A Planner Post: How I Plan and a Review of a Few New Planner Goodies


I have had so much fun reading all of the great ideas and planner party posts and sharing at Dawn’s blog! Have you? I love thinking about planners and I love gathering ideas…seeing how we all plan differently!  Gathering planning ideas is inspiring and helps me streamline and add great pointers to my own action planning. And so…on the off chance that you’re not ridiculously tired of talking planners and seeing planners (because I know that if you are, you can just click on to some other happy place right now!), I thought I might review the 2015/16 Erin Condren Life Planner and share how I plan with it. I thought I might submit a review of my planner to Dawn’s planner party, but since she already had an Erin Condren planner review in her “party,” I decided I’d spare her my gazillions of pictures {fair warning!} and jump in along the side of Dawn’s planning party!


So…this is my third Erin Condren Life Planner…and I still love it. I completely live out of it! Maybe it’s because I have lots of balls I’m juggling: a few kids, events, writing projects, home education, home-making, and my own hobbies and personal goals…and I’d like it all wrapped up in a pretty package, thank you very much. But…I like changes, too. I like a planner that’s flexible, and pretty, and customized and can freshen in little ways. In fact, that’s almost essential for me to stick with one planner. I love that I can still remove my cover and change it out with the seasons, and I’m loving all the new planner goodies I can add to the planner to make it more useful to me on a daily basis.


I’ll share a few things EC has done to make the planner better, a few new tools that work so well in this new planner, and tell you how much I like the new horizontal format (when I’ve been an unabashed vertical layout fan in the past!).

Upcoming Giveaway – check back!

If you enjoy Erin Condren planners, you’ll want to check back here 😉 – I have a giveaway planned – a complete 2016 Life Planner with a few of the accessory goodies I love!! Watch out for the upcoming giveaway in the next week. I’m going to open it and close it quickly because (a) I really want to give this away to a regular blog reader (and the longer I leave the giveaway open, you’d be amazed how fast it can be shared across social media and then I get lots of entries…and I’d really like to send this planner to a friend!), and (b) I want to get it into your hands so you can start planning! 2016 is right around the corner!

So…let’s get back to checking out the gorgeous new planner layout from Erin Condren! The colors and designs are beautiful, and the organization and planning options and tools are, as always, fantastic! EC makes keeping up with the daily duty so pretty and keeps my head on straight!

This year, there is an option to choose between a vertical layout (which I shared how much I loved in previousreviews) and the new horizontal layout option (click here to see the lookbook to see more differences). If the layout were the only change – I would have stayed with my preferred vertical layout.  BUT…the colors and graphics used are different depending on whether you choose the vertical or horizontal layout. The designs and images in the horizontal planner were a little prettier to me. The vertical layout is still pretty, it’s just a little more whimsical, I think. I preferred the overall look of the horizontal – so…I (nervously) went horizontal this year! And I’ve loved it! All of the images from my review are of the horizontal layout. Please keep in mind that colors and layout will be different if you choose vertical. I’ll share how I’m planning and working in my horizontal planner below!

So…let’s get started!  And, if you hang out through all these pictures and review, you’ll find a coupon link to use if you’re purchasing your first Erin Condren planner!


  • First up – I love the larger coil on the new planner!  You can tell from this image that I add things to my planner throughout the year (using the coil clips allows me to snap in anything and keep it in my planner – love this!). Last year, my cover didn’t close well because of the little things I added. It’s a little thing…but I appreciate the little things. So, I was thrilled that the coil size was increased!


  • I’ve never splurged on a metallic gold cover before, but I did this year.  And I absolutely love it! Just another touch of pretty, don’t you think?


  • This pretty velum sheet adds such a touch of sophistication! My life is about potty training, ketchup stains, wiping unidentified goo off of bathroom mirrors, and marveling at the mysterious paper reproduction that happens any time 2 or more children load up in my van. I take sophistication anywhere I can get it!


  • New this year is the identification label on the first page behind the vellum – in years past, this little identification label was printed on the inside of the front cover and you had to use sharpie to write your name on it. I like this much better because I can add the dates of my planner on the identification page. I keep my past planners (not all of them, but at least 5 years back…just because I always seem to have some event I’m wondering about…did it happen in June or July…when did we drive to Nashville…what number did I call to arrange for Sarah’s permit? And all that stuff is in my planner – so I love having the date on the front page. After a year is over and I retire a planner, I pull off the covers, and tuck it away in my drawer of old planners to await the inevitable wonderings of the upcoming year.


  • The next pages contain a reference calendar for 2015/16. I refer to this often. You get a sense of the muted, soft color theme that is carried throughout the horizontal planner by taking a look at the reference calendar pages. The color you see associated with the month on this page is the color that is consistently applied to that month in the planner.


