What I Use: 2018 Planner Plans

Hobonichi Techo Weeks Planner One Week Spread with ribbon

I seem unable to learn that I’m not a paper planner guy. So, I’ll again be starting the year with a paper planner. My somewhat haphazard approach to picking the planner doesn’t bode well for my success. I’ll go on the record with my plans so that I can see how quickly and thoroughly I fail. (My confidence is underwhelming.)

I bought a Hobonichi Techo (A6 sized) from Jet Pens late in the buying season. I also threw in a Hobonichi Techo Weeks because I liked the coffee bean cover and I figured it’s similarities to my Traveler weekly planner would allow it to be my fallback plan and possibly serve as a daily log. Shortly after they arrived, I had pretty much swapped my ideas and the Weeks will be my planner while the A6 Techo will be a journal/log.

The Weeks starts in December, so I’ve already been using it a bit. I’ll cover the Hobonichi Weeks in this post and save the A6 Techo for another post.

The Hobonichi Techo Weeks is a smaller version (as far as the layout goes) go the Travelers Weekly Planner with which I’ve had some success. Each two-page spread has the days on the left page with the right page being black (well, grid ruled but wide open for writing). The weekly page with Monday and ends with Sunday as any good planner should. Saturday and Sunday are full-fledged days and get the same space as every other day. The month, the day of the week and numbers are all in English while the rest is in Japanese. I don’t read Japanese, so the quotes on each page along with the rest of the text is useless for me, but there’s enough English to make the planner useable.

As I said, I’ve been using the Weeks in December, and it’s been going well, although the paper planner habit has yet to take hold and become a matter of routine.

The blank right page gets a list of what I want to work on during the week. I avoid “planning” too far ahead, so I may list items for the following week but never more than a week in advance. I learned that if I get too far ahead, I’ll have more cross-outs than actual tasks by the time the week arrives. I usually fill out this list on Sunday night. The blank right page also gets used for checklists and notes.

Little of what I do requires that it be done on a specific day although it does need to be done by a particular day. Again, to avoid too many cross-outs I don’t fill out a day on the left until the day before when I’m planning the next day (the last task in my workday is to prepare for the next day). I may fill in specific things in advance if I’m confident that they won’t change but it’s rare.

I still use an electronic calendar for any appointments, and these get transferred to paper either during my Sunday night planning session or my end of day planning session. The transfer is not as involved or time-consuming as it sounds since I have very few calendar based events.

While I’m a long-time user of OmniFocus, I’ve been trying to wean myself off of it. That said, I’ve been unsuccessful and have continued to use it. I’ll plan out the steps in an OmniFocus project and merely refer to it in my Weeks planner, leaving the details to be looked up and managed in OmniFocus. Using OmniFocus may also help me stick to a paper planner since I’ll be fighting against fewer ingrained habits.

Hobonichi Techo Weeks Planner
A highly reflective transparent cover

I did get some accessories once I decided to try and stick with the Weeks. I picked up a transparent cover. Just in time, it seems, as JetPens no longer carries it. I typically skip covers, but the clear one still lets me see the coffee bean cover that I like so much. It gives me a sleeve inside both the front and back covers where I can slip papers. There’s also an inside pocket on both the front and back covers suitable for business cars or similar items, like the small Nock Co. index cards. The back cover has a pocket that can help secure larger slips of paper.

I also picked up a “writing board” sized for the Weeks to give me a hard surface to write on. It has a tab up top labeled “today” which I cut off. I didn’t like it sticking up, and I never used it to mark the current week. The Weeks has two ribbons that can mark the current week. I already had a blotter card that coincidentally matched the size of the weeks. The blotter card made the writing board superfluous since it was stiff enough to write on. It’s heavy paper with a blotter on one side and a picture on the other.

The Weeks using 52gsm Tomoe River cream colored paper so its fountain pen friendly but very thin. There is show through, not only for what I write but also for the pre-printed calendar. “Fountain Open Friendly” usually means slow drying, and that’s the case here which is why I carry blotter paper with it. I should also stick to thin nibs for faster drying and less show through, but so far I’ve just used whatever fountain pen is handy.

