There are a lot more options for planning than Filofax or other ring-bound planners. And the reality is that each one of us has unique needs when it comes to staying on top of everything. We have work projects, appointments, personal to-do’s, family activities, long-term goals, and many other things in our lives that we want to make time for and document.  How do we fit it all in?

I went through some of the systems I’ve used in the past as well as some planner options that might be new to all of us. In the end, what might work for you this year, might not be what will work for you next year. Lives change, jobs change and our priorities shift. And that’s okay.

And there may not be ONE book to rule them all. Your personal needs might require a giant bound planner and a small notebook to keep as a journal. Or alternately, maybe you will only need a small planner/agenda and a big book (or books) for writing or drawing.

So here goes!

Non-Traditional Options:

Hobonichi WEEKS

Hobonichi: The English A6 Techo, the larger A5 Cousin and the original Japanese A6 Techo are all currently available for 2016. To me, the most interesting item is the new WEEKS planner. The size of the WEEKS planner reminds me roughly of the dimensions of a standard business envelope. Its actually 7.4″ x 3.8″. It would combine nicely with another notebook for longer form writing, if you’re looking for an alternative to a larger planning system. It features a week-on-one-page layout with the right hand page for notes. It includes two bookmark ribbons and there are several posh cover options available for the WEEKS as well.

Midori Traveler's Notebook Comparison

Midori Traveler’s Notebook: For the better part of this year, I’ve been using a MTN for planning and organizing my notes and to-do’s. I used a 3-book system including a printable planner I purchased on Etsy. I kept a separate notebook for work notes and personal notes plus the planner. I liked the flexibility but I’ve outgrown the space available in the MTN. There are lots of fauxdori options available, some in larger sizes to accommodate more A5-sized paper as well as passport- and Field Notes-sized options. (available through Goulet Pens and Baum-Kuchen in the US)

Roterfaden WK-12

Roterfaden: The fine folks at Baum-Kuchen have brought the German Roterfaden Taschenbegleiter to the US market. There are A5- and A6-sized versions and a plethora of inserts for this system so there’s lots of options to meet your personal needs. There’s a new version of the Roterfaden that is less bulky called the WK-12 which is sleek, low profile and still flexible. While the Roterfaden does not explicitly come with a monthly, weekly or daily calendar, there are several notebook options available for the Roterfaden such as blank, lined, grid and dot grid that could be modified to support a bullet journal or more traditional planning system. Like the Midori Traveler’s Notebook, the Roterfaden is customizable for a very different sort of planning need.

The Classics:

Planner Pad in Green

Planner Pads: Planner Pads rethinks the planning system using a funneling system to organize projects, tasks and daily activities. The company has been in business for over 40 years so clearly, their methods work for people. They offer their system in a spiral bound book, a ring-bound planner option, a desk pad and a digital app. They are so sure that if you try their system, it will work for you that they offer a 6-month money back guarantee. This system is streamlined and very professional looking. I’ll have more about this planner soon.


Uncalendar: Depsite their slightly low-tech looking web site, Uncalendar is not something to be overlooked if you’re searching for a functional system to help you get organized and be more productive. The overwrap on the covers suggest that the Uncalendar can help you improve your grades, start a new business or become a better person. Pretty optimistic. Its a deceptively plain looking spiral-bound book with undated pages for monthly and weekly events and a system for organizing notes. The Uncalendar is available in two sizes and the price is right.

Quo Vadis Planner covers

Quo Vadis: Quo Vadis offers an array of planner sizes and formats in weekly, monthly and daily layouts. Leather and leatherette covers are available for many of the planners to create a durable book with good looks. They also offer insert pages for ring-bound planners in the lush Clairefontaine 85g fountain-pen friendly paper.

Notebook-style (Hardcover Bound) Planners:

Moleskine Licensed Planners

Moleskine Planners: Moleskine (despite mixed opinions on their paper quality) offer an array of sizes and formats in their planner notebooks. Overall, their planners are concise and there’s a format to fit just about any need. If you’re inclined to plan with pencil or a fine line ballpoint, Moleskine paper will work fine for you. Aesthetically, I love the simplicity of Moleskine’s light-colored text, ivory paper, clean design and relatively small desk footprint. Now if they’d just fill their books with Tomoe River paper, the books would stay petite and able to withstand any writing tool thrown at it. A huge appeal of the Moleskine planners is the new licensed designs like Star Wars, Peanuts and The Little Prince. Some are also available with a soft, flexible cover as well as the traditional hardcover versions.


