My 2020 Planner Reflections

From left: Muji Slim Note B6, Kokuyo Weekly Campus Diary B6 and Jibun Techo First Kit Standard 2021 edition in Mini size

The three books you see above represent my attempt to track my tasks and organise my life during the eternity we call 2020. I started, from left to right, with the Muji Slim Notebook/Grid B6, then the Kokuyo Campus Diary 2020 Weekly Vertical B6, and finally for 2021, the Jibun Techo First Kit Standard (or 3in1 Standard, depending on where you are in the world).

Here’s how I ended up using them: 

Muji Slim Note B6: A bullet journal start

Looking back, I don’t think I would have made the choices I made with the planners I used if 2020 had not sent me to work from home for most of the year. The Muji Slim Note is the perfect example of that.

Muji Slim Note B6

What it is

The Muji Slim Note B6 is a half lined, half dotted grid notebook. While it looks like a lined notebook at first glance, it has dotted grid in the middle, making it easy to convert into a bullet journal. 

Paper quality: The Muji Slim Note B6 paper has 40 pages and is semi-fountain pen friendly. While it can take most inks, it is also prone to light bleeding on the other side. The paper itself is smooth and cream-coloured. 

How I used it

I used the Muji Slim Note as a bullet journal experiment. At first I drew a calendar by hand at the end of the last working week of the month, but then I switched to Daiso’s monthly calendar stickers when I found them. The monthly calendars served to help “break up” the sections of the notebook so it wouldn’t feel like time was passing mindlessly. 

Initial entries had a very day by day list – I would start the day by listing down things I wanted to accomplish that day, ordered by week. Each was written in point form and if I had task notes I would add that too. Because I am drawn to colourful things, I also tracked tasks with different colours depending on who it was for, its ultimate purpose, and in some cases, to differentiate between personal and work tasks. 

Before the Movement Control Order in March, I would bring the notebook back home for the weekend sometimes, and if there was extra space on the page I would put in a work reflection, but the Muji Slim Note was a strictly Mon-Fri planner. 

The benefits of this particular format was that I could add in random observations I wanted to follow up within the week, since I had unconsciously adhered to a two-page format. As the pages ran out though, I ended up writing shorter and shorter task notes. Since I was working from home, I also had my own personal journal at hand, so I would use that to write my thoughts instead of putting it in the Slim Note. 

How long it lasted

Due to its small size, the Muji Slim Note B6 lasted me approximately 6 months. This was within my initial estimates, as when I first picked it up, I was unsure if the bullet journal style for me was something I could commit to for an entire year. 

Also, I didn’t realise until I began working from home the system I created with the Muji Slim Note had some unexpected flaws. Back in the office I had a desk calendar, so I could check dates immediately. However, since I used the Slim Note in a “to be written in as needed” style, when I worked from home and had no desktop calendar, looking up future dates became cumbersome, especially if I had not stuck in the next month’s calendar yet. 

I started looking around for alternatives around early March to end April, and was already thinking of getting another Slim Note with some modifications when suddenly…

Kokuyo Campus Weekly Diary 2020: It was free, so why not?

Towards the end of April, I ordered some stationery from Cziplee and the Kokuyo Campus Diary was included as a free gift. Since I needed a new planner anyway, I decided to give the Kokuyo Campus Diary a try. 

Inside the Kokuyo Campus Diary

What it is

Let’s be real. The Kokuyo Campus Planner is actually an appointment book. The version I got was the 2020 Weekly Vertical layout. It had a Monday start (very useful for me) with a 2 page spread of 8 columns. I liked that it actually had individual columns for Saturdays and Sundays – a lot of planners actually chose to lump those two days together, which isn’t useful for my purposes. 

Paper quality: The Kokuyo Campus series had far better quality paper than the Muji. It could take all kinds of pens including my fountain pens with various inks, leading to a light ghosting that did not impact the following pages. I actually like the effect it has. 

How I used it

Similar to my Muji Slim Note, I wrote my tasks down according to the priority of the day. What I liked most about the Kokuyo Campus Diary is that it actually had checkboxes at the top and extra sections at the bottom that could be filled up with miscellaneous information if needed. 

Throughout June and July, I experimented with using these extra spaces to write down notes, possible future action plans and anything I wanted to bring over to the following week. By August, I had settled on colour coding my tasks. Every week I would decide on a colour scheme for daily work tasks, personal projects and habit tracking. 

Because I was also home and had access to “my full stationery arsenal”, I also ended up using some of my markers and highlighters to mark completed tasks. These were tasks that I had submitted for the day, indicating I didn’t need to focus on them unless I was asked to revise or update. This was extremely satisfying to me. 

In the final column of the two page spread, the Kokuyo Campus actually had a 3 month section, showing the previous, current and upcoming month. This made planning a breeze.

How long it lasted

I began looking out for the 2021 version of the Campus notebook by the end of September. This was mainly because I like having the calendar easily accessible and at that point, I couldn’t find anything else that fit my needs. 

However, one of the things I disliked about the Kokuyo Campus is because it’s just an appointment book, there’s no real point in the planner that can make me stop and go “hey it’s already the end of the month I should reflect” or anything that feels like it’s already the new month. 