Hobonichi Techo Weeks Planner Note Year at a Glance

The Weeks includes monthly calendars (one month per two-page spread) up front and 68 grid-ruled memo pages in the back which I’ve yet to use. There are also two year-at-a-glance calendars up front, one of which takes up a two-page spread and may be useful for planning or tracking, provided you don’t need to write much.

The Hobonichi Weeks is smaller than the Travelers notebook. The Weeks is 3.7” (9.5 cm) by 7.4” (18.8 cm), so it’s much easier to carry. It does fit into many of my pockets, more or less. It is tall and thick, a little taller and thicker with the cover. It fits in my pocket well enough so that I can carry it from point A to point B and still have my hands free. It also takes up less room in my Nock Co. Lanier. Now that winter is here, and the bigger pockets of winter jackets and shirts that come along with it, the planner is even more comfortable to carry. The fact that I can bring it with me more often has translated into me using it more. I don’t have to write things down one place and transfer them to the planner at some future time.

Hobonichi Techo Weeks Planner with Bands

To keep the Weeks closed securely I’ve been experimenting with a Field Notes rubber band and a large rubber band, both of which I already had in a drawer. The large band is easier to take on and off while also allowing me to slip a receipt or slip of paper into the notebook without taking it off. The Field Notes Band is easier to stash in my pocket when I remove it. Both are shown in the photo, but I only use one at a time and have yet to develop a preference.

That’s my 2018 Planner Plans. Let’s see how they stand up to the test of time and my ingrained habits.

What I Use: Hobonichi Techo Journal

Hobo Techo Planner kept closed by an elastic

I’ve been using a Hobonichi Techo Journal this past year. Well, most of 2015, I did lapse a bit in the middle of the year. I haven’t written about it since I didn’t have anything to say that wasn’t already said in other reviews. That’s still the case so there’s links to other reviews down below. But the Year end is a good time to review the ways I’ve tried using the Techo along with my anticipated use in 2016, since I did buy a 2016 version.

I’ve never been much of a paper paper person, at least not since electronic options have been available. All my attempts at using a paper planner have resulted in quick and complete failure. So I didn’t get the Hobonichi with the intention of using it as a planner. I’d consider it as a planner but I wasn’t exactly sure how I’d use it, and this played out over the year as my usage changed.

I didn’t get a cover or any accessories for the Techo, they can be pricey and I wasn’t confident I would continue using it. I didn’t intend to carry the Hobonichi very often and when I did I thought any cover would add unwanted bulk. I ended up using a large rubber band to keep it closed.

2015 Hobonichi Techo Planner

The Techo is an A6 sized planner which is small. The paper is thin so the book isn’t very thick despite having a page per day plus many additional pages. Each daily page is grid ruled which is not my favorite choice. Sunday’s are a light red while other days are a thin black, and I’ve gotten used to it. There’s an area for a timeline down the left with “12” and dinner utensils preprinted. I wish these weren’t preprinted. While I do like recording a time for each entry I rarely match up to the two preprinted times.

As you may know the Hobonichi uses fountain pen friendly Tomoeo River paper. I used fountain pen exclusively. The paper is thin and while bleed through isn’t a problem there’s some show-through. In general show-through never bothers me and I regularly use both sides of any paper. With my thin nibs the show-through is there but minimal with the Hobionichi. What does bother me is the time it takes for ink to dry on this paper. I cut a piece of blotter paper to fit the Techo and place between the pages. In addition to making my current page easy to fine it keeps the ink from transferring to the facing page when I close the book. Sure, I could wait for the ink to dry but that would require patience. Plus, it provides a bit of a cushion to write on if I’m using a hard thin nib that might leave an imprint on the page below the one I’m writing on.

The Hobonichi contains a monthly section, with each month covering a two page spread. I started the year using this section to plan longer term projects and themes for a week. I never referred back to this information so this section died out in March. This was also my only attempt to use the Techo to actually plan more than a week ahead.

Hobonichi Techo Planner monthly page spread
Hobonichi Techo Planner monthly page spread

It was the daily pages that I used regularly, although in different ways throughout the year. It ended up being more of a journal than a planner. Regular use through the year included tracking goals such as weight and how far I walk each day. I would also track other things for short periods of time, such as my home bandwidth usage when it seemed higher than normal for the month.

