This is Part Two of 6-part series about getting started using ring-bound planners. Part One can be found here.
Planner Sizes: (updated!)
The most popular planner size is the Personal (paper is 95mm x 170mm, or 3.75″ x 6.75″ — PLOTTER has decided to call this size “Bible” which is extra confusing) 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 insert 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″). The Classic binder in Franklin Covey and DayRunner use this size.
In recent years, B6-sized planners and inserts have been becoming popular though most of the covers and inserts are being produced by independent makers or imported from Asia and not being sold by larger companies like Filofax. As a result, covers are harder to find and fall either into the pricey handmade leather goods category or the less durable non-leather/leather look category that has iffy durability. The best option for a B6 leather cover would be through Van der Spek, their Touch Me line (approx. $110USD).
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.
We will dive into the discbound systems in a future series.
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!
To read the rest of the series:
- Part 1 – Why?
- Part 2 – Planner Sizes
- Part 3 – Binders
- Part 4 – Inserts
- Part 5 – Accessories
- Part 6 – Additional Resources
Edit: (12/24/2014) Clarified and corrected references to the Dayrunner. Thanks to reader, Cruz for catching the error.
36 comments / Add your comment below
If I could just get a paper planner to send me an alert I’d be able to retire my trusty iphone…
Love paper. Love fountain pens. Love good graphite pencils!
I have to plan out lots of projects and tasks that need to be done in a particular week or day. Those don’t end up on a calendar but on a list somewhere. I’m hoping a binder will put all those to-do’s into one place so I can no longer use the “out of sight, out of mind” excuse.
That’s really useful to know. I’ve long been confused by three ring binders, and most vexed by them, because so many pretty binders on the internet are three ring and they are useless to me.
I’ve got a personal, and I’m getting an A5 for Christmas. If I get it running, the personal will be for organising my life and the A5 will be for organising my writing.
Thanks for the info. I’ve always been partial to the A5 for pocket notebooks and ringed planners felt bulky. Although my knowledge of them are limited so there could be more compact planners but I’m just not aware them yet.
The Filofax “Personal” or the Franklin/DayRunner “Compact” size might be a happy middle ground for you. I too prefer the A5 size for notebooks but for a ring binder, I think I would not carry it with me as often as I’d need it because the binder is larger than the A5 paper it contains. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do some comparison photos in the coming weeks.
I think you’ve gotten your paper sizing a tad confused.
As far as I’m aware, the only company to make 4.25″ x 6.75″ inserts is FranklinCovey; Day Runner follows the Filofax convention of 3.75″ x 6.75″, as do Day-Timer, kikki.K, and Aspinal of London (who make inserts for Gillio and Van der Spek).
Also, the 3.75″ pages are the FF Personal ones and the 4.25″ the FC Compact, although one of the early paragraphs has this round the other way: The most popular planner size is the Personal (with paper measuring 4.25” x 6.75″) or Compact (paper is 95mm x 170mm, or 3.7″ x 6.75″).
Thanks for catching the error about the Dayrunner. Hopefully, I have corrected it and made it more clear.
I was not aware of Aspinal of London but will look into them. Thanks for the info!
You’ve still got your sizing flipped. Filofax Personal (which is also used by many other 6 ring binders so is essentially the standard) is 3.75″ wide.
Franklin Covey Compact is 4.25″ wide.
What confuses things is that Filofax makes a binder called Compact that holds Personal 3.75″ size pages, but uses smaller rings. So compact is the size of the. Inder, not the pages.
Because both sizes use the same ring configuration, the wider FC pages occasionally fit in other binders.
FC uses the 4.25″ x 6.75″ size because you get two pages side-by-side that fit on a letter sized page that is 8.5″ wide. Easier to print using 8.5″ x 11″ paper.
I just got an A6 planner? Irk what size inserts to get or where can I get them, could anyone suggest anything I’m new to the whole planner world
Steve over at Philofaxy has taken to A6 planners and inserts in a big way over the past year and will be a great resource. He put together some A6 printable inserts to support his habit. He has a couple posts I would recommend you check out to help print them as well: A6 in Summary, Creating A6 Inserts and Printing A6 inserts that will help you get started since A6 inserts aren’t a particularly common size.
You may also check to see if there are any printable inserts available on Etsy. Good luck with your new planner!