  • The next set of pages contain an inspirational spread – if i can believe it…i can achieve it…if i can dream it…i can become it. I actually don’t find this page spread really useful – or maybe it’s that I don’t like so much inspirational stuff getting in the way of where reality lives in my planner. I’m all for inspiration! And I do love the little inspirational sentiments peppered throughout the planner…but this spread isn’t my favorite. No problem though! I’m going to use the page to jot down the 12 months and their liturgical focus. You could jot down monthly family goals, seasonal checklists, books you want to read, big ticket items you anticipate needing to fit in each monthly budget – there are lots of ways to use this page!



  • Each month now has a beautiful geode themed cover page and an opposite lined page for listing things like monthly goals, to-do’s, themes, important events, etc. This new addition is definitely one of my favorite new features! I make a list of our monthly family goals on this page – things like home maintenance needs, or special liturgical year observances, budget items I’m watching, etc. I love having a “big picture” page for the month that allows me to journal and list away.


  • The monthly calendar spread is the same as last year – the colors coordinate throughout the month. As always, I love the “goals” column along the side of each month. I didn’t have much listed on the month pictured above, but I use this feature pretty regularly to list my personal goals for the month.


  • Thought I’d share a sample of what the horizontal weekly spread looks like. I LOVE the border geometric print and I often doodle up there! I love that the daily boxes are lined! And I love the blank box to the right of each day – I always use those for jotting down my menu notes for each day.
  • In the bottom right of EVERY weekly page spread is a little “thankful thought” box. I really love this little box (which is new to this year’s planner) and I use that box for jotting down my weekly prayer intentions. Super helpful for me to have a visual reminder to pray for specific intentions!

Layout Samples – How I Plan


  • For my horizontal planner, I decided to use it in a sort of modified bullet journal way and it’s working really well! At the end of the week, I sit down and review my plans and anything I didn’t get done, I mark with a bright little arrow that indicates that I need to slide that item to next week’s planner list of action items.
    • I use square check boxes to make a list of tasks I need to get done that day.
    • I use circle shaped “boxes” for errands or trips out of the house
    • I use one color of ink to plan in…and a different color to jot personal goals…
      • m/p = morning prayers and some devotional reading time
      • w/o = workout…I loathe working out.  Loathe it.  I use the 7 minute workout app on my phone if you’re interested in the specific manner in which I torture myself.
      • v = take my vitamins
      • w = drink a ridiculous amount of water each day. Ridiculous. In a ridiculously large water bottle.
      • Note the lack of checks indicating a completed goal in my personal goals section below….SEE!…I’m totally real with you! I had a pretty pathetic week that week – good news though…I could start all over again with fresh intentions the next week! And I did!


  • I LOVE the Notes section of the weekly layout! I can keep Rob’s little weekly chore list here.  How he loves me to jot down a weekly chore list for him! He lives for it! In addition to spelling out the details of every shred of my husband’s scant free time in this section, I like to list big weekly chores and to-do’s here. And I think I’ve already mentioned that I use the little “thankful thought” section to list specific prayer intentions for the week.


  • Above is just another example of a weekly spread so you can see how I just use different pen colors to designate what I’ve got going on each day. Some weeks I keep up pretty nicely…other weeks I slide a lot. But having those goals and to-do’s journaled keeps me moving in the right direction overall.

Hope that gives you a sense of how I use the planner. It certainly isn’t perfect, but it probably shouldn’t be! Life is real and messy and full with lots of ordinary stuff smooshed into extraordinary days…and so is my planner.

Let’s jump back into looking at the different parts of the planner…


  • Behind the monthly and weekly layout pages there is a NOTES section.There are a total of (6) lined pages, (4) grid pages, and (5) blank pages for jotting notes in the back of the Life Planner.


  • Above is a sample of the grid pages which I LOVE! Map out your pantry, visualize your home library organization, or create a basic budget grid!


  • Behind the Notes section is a 2017 calendar for future planning.


  • And finally, those amazing stickers that are in the back of every Erin Condren Life Planner! In the same beautiful, muted colors found throughout the Horizontal layout!


  • See what I mean? Aren’t those colors so delicious? Perfect in spring/summer – yet equally soft and evocative of warm notes in fall/winter!


  • The attached pocket folder and clear zipper pouch round out the planner.

Extras I’m Loving!


  • I really like the snap in stylized sticky notes in my planner. I actually don’t do a lot of special themed stickers each week. I just don’t have time to do that, and honestly, I need my planner real estate for…well…planning…and lists. But these little post-its are perfectly sized and kind of fun to use, and they give a perfectly sized little punch of color…and…of course, they’re still practical! Plus, the post-its are all affixed to a rigid plastic card that snaps in and out so I can keep them near the page I’m planning. Very convenient.