One habit that I did develop, and plan to continue, is to start each day with a short entry about what time I woke up, how motivated I’m feeling and what the weather is like. At various times I’ve tried listing accomplishments during the day and a summary at the end of the day, but these never stuck as habits.

Lately I’ve returned to using it as a short term planning. On Sunday night I usually plan my week ahead. As part of this I copy any appointments from my electronic calendar to the Hobonichi. I don’t have many these days so it’s quick to do. Then I pick a theme, project, or client that I’ll concentrate on for each day of the week. This kind of works for me but I won’t be continuing this next year. It helps because I see the info as I make my morning entry first thing, but I never refer to it during the day. If I have the book out near the end of the day I can quickly see what’s on tap for the next day. That’s a big “if” so I’m still in the habit of checking my electronic calendar and OmniFocus to see what’s on tap for the next day.

I never did get into the quotes on each two day spread or any of the other specialized pages. I’d prefer more space to write instead of the quotes but I suppose they are part of the Hobo charm. I might use some of the other pages this year, but probably not.

I did get a Hobonichi Techo for 2016 but I’ll be using it a bit diffently. I bought a Agendio that I intend to use as a traditional planner. Having the Techo for a year helped me work out if I could use a paper planner (yes), and if so what I would want in one (not the Hobo). For me, the drawback of the Techo is that there’s either a month view or a day view. I like to see a week at a time and I don’t need a lot of room for each day. In 2016 I’ll be using the Techo as a journal rather than a planner. I’ll keep doing my morning entries and tracking diet and other health related metrics since I find this is a good incentive to keep me on track and stick to good habits. Despite past failures I plan to end each day with an entry about the day along with anything interesting that I saw or did.

Additional Reading

The Pen Addict – Susan mainly reviews the larger Hobonichi Cousin but there is a comparison. She did not like the Techo for several reasons, so it’s worth reading if you want to avoid surprises.

The Newsprint – Good review with lots of details about the book itself. Great photos.

Gourmet Pens – Azizah was a bit overwelmed by everything in the Hobo (as was I but I just ignored much of it). This review comes after it “clicked” and she’s used it awhile.

There’s a large fan community around Hobonichi planner. Use Ian Hedley’s Pennaquod pen blog searcher or Google to search for enough reading to consume a day (or week).

What I Use: Pocket Notebooks

Pelle Journal Cover Side View
Pelle Journal Cover Side View

Field Notes & fountain pens have been the subject of some recent internet discussion and some recent Pen Addict podcasts. I have to admit I can’t get worked up one way or the other on the topic. But it did get me thinking about what I like in my pocket notebooks. Especially since some of what other people mentioned as a negative I consider a feature.

I rarely use the notebook that’s actually in my back pocket. It’s often faster for me to use my phone for a quick note (usually using Drafts). It’s so rare for me to pull the notebook from my pocket I have considered not carrying it, but inertia and habit keeps it in my pocket. So when I say pocket notebook I mean a notebook that is about 3.5“ x 5.5” in size so it does fit in a pocket, although I don’t have to pull it from a pocket to use it.

Nock Co Fodderstack XL with two Vanishing Points

I wrote about my Nock Co. Fodderstack XL and I do carry a pocket notebook in there. Since the pen and notebook are together I’m more likely to use this instead of the notebook from my back pocket. Currently I have the Nock Co. DotDash Black Notebook in this. When the notebook is full I’ll replace it with a different type. More on why when I discuss paper later. I typically use this for quick notes so this notebook’s biggest competitor is my phone. I will occasionally pull this notebook out and carry just the notebook and a pen in my shirt pocket.

Pelle Leather Journal Cover
Pelle Leather Journal Cover with Field Notes peaking out around the edges. The pen my Pelikan M805 Stresemann

These days my pocket notebooks are mostly carried in a Pelle Leather Journal cover that I purchased years ago. The cover is slightly smaller than a pocket notebook, with a height of about 5.25″. I rather like being able to see the edges of the notebooks that are inside. I tend to pick notebooks that match up aesthetically. The Pelle holds three notebooks. I suppose more could be squeezed in with some creativity, but three is enough for me. The Pelle cover is no longer available although it is similar to the smaller Midori Traveler Notebook.