Basically it felt a lot like I was back into the “mindless passing of days.” Also the extremely limited lines made it hard for me to write multiple tasks, especially if they were things I wanted to track yet could complete in some minutes. 

As any stationery/planner addict will tell you, the last quarter of the year is Journalling Season, and it was this that got me looking into new systems and habits for 2021. 

Jibun Techo 3-in-1 Standard Mini Size – Nothing mini about this at all

By September 2020, most of the usual stationery supply stores were already stocking or taking preorders for 2021 planners. Some of the systems I looked at during this time included the Hobonichi Techo, the Midori Pocket Diary and even the Leuchtturm1917 weekly diary. 

I say systems because at this point I wanted a planner that was flexible enough for me to track long-term habits, work tasks, and daily happenings. The way I was using my previous journals, they tracked my plans but it didn’t feel write to go back and add something interesting that happened. As the new year was approaching, I decided it was time to be more mindful of both my time and energy levels. 

In late October, Cziplee suddenly announced they had brought in their 2021 planners, and because they were late, most of these planners also had a discount. At this point I had a dilemma – I liked the promise of the Jibun Techo 3-in-1, and it seemed pretty flexible with lots of ready-made structure so I could fill in the lines, but it was also pretty expensive. 

I chatted with the hubs about it and he offered to get it for me as a present. He was also adamant that I not get the 2020 version (which was my original desire due to the cost) because he pointed out that with me needing to change the dates, I would find it cumbersome and give myself an excuse not to use the journal. 

I decided on the Mini instead of the full size version as I wasn’t sure if I was going to use the entire thing. Plus if I was going to take it with me, the B6 Mini would fit into my bag much easier than the larger A5 version. 

Jibun Techo with stickers

What it is

The Jibun 3-in-1 is a complete system. It’s a planner with 3 separate books, as its name implies. These are the LIFE, IDEA and Diary booklets. 

The LIFE booklet is designed for yearly information, such as anniversaries, birthdays, bucket lists, and more (thanks Jetpens). It’s basically for annual events and reminders so instead of copying it every year, you can just gather it all in one notebook. There’s also space to write about your life’s dreams, personal mottos, and track bucket lists. One of the things I like about the LIFE booklet is the section called My News, where you can drop one liners about specific happenings within a year of your life, categorised into “My News”, “Family News” and “World News” (I should probably mark the MCO start date there). 

The Diary booklet is the only one that needs to be replaced yearly as it is calendar-based, but I discovered that it’s like my Campus Diary, but on steroids. There’s so much I can track, from my moods to the weather to quick impressions… It has significantly more features than the simpler Campus Diary. 

The IDEA booklet is a gridded notebook that can be used however you like. I found it useful to track specific feedback, ideas and advice I want to keep in mind for long-term purposes, especially career advice. 

Paper quality: The Diary and IDEA booklets use the Kokuyo THIN paper, which is supposedly bleedthrough resistant with a light textured surface. It is somewhat fountain pen friendly, but inks ghost crazily on the THIN paper. 

The LIFE booklet uses the Kokuyo MIO paper, which feels a little thicker and more substantial than the THIN, but I just realised I actually haven’t tested it with fountain pens yet whoops. 

How I’m using it

The Diary is the booklet I refer to the most often. In the Diary, it’s recommended to use the checkboxes at the side to keep track of the current week’s tasks, but I find it the most useful to keep track of uncompleted tasks from the previous week. This is particularly useful for my weekly meetings with my Creative Director when we go over everyone’s workload. Plus there’s something about the grid boxes that makes me feel like I’m using it to the fullest. 

Because the weekends are colour-coded, I find myself recognising that the weekend is here, or that the days are passing by. Every so often, when I accomplish a habit, I will write it down in both the daily calendar section and mark it off in the Habit section. And if it’s a habit that doesn’t need to be done daily, like taking a supplement every few days, then I’ll mark it in my day-to-day calendar so I’ll remember to take it when it’s time. 

How long it’s lasted

The Jibun Techo Diary is actually a 14 month planner, beginning from November 2020 all the way to December 2021. It also has a monthly calendar all the way up to March 2022, so potentially I can keep using the Jibun Techo all the way till 2022 if I want. 

Two months in and I am loving the system, especially since if I end up having to go back to the physical office, I can use the IDEA book for my on-the-go journaling. Even though I may complain about how the paper has ghosting, it actually doesn’t affect the readability, and I feel it makes it look like I am using the booklets to the fullest. Plus it takes far more fountain pen inks than most other notebooks I have, so that’s always a win. 

Do all these planners actually work?

For me, I’d like to think they did. I am a very out-of-sight, out-of-mind person. With these systems in place, at least it didn’t feel like I was constantly dropping the ball on tracking my tasks. It made following up much easier, and to an extent, like my past self was nagging my present self to complete personal tasks.

Plus, it made looking up current tasks easier than needing to check the 2,001 Chrome tabs I always have open (which is a topic for another day). 

Here’s to a hopefully more organised 2021!

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