  • I LOVE the new stylish storage pockets you can now add to your planner! They add a whole new level of versatility – I keep one folio at the beginning of a current month and one at the upcoming month and store invitations, party plans, themed ideas, coupons for that month, recipes I might want to try…and so on. Imagine a little landing zone for a month…or a week… and this little folio can hold it. You could use this in so many great ways – you could even assign one to each of your children and keep child-specific paper bits in here!


  • Each folio (set of 3) comes with these attachable coil clips which you affix to the folio so you can move it around in your planner wherever you’d like.


  • And I love the new pens and pen colors (you can see the new pens in one of the very first pictures on this post…you know….waaaaaaay back up at the top there! LOL! I warned you there would be lots of pics!) Hello, Robin’s-Egg-Blue-pen-of-my-dreams! Ok…you’re actually more turquoise than robins-egg-blue, but you’re close enough for me to be smitten!


  • These new jot-your-thought journals are absolutely gorgeous – and such a purse-friendly size! I don’t always carry my planner around with me in my bag, but I do always keep a little notebook with me and these fit perfectly!


  • They come in a set of 3 – each with a gorgeous cover! The inside of each notebook is different – one contains blank pages…


  • one is grid lined…


  • and the other is lined…


  • I love using the grid notebook to keep up with my little household budget plan, and I use the lined book to brainstorm family projects. (Right now, Rob and I are brainstorming ways to cut the cord and I’m listing options and resources in this handy little notebook as Rob and I sit down in the evening with a glass of wine to discuss new things we’ve discovered.)


You made it through!

Two things which may help you if you’re considering this planner, but might still be on the fence because of the cost:

  1. It’s helpful to break the cost of this planner down by month! And not just for personal-rationalization reasons!!! The classic planner is still $50. That means that if you purchase this planner it will cost you: $4.16 a month to plan your month and stay organized. Now initially, I completely eschewed this planner as a possibility because of the cost, but when I considered the monthly cost as an investment in our family organization and planning it was more reasonable for me to consider this planner. I don’t like frivolously spending our family money, but right now, I’ve got a lot going on! And I need a tool that works well to keep up with things. This is it and since I’m on my third Erin Condren planner that should tell you that I love the new features EC keeps adding each year and that this is a versatile and worthwhile planning tool! $4.16/month is a good investment in our family organization.
  2. Click the button below and go set up an Erin Condren account and you’ll get $10.00 off your first order!  Which effectively reduces the monthly cost of organizing your family with this planner down to $3.33/month!  



Before I go, I wanted to share my gorgeous new fall cover! Instead of personalizing with my name at the bottom, I put a St. Therese quote there and I love it! Now THAT is inspiring! The color is a gorgeous, deep wine-plum color and all the lettering is metallic gold. Very cheery and warm and evocative of autumn with all its rich colors!

Be sure to check back soon for my giveaway! I hope to have it posted and open for you early next week! I already have everything here so I just need to carve out a little time to get organized and take a few pictures for you. Remember, I’m only going to open entries for a very brief period of time in the hopes that my regular readers can enter if they’re interested. If you’re the winner, here’s what will come in your box:

I hope to have that new Erin Condren Life Planner (with goodies) in your hands by the beginning of Advent so you can start your planning for the new year!

Whatever your planner preference, whether you work just fine out of an inexpensive spiral notebook or you have an elaborate schemata of post-it notes, remember that God is a God of order – not chaos and confusion. Write it down. Set a goal. List it. Plan it. Scratch it out and keep moving it forward if you have to…but keep trying. Consider your season of life and add a touch of pretty in all the practical corners of your day! I’ll trade prayers with you as I keep working hard at rebuilding culture by doing the next thing I have listed on my planner! Happy planning everyone!

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  1. I just listened to your morning basket podcast, and now you’ve shared this! Thanks for giving those of us at the beginning of our homeschool journey such practical advice. (And thanks for the monthly breakdown of the planner cost – it does seem less outrageous that way.)

    1. Oh, thank you so much, Sarah! I’m so glad you enjoyed the podcast! I had soooo much fun doing it!

      If you’re at the beginning of your homeschool journey then you’re at a very sweet spot! Enjoy it with all your heart! Spend less, play more, read fantastic books in all the little corners of your day – and this will be one of the most treasured of times! 🙂

  2. Jen, thanks so much for this really detailed look into the Erin Condren planner and how you plan in general! These planners have intrigued me so much but it’s been hard to decide if one would really work for me. Getting an inside look has been very helpful!!