The Pelle is too bulky to be carried in my pocket, at least during the summer. There are some where it will fit, but it’s just not convenient. So I usually carry it in my bag, or just in my hand from place to place. I have gotten into the habit of just making sure it’s with me.

My use of the Pelle cover has ebbed and flowed since I got it years ago. I started using it again at the start of this year when I filled it with a set of three Field Notes Ambition notebooks. I’m in the seventh month of nearly constant use.

I use the ledger book for lists, usually that I will refer to more than once or over a long(ish) period of time. This notebook is less than a third full after nearly seven months.

The second notebook is the weekly planner. This is a 56 week planner so it’s still going. Each night I use this to record three, sometimes four tasks that I want to accomplish the next day. I don’t use it as a typical planner, only updating it at night for the next day and checking off what I accomplished.

The third notebook started off as the grid ruled ambition but has since been filled and replaced. Currently it is a Field Notes Workshop series notebook although I will probably replace it before it’s filled. (Again, the reasons will be under paper types I like.) I use this for longer notes when I’m sitting at a desk or table. It’s often things I’ll want to refer back to, at least during the next week or two. This notebook does get used a lot so it’s been filled a few times. Between the Ambition and the Workshop notebooks I used a Field Notes Pitch Black edition and a couple Doane Notebooks.


I am terrible at organizing and tracking multiple notebooks. At one time I thought it would be good to have notebooks dedicated to certain topics. This quickly devolved into a hot mess. The notebook I wanted was never handy and I had notes scattered all over the place. That’s when the Pelle Journal returned to use. My active pocket notebooks are now either in it or my Fodderstack.

I also found that keeping multiple notebooks, each dedicated to a topic, in the Pelle didn’t work for me. This is one reason I had stopped using it before this year, I just didn’t need three notebooks at once. The lists and day planner notebooks, along with the general notebook, does seem to be working for me. I could incorporate them into the same single notebook but I find that the three notebooks works well for me. The lists and planner allow me to swap out the general notebook once it’s full and not have to worry about needing it for reference or transferring information.

I don’t scan my notebooks when they are full or otherwise index them. I will occasionally scan a page or two with my phone or copy some info into a more permanent notebook or computer document. I used to save all my pocket notebooks by throwing it in a box. But after never referring back to them I now destroy them when they are full. Even the planner really only has info that’s fresh for a day. I have a full fledged electronic task list but I find the written list of top tasks helps me avoid the distraction of seeing other tasks and allows me to focus.

Paper Types

I hate fountain pen friendly pocket notebooks! There, I said it. Ok, hate is too strong a word, but it makes my point. The reason the Field Notes Workplace Edition and the Nock Co. DotDash black notebook will be replaced is because they are too “fountain pen friendly”. I’m using them because I decided to force myself to try to adjust to the paper. It doesn’t seem to be working although I still hate to remove the notebook before it is full.

No doubt the paper is nice to write on. So why the hate? Smudges! Being fountain pen friendly extends the ink drying time since the ink is absorbed into the paper more slowly. I don’t want to carry blotter paper and I don’t want to wait before closing the notebook or turning the page. I also don’t want to rely on ink specially formulated as fast drying. I get smudges when I carelessly put my hand on the written word when holding the notebook. Less fountain pen friendly paper absorbs the ink faster so it dries faster. I have fewer problems with the the regular paper, such as with the Field Notes Ambition series. I can concentrate on the writing, not how I hold the notebook or if I can turn the page.

Field Notes Workshop edition Writing sample
Fountain Pen friendly paper but with ink smudging from turning the page. Minor in this case because I was being careful where I put my fingers. It annoys me more than the next photo.
Field Notes Ambition grid notebook writing sample
The problem with non-fountain pen friendly paper. I embrace the show through but a ink burp soaked clear through four sheets.