I’m super irked that The Happy Planner comes in an off size – I very much want one in a junior and a full size. Full size for lesson planning and junior/half size to tote in purse.
Any idea if they will make these compatible in size w/ other disc bound systems? Thank you!
Do you supply refills ???
No. I don’t make refills but the later parts of this series should have links to some good options. Also, Goulet Pens is now stocking a good assortment of standard refills so you may want to check with them. Best of luck in you hunt.
I got a mint green planner at Michael’s from their Recollections line. I got the Blush and Mint calendar insert package, leaving in the paper that came with the planner.
It’s my first paper planner in a long time. The rings hamper writing on the left side (Im right-handed). So I either have to lift my hand to rest on the rings to keep writing or take the page out.
If I had it to do over again, I’d have bought the higher priced Midori weekly calendar that comes in two books. But I needed a reason to use the Mint planner. I’m guilty of buying notebooks and not using them.
This is an awesome guide. I know this is a few years old, but just stumbled across it and wanted to say how well done this page is.
I personally use a Moleskin pocket sized notepad, with a Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen. It works well for me!
I agree with Adam! I’ve just stumbled on this page after spending DAYS researching planner sizes, refills, etc…it is SO confusing! This has everything I need in one place! Thanks so much!!
Stumbled on this as well. I’m someone who desperately wants to be a “planner girl” but tends to keep track of everything in my head. Digital works for some things, but I also like seeing everything in one place. I’ve looked at so many out-of-the-box planners, but I can’t stand spiral or disks because they catch on everything and hardbound often doesn’t lie flat and seems too inflexible. I have an ancient Franklin Compact binder I’ve decided to try to customize and see I use it.
Thanks for all the great info!
Which is more portable: Filofax Personal or Franklin Compact? Do you recommend one over the other? Thanks.
The Filofax is ironically more compact but may be uncomfortable for some to use.
Filofax Personal tends to be more portable because of their slimmer 23mm rings and sleeker binder styles. The only exception would be a Franklin Planner Compact with especially small rings, but most of them have around 1.25” rings.
Your series on personal planners is so helpful! Thank you for putting together all this information. I have been wanting to get a personal, refillable planner since I have so much difficulty finding a planner to fit all my needs. I usually end up settling for one that fits the most important needs, but not all of them. But I have been overwhelmed by the information and how to make sure everything would fit together correctly. Plus I didn’t know where to start, the planner case, or the inserts. Plus how did I really know which size would be best for my needs. Great job with the information and it’s been put together in such a comprehensive way. Again, thank you.
I use Atoma A5+ Polypropylene covers (and Atoma A5++ dividers), with 42mm Discagenda discs from Amazon. And I use the Atoma A5+ refills. I also got the big Atoma hole punch but I’ve never used it as I find the Atoma paper suits being taken in & out of the disc system, and has a roughness (resistance) which I like. There are 2 different width dividers (for A5) on the Atoma website and I use both. I’ve been backwards and forwards to & from Filofax since 1992 but haven’t stuck with it. I also liked Miraclebind alot but have eventually settled on the above…. I find the extra width of the A5+ makes A5 much more usable.
You got this part backwards: it’s actually the Franklin Compact pages that are 1/2” wider than standard personal size:
“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.”
you are 100% correct and no one else has ever caught this typo! Thanks for catching it.
OK, but the typo/error is still there and has not been corrected. Here is what appears now, which is incorrect:
“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”
Is it not possible to get a “classic” planner with 2″ rings?
Yes! I had one but I sold it. Search eBay for “Franklin Quest Classic 2”. They’re kind of rare, but they do exist.
Is there a specific reason why Day Timer Binder/Planner sizes have not been included in your article? I used Day Timer for decades and at one time they had a much more robust offering of accessories and tools than any of the other planner systems. They still are a viable alternative for the working person. Because I am now looking for a more personal style planner than a work-related one, their binder covers and planners don’t suit me, but I’ve spent literally hours looking for a system that allows me to use my existing Day Timer desk-size (8.5 x 5.5) 7-ring notepads, inserts, and tools. What I find on Amazon is often inaccurately labeled, depicted, and rings inconsistently spaced between brands and ring configurations. Much as I hate to, I’m going to have to switch to Franklin Covey and buy everything new to get a consistent system.
The Daytimer was not specifically overlooked. I understand your frustration about the rings not lining up. Is it possible to purchase an adjustable hole punch and print personal pages from Etsy?