    I really love your use of the planner in a bullet journal style~ and tracking your personal goals is brilliant. (BTW….I also hate working out and love the 7 minute workout!)

    Thanks for all the great ideas and pics~ I really appreciate them!

    Take care 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words, Tanya! I know exactly what you mean – it helps me SO much to see pictures and read how someone fits the rubber to the road if I’m considering a purchase like this! It might help me see the potential…or…it might help me decide that it’s really not for me. Either way…I like that visual to make a better decision!

      And thanks for empathizing with my lack of enthusiasm in working out! LOL! Misery loves company – especially with the 7-minute workout! 🙂

  3. And I’m so glad you linked up through Dawn as I now have a new blog to follow 🙂 Just subscribed to your feed~ thanks!

  4. This is such an amazing post – so much terrific food for thought AND absolutely gorgeous photos! I am honored that you linked up with my planner party – thank you so much! Just signed up to follow your blog posts by email! 🙂

  5. Thank you for this post. I am a planner junkie and have used many but have not moved to this one (yet). I have drooled over them at Staples, however! I especially like how you have gien an example of how it works for you…. looking forward to a chance at the giveaway.
    Thank you for your generosity

  6. Always love your planner posts, Jen! I’ve been stumbling around with the Erin Condren planner for two years now and I finally think I’ve figured out to use it to fit my own needs. I was wondering about the new horizontal layout, so thanks for showing that off! Still not sure if I’m ready to give up the vertical since I mainly use the planner to keep track of meals/food, but I haven’t looked at the designs yet at all.

    1. Thanks so much, Angela! I was SOOOO leary of going with the horizontal layout because I truly loved the vertical layout…but it’s really fitting my needs as I have been planning. I do like having more room to write tasks with the horizontal stretch, and since I jot my menu notes down in the box to the right side of the daily notes I still feel like I have plenty of room to journal my other plans and goals. I keep going back and forth in my mind about vertical v. horizontal for a next planner…guess we’ll see what the options are then. I do know what you mean about taking some time to hit a stride in the planner. I feel the same way. At first, I was just so mesmerized with the pretty…but it’s only been in the last year, and especially since using my modified bullet journal system, that I feel like I’m really hitting a stride.

      Anyway…thanks for the note and the planner validation! 🙂

  7. This is just lovely! Thank you so much for this detailed look inside. I like as much room as possible to write in so this horizontal view looks like it would work for me. Your bullet journal approach is great too. Planners need to useful AND beautiful. And my favorite part in yours is the St. Therese quote on the cover!

  8. The colors are beautiful and inspiring! I’ve been thinking about starting a bullet journal, but I’m intimidated by a whole blank book, lol. Perhaps something like this would be a better jumping off point. And, you know, colors!

  9. Jen, I always love your planning posts! They are so lovely and practical at the same time 🙂 Thank you SO much for showing your horizontal planner! I bought an EC planner this year because of your last post and am loving this post too! I bullet journal too in a separate journal, but, this would be absolutely ideal for me. Loving all of the cute accessories too, especially the snap in stylized sticky notes. Loved your EC Teacher Planner too and the actually ordered some of the labels that your posted from Etsy, but, a little different. Makes my teacher planner cute too 😉 I am in the middle of your podcast with Pam and let me tell you how thankful I am for the wonderful resources you have posted here! You have truly helped me so much this year, Jen! Many thanks 🙂 Wish I was half as organized as you!

  10. Thank you for your review! I have come back to it multiple times while trying to decide what planner to get. I went completely “paperless” over the past few years (relying on Google calendar, Wunderlist and scribbled lists when I just really needed to remember something) and have suddenly become “that person” who honestly forgets stuff and doesn’t show up. Arghhh! I recently came across some of my old planners in a box and had a wave of nostalgia for those times of writing things down and having a better handle on life, I felt like! (of course, adding a new baby after 8 years MIGHT have had something to do with my scatterbrained self the past 2 years… but still…) That was the deciding factor to go back to using a paper planner, though I will still also use Google planner to track appointments… I think…

    I found your review most helpful in deciding about horizontal vs vertical and also most applicable to me since I’m also a homeschooling mom. I should get mine January 6th or 7th, very excited! 🙂

    I have a hard time remembering to hop on Goodreads, so I’m excited to use my planner to track books that I am reading, list our favorite quick/easy meals to help with meal planning, etc. I also ordered the folders, I will keep the Ambleside term schedules for my girls there, since I track readings that way. Just super, super excited to see how I can make it work for me!

  11. This looks lovely! Not sure if the contest is still open, but if it is, I would love a chance to win one of these planners! Thank you for your very thorough review!

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