Leuchtturm1917: From the outside, the Leuchtturm1917 line of planners looks quite similar to Moleskine. However, the paper quality is better.  If you are looking for a hardcover planner alternative to a Moleskine, this is a great candidate. Leuchtturm planners are available in a variety of page layouts (three different weekly layous and a page-per-day), sizes  and colors to meet a variety of needs. Several years ago I used a  Leuchtturm Planner and it was a good solution for me at the time. (available through Goulet Pens in the US)

Passion Planner

Passion Planner: Similar in exterior aesthetics to the Moleskine and Leuchtturm1917 planner with black leatherette cover and elastic closure, the Passion Planner reinvents the interior to help map out longer term goals while planning the day-to-day tasks. Available in academic, undated or 12-month formats and with a Sunday or Monday start (this will be a big winner for some folks) in an A4 and A5 size, the Passion Planner is an interesting option. Not sure if Passion Planner is right for you? You can print out free downloadable versions of their planning pages to try it before you buy it. How generous is that? planner 2016 I recently spied the 17-month planners out in the wild. Its a smaller, hardcover planner (5.5″x8.5″) and full of playful, colorful designs. This is the pop fashionista’s planner of choice with 80s-style stickers and bold graphics on the monthly dividers. While the academic (17-month) planners are just about sold out, I suspect that a 2016 12-month edition should be available soon.

Spiral Bound Planner Systems:

spiral bound planners

There are a slew of systems on the market right now designed to appeal to busy women. I’m not being sexist here, these types of planners are designed by women and are talked about all over YouTube by women who love and use them. This is not a bad thing. For years, those drab Covey planners in buttoned-up blue were the only options available so the injection of design sensibilities, color and pattern is a welcome addition to what can sometimes be the tedious task of to-do lists, appointments and meetings.

In this category, there are plenty of options. There’s the Day Designer, the Erin Condren Life Planner (which has a cult-like following), LimeLife, Inkwell Press (also available as A5 inserts for ring-bound planners), Happy Planner (uses a disc binding like the ARC system), Plum Paper Planners, Emily Ley Simplified Planner and probably dozens more I haven’t found yet. Most of these planners are spiral bound and offer options such as fitness tracking, meal planning and the ability to break planning into work, home and family activities. Some can be ordered with custom personalized covers, add-ons and other details to create your unique system. If you are someone who has to schedule your life plus your kids’ lives, some of the options these systems offer might appeal to you. But these systems sell out fast so get on their mailing list now if you would like to try on of these out for 2016.

KateSpade Planner 2016

Kate Spade: Kate Spade used to be a hot ticket in the ring-bound planner world with posh leather binders but in the past few years, she’s moved to offering beautiful spiral bound planners.

2016 sprial bound planners

Rifle Paper, Paper Source and Lilly Pulitzer are also offering their take on the spiral bound planner. They are available in 17-month and 12-month editions though the August 2016 start editions are beginning to be difficult to find.

Paper & Prosper (Colorvale) The Briefcase

Paper & Prosper The Briefcase: The Briefcase used to be branded as the Colorvale Briefcase but is now under the Paper & Prosper brand name. So you may have heard about The Briefcase before. The Biefcase is also a spiral bound planner but it comes undated so you can start using it at any time. And its core focus is on helping you manage your professional life. The design is clean and simple and this book has plenty of room to jot monthly, weekly and daily notes, ideas and to-do’s with a whopping 290 pages of space.

Phew! That’s a lot of options. When I started this list, I thought I’d have five options but it turned into four categories and a total of 22 different options. Are you using any of these options? Do you love them? What feature is missing?

13 Comments on 22 Planner Alternatives to a Filofax

  1. I agree about the Hobonichi and the Midori. Both are fantastic. I’m currently using a Midori but will give that a rest next year where I’ll be using a Techo and Weeks.

  2. so So SO much to think about!! I’m currently using a “mintgreen” brand planner that is serving its purpose, but I took on a lot of responsibility as of late, so I need something more… durable. Thanks for the options!! I’m definitely going to be looking into all of them!

  3. I’m intrigued by the planner pad. I’ve tried most of the ones you’ve listed at one time or another. I always used a daily format for the extra notes space but I like seeing the entire week now. The one thing I cant figure out with planner pad is how do you avoid repeatedly rewriting tasks? Your tasks are at the top, then you assign them to days so you rewrite them in the proper day heading. And if you have tasks to carry over to the following week you could be rewriting them again and again. Am I missing something?

    • I’ve read that some people put recurring tasks on small sticky notes or page flags and just move them from column to column or week to week. It would work for a couple weeks anyway.

  4. Love the Levenger Circa Smart Planner. Have used it for a couple of years now. Like the filofax notebook, the pages are moveable, which is huge, and makes it more usable year after year for me. The paper is fountain pen friendly – not as good as Rhodia, but good enough – probably like a Leuchtturm or slightly better.

  5. I have also used the Levenger Circa Smart Planner for the past few years and absolutely love it. I frequently move pages around and like the pretty but uncluttered look and feel of the page designs. I see so many over-decorated planner pages on Pinterest and though pretty, often feel like a distracting multicolored visual assault that tends to draw your eye (and focus) too many places at once. The Smart planner also has some useful planner add-ons they call “Smart Apps” for things like schedule planning, mind-mapping and my favorites – a few kinds of dual-sided, vertically perforated lists you can then cleanly detach for handing someone a shopping list or exchanging contact info.

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