I use thin nibs so the less friendly paper is not a problem for me. There is often show through but I actually like that and I can still easily read what I wrote. I am destroying the book in the end so as long as I can read what I wrote before it is destroyed I am happy with it. Smudges bug me, show through does not. I rarely encounter bleed through and it’s usually when a pen burps ink. Honestly, show-through and even some incidental bleed-through gives me the impression of a well used notebook. Smudges make me feel like I’ve been careless.

Doane Paper pocket notebook
The Doane Paper Pocket Notebook I carry in my pocket. The pen is a Kaweco Brass Sport.

Doane Paper Grids+Lines is my favorite paper ruling on any paper size, including pocket notebooks. This is interesting and was a surprise to me because the traditional grid ruling is my least favorite overall, although in a pocket notebook I would pick grid over a standard line ruled paper. A dot grid ruling is a close second to Grids+Lines and it is more readily available.

The paper type in Field Notes can vary widely although I’ve never encountered one where it’s been so bad with my fountain pens that I can’t use it. I can see where others wouldn’t like them with fountain pens but in my pocket notebook I value quick drying over everything else. Plus I like the “I’m being used” look of show through. I don’t like the “Hah! Now try to remember what you wrote” look of smudges.

Because of past Field Notes subscriptions and my hoarding of Doane pocket notebooks (from when they are on sale) I have a lot of these pocket notebooks waiting to be used. I don’t typically try other pocket notebooks and I don’t feel compelled to find a better notebook. I’m very happy with my current options. While I like the Doane Grids+Lines better than all the other options I do like the variety and design of Field Notes so I do switch between the notebooks. That said, I have to admit to buying the odd pocket notebook here and these.

Wrapping Up

The Pelle Journal cover has made my pocket notebook harder to carry since they no longer fit into a pocket with ease. This wasn’t a problem in the winter since a winter jacket always had a big enough pocket. But even know that summer is here I’ve still kept the habit of making sure the notebooks are with me. So the reality is I’ve gone through pocket notebooks faster since switching to the cumbersome three notebook Pelle Journal cover.

Knowing that the notebook will eventually be destroyed keeps me more diligent in moving those important notes to where they belong. In the past I’d procrastinate, knowing the book will always be available. Yet I’d sometimes have to go mining through old notebooks looking for something I knew I wrote down. Now I’m diligent in reviewing my notes at least at the end of the week if not sooner. Anything that was possibly important enough to exist longer than the notebook was move someplace where it could be searched from electronically. There’s actually very little that I need to copy from the pocket notebook so it’s note time consuming. Scanning entire notebooks prior to destruction would take longer and not be any more useful.

What, if any, pocket notebooks do you use?

What I Use: Nock Co. Fodderstack XL

Nock Co Fodderstack XL with two Vanishing Points

Rather than a regular review I’ve decided to start talking about the things I use regularly and why. The things I use regularly will be written about in the What I Use category.

I’ve been using Nock Co. cases since their Kickstarter campaign to launch the company. They’re pretty much the only soft cases that I use. Since I started working from home exclusively I’ve had to carry fewer pens and I’ve gravitated to carrying the Fodderstack XL since it arrived as May began.

I ordered the Steel/Blue Jay version. I like the color but there’s one unanticipated trait that I didn’t expect. It tends to highlight dirt and dust. Like all Nock Co. cases the material has a texture to it and this can hold on to dust and dirt. This is unnoticeable with other colors, such as my orange cases, but it’s very visible in this darker color. The clips from the pens can also discolor the material. None of this is permanent and can be brushed right out, but it doesn’t stay pristine for long. I don’t mind when the things I use show evidence of use, and I rather like it. So while I don’t necessarily want things to look dirty, this doesn’t particularly bother me. In the photos the case was brushed clean about a day before. The way I carry this case, in many varied environments, probably doesn’t help keep the case clean.

Like every other Nock Co. case that I have the build quality is first rate.

Nock Co Fodderstack XL with a KarasKustoms Ink and Pelikan M805

The Fodderstack XL is big enough to hold two good sized fountain pens. They do touch, which also doesn’t bother me. I have only a few pens where I’m worried about damage and those don’t get carried out and about in any soft case. Other than from each other, the case provides good protection to the pens. It’s a soft case so it won’t protect against aggressive abuse but there is padding from the material. Obviously there’s no protection for the part of the pen sticking out of the case.

