Review by Tina Koyama
Back when I worked a “normal” 9-to-5 job, I was usually able to find a planner that met my needs. But when I went freelance 15 years ago, I became frustrated by most of the format choices. I wanted both a Sunday-through-Saturday monthly calendar and a Monday-through-Sunday weekly spread in the same book. Since my working hours varied widely, I wanted Saturday and Sunday to have the same amount of space as all the rest of the days – not crammed together to accommodate a symmetrical page layout. (Even when I worked normal hours, my weekends were always as busy as the other days – like we don’t have to plan our leisure time?) I also wanted the monthly grid to have at least five rows so that on longer months, some days wouldn’t have to share a square.
I don’t usually have many appointments, so hourly time slots get in my way. Instead, I prefer freeform space for weekly goals and tasks that I can also use for appointments when I have them.
The past several years I got so fed up with commercial options that I started making my own planners. Using an A5-size Rhodia or Leuchtturm notebook with a brightly colored cover and good quality paper, I ruled my own grids and made a planner exactly the way I wanted. It was a bit tedious and time-consuming, but I didn’t mind spending a rainy afternoon making one each year. It was worth my time to get the ideal planner for my needs. (If you’d like to see what they looked like, take a peek at my personal blog.)
Imagine my delight when I saw Baron Fig’s latest planner – the Confidant Dateless Hardcover ($22.00)! Could I finally stop making my own? Let’s take a look.
As always, BF’s flagship hardcover product came in a sturdy box with the same pattern as the planner’s cover. (The box makes great storage for washi tape, by the way, if you have a modest collection like I do.)
The dark gray fabric cover – a lovely and pleasant-feeling alternative to the more typical faux leather found on many notebooks and planners – is subtly debossed with motifs of the four seasons. The same seasonal motifs are also used on BF’s Vanguard Pocket Dateless Planner Set. The clean, understated design is exactly what I would expect from Baron Fig.
A pale gray, woven fabric ribbon marker is almost an Ana-approved length – just a half-inch longer, and it could be used to open the book to the marked page. The ribbon is a nice touch that is consistent with BF’s other Confidant notebooks, but since I always leave my planner open on my desk, I won’t use it much.
The flyleaf includes a bookplate with a sweet image of a desk that really appeals to me. (Do I daresay it’s cute?)
The main planner section begins with a monthly 7×5 grid layout – yes! Crowded months no longer have to share a space. The day columns on the undated calendar are also blank, so the week can begin with either Sunday or Monday (or any day), as desired.
The monthly spread is then followed by five weekly page spreads. Again, the format is completely blank, so you can start your week with any day. Most exciting to me is that each of the seven days has equal space! A completely freeform eighth space is available for to-do lists or notes – in exactly the spot where I would put it.
A huge advantage with BF’s binding is that any page spread will stay open on its own. It’s ideal for people like me who keep their planners open on the desktop. (When I DIY’d Leuchtturm or Rhodia notebooks, I had to use a binder clip on one side to keep them open.)
The fifth weekly spread is followed by the next monthly spread, and so on, so this planner can be started at any time of the year and used for a continuous 12 months.
After the last planner page, the Notes section begins, which is filled with 43 unformatted dot grid pages. The last dozen of these sheets are perforated for easy removal. I’m going to use this section for distant planning in 2020 – a page per month. I had a similar section in my DIY planner. It’s a nice place to put reminders for tasks I do annually and events happening in the following year when I don’t yet have the next year’s planner set up.
Having used various Baron Fig notebooks before, I was already familiar with the paper, which is pleasant to use with all the pens and pencils I’ve tried on it (I especially like sketching with graphite on this paper). Since I always write appointments and notes in my planner with pencil, I didn’t throw my full arsenal of media at the paper, but I did test several pens and markers I considered for filling in the dates and monthly headers. The Art Alternatives Fineliner pen bled a bit where my pen point paused; the rest did not bleed at all, even my juicy Sailor fude nib. I ended up choosing the Art Alternatives Fineliner for the monthly headers, and I apparently wrote fast enough without pausing that I saw no bleed-through. I used a Sakura Pigma Micron 0.5mm for the dates.
Indeed, the BF dateless format is everything I want in a planner. I’m used to filling in my own dates, so that’s nothing new, and this time I didn’t have to make all the rulings first, which is the most tedious part of the task anyway. I’m a happy planner!
Well, almost. The only thing about the BF planner that I can’t abide by is all that gray. Gray cover with gray-on-gray debossing, gray ribbon, gray end sheets, gray section dividers, gray header on each page – gray, gray, gray. (If you lived in Seattle where we have overcast skies the same color as those headers nine months out of the year, you’d feel the same.) Why couldn’t there be a tiny dash of color somewhere – like those cheerful primaries used in the Vanguard dateless planners?
Since I’m used to DIY-ing it, giving a bit of color to an otherwise-perfect planner is small potatoes. First I needed to take care of one functional item that I always put into my self-made planners: index tab dividers to make it easier to flip to each month. Hobonichi Index Stickers added both color and function at once. In fact, I stacked each tiny month number tab over a slightly larger tab to make them sturdier and easier to hold.
Those subtle pastels in the index sticker set weren’t quite bright enough for me, though. If I was going to fight the gray, I intended to do it big time. How?
The eight-pack of Mark’s Maste Washi Tapes in the Basic Colorfully Color Pattern Mix is what I’m talking about! I easily slapped a strip on each monthly page for a bright splash of color. (Thankfully, the tape is repositionable, so when I laid it down crookedly, it was easily fixed.)
I also used strips of washi to mark certain special occasions and personal holidays.
Then for good measure, I also picked up the Midori Seal Collection Planner Stickers – Line, which includes adorable motifs of pencils, pens and brushes. I used up the whole sheet randomly putting bits of color on the weekly spreads. They will give me a fun surprise every time I turn a page.
I’m not the type who enjoys taking time to decorate my planner page each day, but stickering and washi-ing this BF planner was a fun way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon.
I’ve been waiting my whole freelance life for the Baron Fig Confidant Dateless Planner – it’s a huge win for me and the way I like to plan. Its flexible, versatile format would fit nearly anyone’s lifestyle. Now if I could just persuade BF to offer me a color other than gray. . . but in the meantime, washi is my friend.