Erin Condren is the brand to know for the large coil-ring planners favored by influencers, vloggers and busy moms. I am NONE of those things. However, I discovered a simpler Focused Productivity Notebook (currently $12 and only available in black. Other products in the Focused line are available) which is undated and features semi-soft cover notebook with the most minimal of pre-printed content. It claimed to have 80# heavy weight paper and a nice PVC leather cover so I was willing to give it a try.
I purchased the caramel brown cover (no longer listed on the site) which is a flexible cover — not a card stock cover but not a hard cover either. The pages all lay flat easily and the book includes two ribbon bookmarks in two shades of smoky blue.
Inside, the notebook starts with two pages for goals and intentions. I never fill these out. I find it a little too lofty. My goals tend to be much more mundane and seldom worth writing down. “Don’t eat a whole sleeve of thin mints in one sitting” doesn’t seem worthy of a monthly goal.
The next pages are printed with a month-on-two-pages calendar followed by a monthly planning/summary page (The left page is divided in half with one column divided into three sections flanked by a half a column checklist and a scribble space below. The right hand page is an open dot grid page.) and then there are five spreads of weekly pages with Monday through Thursday on the left and Friday through Sunday on the right with room at the bottom for extra notes and a to-do list.
Oddly, the monthly calendar is laid out starting with Sunday and the weekly calendar is laid out starting on Monday. When dating the monthly calendar versus the weekly, I had to make sure to get the right date on the right day.
At the center top of each left hand page is a color block — on both the monthly and weekly pages. The colors change as the months progress (12 monthly sections in total) but there are a few months where the color at the top of the page is the same — the aquas in the front, the maize yellow in the middle and the moss towards the back. I think there are subtle shifts in the colors from month-to-month trying to create a visual transition of the seasons but its a bit too subtle to work effectively in helping to locate a particular month without a bookmark or other identifier.
In the back are 12 pages of lined paper for notes and 11 pages of dot grid followed by a page for contacts with space for name and one line of contact info. All things considered, I would have preferred a few pages in the pack for forward planning — maybe a two page spread for the next year and then a minimum of “notes” pages. I only use the notes pages in my planners if its the only paper at hand so it’s often just a quick name, phone number, or item I need to remember. Often, if it’s something I need to keep in the back of my planner, I end up adding sticky notes which can be moved as needed.
As for the heavyweight paper, it seemed to work okay with my fountain pens with only an occasional show through (I tend to use EF or F nibs mostly). Heavy coverage of fountain pen ink definitely bled and feathered a bit. It does have a bit of tooth so if smooth paper is your preference, the texture of this paper might bother you.
I hoped that the blank pages would lend themselves to a little embellishment. I tried adding colored dots to the monthly calendar using a Zig Clean Color Dot marker and the show through was quite evident. I also attempted to add a script headline on my monthly and weekly pages with an Ecoline Brush Pen and it also resulted in some pretty serious show through. I also tried using some rubber stamps — both pigment and dye based pads and got a lot of show through.
This is paper clearly designed for the rollerball and ballpoint crowd. And pencil folks too.
If I were to give this planner a letter grade, I think I’d give it a C+. It’s got a lot of things that just didn’t live up to my expectations — the paper quality should have been able to stand up to water-based markers. I don’t expect everyone to accommodate the proclivities of fountain pen users but there’s a whole culture around embellished planners and Erin Condren sits in the center of that so I would expect her planners to be able to hold up to craft markers. The simple color palette is aesthetically appealing but the page colors are too subtle to be useful. On the plus side, the cover and ribbon bookmarks are nice but that feels like saying “the gift was terrible but it was beautifully wrapped.”
DISCLAIMER: The items included in this review were purchased by me with funds provided by our lovely Patrons for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.