The material is a bit thick so pens with tight clips take some effort to insert. I have a couple KarasKustoms Inks, which all have a stiff clip, where the clip is too close to the body to use with the case. They could probably be made to fit, but only after a bit of a fight.

The Fodderstack XL is sized for Nock’s DotDash Pocket Notebooks. This means that most standard pocket notebooks will also fit. This includes Field Notes and Doane Small Utility Notebooks, both of which I’ve used. Two DotDash Pocket Notebooks can be made to fit but it’s a tight squeeze and eliminates the ability to quickly remove and insert the notebook. A Field Notes Ambition and a DotDash Pocket could also be carried but it was also a tight squeeze. I don’t find the extra effort worth it just to have a second pocket notebook.

I typically carry one pocket notebook and two pens in the Fodderstack XL. I usually pick two pens for the day and carry those pens throughout the day. (And honestly, it’s been the same two pens all this week, so they don’t change every day.) One pen is a extra fine or thinner pen and the other is a fountain pen and ink suitable for regular writing sessions, so it can be a wider nib. This week I’ve been carrying my two Vanishing Points, one with a XXXF nib and Pilot black ink while the other is a left oblique nib with Pilot blue ink.

Nock Co Fodderstack XL with two Vanishing Points with the Doane Small Utility Notebook in front of it.

Lately I’ve been carrying the Nock Co. DotDash Pocket Notebook but have carried a Doane Utility Notebook in the past. I like the DotDash design but I’m finding a standard (meaning bound on the left) notebook suites my current usage more. My current pocket notebook carry is a mess and the notebook will change on occassion, but that’s another topic.

A typical day has me almost exclusively using these pens until the evening, where I may switch to a different pen if I do any writing. The exception is if I want an ink that’s not in one of the two pens, such as red. Since I work at home I’ll carry the case around the house if I change locations (office desk, patio if the weather is nice, or a chair by the big patio door if the weather isn’t nice but I want to see the world and daylight). This way I always have a couple pens and notepaper handy.

I also grab the case whenever I head out. It fits in all my shirt pockets. While it’s a little bigger than I prefer for a shirt pocket, it is very light. Little weight is added beyond the pad and paper. It also fits in my jean and trouser pockets, but I only carry it there if my hands and shirt pocket are full and I’m going to a nearby location, such as my car, where I then pull it out. It also slide nicely into my Roterfaden Taschenbegleiter so I can carry it in my mobile office.

I like having it with me so I did develop a habit of leaving it in my car at times, although now that hotter summer weather is here I carry it in a pocket more often with my preference being a shirt pocket, even if I’m heading into a store where I’m unlikely to need it. The notebook pocket is also nice for holding receipts, business cards and other scraps of paper collected throughout the day.

I do have to pay attention to the pens I carry. Two KarasKustoms Ink fountain pens do fit, but they are heavier than my preference for a shirt pocket carry, even without the case.

I like the style so much that I recently bought the smaller original Fodderstack, but I have different plans for this one which I’ll write about in a future what I use, article assuming I do use it. The original Fodderstack is smaller and can only hold one pen (unless they’re really thin pens) and it’s designed for the Nock Co. index cards.

What would I change? Nothing really.

While a different color wouldn’t show off dirt and dust I got this color because I wanted to carry it in my shirt pocket and I didn’t want anything bright, so I’m happy with it. It’s a business friendly color.

I sometimes wish it held three pens but that would make it thicker and heavier, and therefore less useful for me. Three pens in my shirt pocket annoys me even without the added case and notebook. I’ve gone back to carrying a Kaweco Sport with red ink so that gives me a pen to use with bright ink if I need to mark something up.

Bottom Line

The Nock Co. Fodderstack XL works for me because it’s light and easy to grab and carry. I got it intending to have something I could easily toss in a bag or briefcase but I’ve found it’s something I use and carry all day. While I’ve always been happier carrying more pens, I’m finding that the right two pens works well for me and is easy and light to carry. Plus, it works throughout the day in any environment.

Additional Reading

Write Analog (pre-production review)