This is Part Two of 6-part series about getting started using ring-bound planners. Part One can be found here.
The most popular planner size is the Personal (paper is 95mm x 170mm, or 3.75″ x 6.75″) or the Compact (with paper measuring 4.25” x 6.75″) . Franklin Covey is the only company I’m aware of that uses the “Compact” size. Filofax, Kikki K , DayRunner, DayTimer and others use the “Personal” sized pages but each company has their own name for the size.
I’d recommend keeping a note with the measurements of your preferred planner size handy and always check the written size unless you are buying the refills to coordinate with your planner brand.
The Personal (Filofax, et al) and Compact (Franklin) sizes are the same height and feature the same 6-hole configuration (two sets of three holes placed to the top and bottom of the spine) but the Personal size pages is about a 1/2″ wider. Binders designed for the Compact-sized paper are a bit wider to accommodate the larger paper.
The Personal size offers the widest range of potential planner refills, while the overall size of the planner is still portable. Using Franklin Covey inserts in a Filofax may be a little too tight and Filofax inserts in a Franklin may have a bit too much excess space but the option is there. Finally, the Personal size is a common size for custom inserts which might be appealing if you need something specific.
To add to the confusion, Filofax sells a binder size called “Compact” which accepts the same paper sizes as their Personal binders but features smaller rings and an overall smaller binder profile, similar to the “Slimline” binder.
Other popular sizes are the A5 (also called the “half sheet” size since its approximately 5.5×8.5″ making it half of a US letter-sized sheet or half an A4).
The Pocket size holds paper slightly smaller than a 3×5 index card in the Filofax sizing and just slightly larger than a 3″x5″ in the Franklin Covey sizing. This size might seem a bit too small for a daily planner but it is often used as a wallet since it can fit in a pocket.
For bigger options, the A4 or the Monarch/US Letter planner (depending on whether you are choosing an European brand or an American brand respectively) is a good desk planner option. If you have a job that requires a lot of daily meetings and tasks you might consider the A4/Letter size. This size is considered the least portable as a full binder large enough to hold A4 or US Letter paper is going to be heavy and bulky.
There are even systems built around the standard US 3-ring binder in either full Letter size or the half-sheet size (5.5×8.5″). Martha Stewart has created an array of products for Avery that use the half-sheet size. The Classic binder in Franklin Covey and DayRunner also use this size.
The last option is the disc system option like the ARC or the Circa planning system. These use the familiar ring discs and pages punched with divots that slip into the rings. It has the same level of customization regarding page inserts as well as a range of cover options from budget board covers to full leather cases. For the most part the disc systems are only available in half-sheet/A5 or US Letter sizes.
Which size is right for you?
I wouldn’t recommend that Americans purchase an A4 binder nor would I recommend that Brits/Europeans purchase a Monarch/US Letter-sized planner. If you plan to add your own inserts, I would recommend choosing a format that is conducive to the tools you have handy. Anything that I can print out or copy on a standard US machine and cut down to fit in my planner is fair game. If I have to hunt down a very specific size paper, that’s going to make me less inclined to actually use my planner. The whole point of using a ring-bound planner is to make my life easier, not more complicated.
Also remember that the bigger the planner, the less portable if will become. If your goal is to create a planner you feel comfortable having with you all the time, make sure its a size that will comfortably fit in your day bag or pocket. Some men might be inclined to use a Pocket sized planner because it will fit in a pocket. With every size and configuration, there are trade-offs. Too small and you may not be able to carry a year’s worth of daily or weekly calendars. Too big and you might not be inclined to carry as often as you might need it.
The diagram above is from My Life All in One Place. I think its super helpful in comparing paper sizes in planners to Moleskine and Midori Traveler’s Notebook. The actual planners will be a bit larger than the paper they contain, of course.
Once you’ve chosen your preferred size, you’ll be ready to start considering your binder and/or preferred brand. Stay tuned!
Edit: (12/24/2014) Clarified and corrected references to the Dayrunner. Thanks to reader, Cruz for catching the error.