread where each day was split up by half-hour intervals. At the left, I created spaces to write down my goals for the week (“Goals”) and a space to jot down any notable things that happened (“Events”). At the bottom of both pages, I left a space for random notes; completely blank except for a small calendar-view in the bottom-right corner.

My planner was done. After countless hours of  monotonous drawing and writing the dates of an entire year, my planner was ready to use.

A Change of Plan(ner)s

If you go to NYU, then you’re probably familiar with Welcome Week. This is a week long “celebration” filled with events that are supposed to ease the depressing realization that summer is over and fill you with excitement for the coming semester. One of last year’s events was a 10,000 planner giveaway hosted by some people from Passion Planner. I had never heard of them nor had I seen their planners but as someone who carefully considers the free gifts that come with her Sephora purchases, who was I to turn down a free planner? All I had to do was show up to the giveaway’s location.

Well, a cyclist crashed into me while I was on my way there (he swerved to avoid hitting someone else; really a story for another time) but I eventually got my Passion Planner. It was a small book with a black faux-leather cover. It had a handy pocket in the back and little things like a ribbon to mark the current page and an elastic band to hold the book closed.

It was a really nice planner. I could tell that a lot of thought was put into it.

But what struck me the most was how familiar it seemed (that’s putting it mildly). In fact, the weekly setup of the Passion Planner was nearly identical to the one in my “perfect planner”, the one I had designed for myself based on my needs.

The Passion Planner had the same break-down of each day by half-hour increments. The “Goals” section was instead “This Week’s Focus”. “Events” was “Good Things That Happened”. My blank space at the bottom was the “Space of Infinite Possibility”. I had no words for how I felt at the time.

It was … convenient. I had spent all summer imagining and creating the perfect layout and here, some lady just handed me a nearly identical but admittedly prettier version.

There were various differences between my planner and the Passion Planner but in its core, it fulfilled all of the same requirements. Because of that, I chose to use the Passion Planner as a daily planner and my homemade one for other uses.

What I really liked about the Passion Planner are the “extras” that come with it. In addition to the weekly layout, there are also monthly reflection questions. I will admit that it got tiring answering the same set of questions every time but it was nice to take a few minutes to step back and think about how I spent the last month. Another aspect I really appreciated was the quote of the week. They were all fairly thought-provoking without being sappy, yet general enough to feel relevant, like a horoscope.

variety is the soul of pleasure

One of my favorite quotes from my new planner

One feature that I did not pay as much attention to was the Passion Roadmap. This is where you choose a goal and break it down into smaller steps that get distributed over the course of the year. I’m not sure if I chose too big and obscure of a life goal but I found it really hard to come up with definitive steps leading to the goal. It also felt extremely daunting to assign deadlines to each step. That being said, I do think this is a great tool, so in the future, I will probably pick a smaller (but still important) goal.

Speaking of the future, I could definitely see myself being a long-term Passion Planner user. I won’t go too in-depth about all the positive features (because believe it or not, this isn’t  a Passion Planner review) but there is so much I loved about this planner. In fact, I fully planned on purchasing a new Passion Planner for the next school year.

New Year, New Planner

Having used my first Passion Planner for the entire school year, I was definitely ready to start a new one. For this year’s planner, I’ve added some extras to make the Passion Planner experience even better.

Year in Pixels

Year In Pixels

I really like this feature because it forces me to take a second to think about how my day was.  I often find myself about to give my day a low rating but then I stop and think, “Was my day really that bad?” (No, it wasn’t.)

Places to Visit

This isn’t as pretty as my other pages but last year’s planner had become full of places I wanted to see. I used to write them on sticky notes and stick them onto a day when I thought I would have time. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t, so now I’m stuck (pun intended) with a small list of places to visit. Lucky for me, I will be visiting a lot of these places very soon.

This semester, I’m taking a class called Introduction to Galleries and Museums. In this class, we’ll explore different parts of New York City to see what their galleries have to show us. I took this class as a way to balance out all of my math classes but I truly look forward to the rest of this semester. I hope to experience the art scene in New York, get out of the classroom, and hopefully take some really cool pictures.

places to visit-books to read

Books to Read

I’m sure most college students can relate when I say that I don’t have a lot of time to read for fun. But lately, I’ve been trying to find little spaces in my day for reading, even if it’s just a few pages at a time. This is a more fun way to keep track of my “to read” list. (Plus, I get to color in the books after I read them.)

Also, I didn’t think this far ahead, but you can come up with a rating system using different colors. This way, you’ll be able to see which books you liked the best.

Movies to Watch

Movies to Watch

This is a similar concept to the one above; all I really wanted was a more aesthetically appealing list. I’m really happy with how it looks but my initial draft for this took a VERY long time to draw and set up. I made this one using movie reel clip art that I printed out and glued onto the page.


Click here to read more of my semi-regular blog posts. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about Passion Planners or want a printable version for any of the pages I added.

Note: I got the ideas for the different additions from Pinterest. No idea is from a single person; instead they are a combination of different ideas from various people.

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