2 Quality Planners that Will Make Your BuJo Terrific. (Macaws: Great Green, Blue + Gold, S. America. Snapped @ Sylvan Heights Bird Park, Scotland Neck, NC)

2 Quality Planners that Will Make Your BuJo Terrific


TL;DR

♦️ Pub: Jul 20, 2017 | Updated: Aug 31, 2018 | Reading: 4 min. | Words: 1,802 ♦️
Calendars, spreads, and collections —housed in a book you choose— comprise a bullet journal. Hobonichi and Kokuyo distinguish their planners with superb quality and intense flexibility. These 5 reasons explain why they own my bullet journal heart.

Brief Bullet Journaling Background

Stretching into a “new” career bids farewell to a comfort zone. Accountability rises to prominence, as does the intense need to chisel steps for goal achievement. Organizing ideas, conjuring milestones, noting commitments and wanna do‘s— the totality requires a definitive system. After many stumbles, I found my Eureka!

Standard monthly paper calendars present only one of two options: blank-background blocks, or ruled blocks. Research strongly suggests only Japanese planners present a welcomed third alternative: a grid background within each day block. For someone like me, hobbled with handwriting simulating rum & coke overload, that grid spells legibility.

Run away from crowd-think
Run away from crowd-think

Momma raised me to eschew the crowd others happily follow. Forgetting that vital lesson, I first drove onto Bullet Journal Blvd. in a snazzy Leuchtturm. Within mere months, mental red lights flashed, confirming I’d taken a wrong turn at the onset of the trip.

Two problems. First, the paper quality proved dicey. It felt like someone designed the opening pages to fool me. Those pages embraced every pen tossed in their direction. But as I moved deeper into the book, paper woes smacked me. The same pens, with the same ink, produced sporadic feathering, ghosting, and bleed-through.

Reaching for my maiden BuJo once signaled joy,  encouraging faithfulness to the system. With frustration stealing joy’s spotlight, the “irks-me” reality pushed me from fifth to first gear. My productivity journey suffered as the horizon changed.

The second problem sourced in the mechanics of a bullet journal. Drawing spreads seems a worthy time expenditure in the absence of options. But repeatedly drawing monthly, weekly, and daily spreads crashed into my despise-tedium fence, because I knew real calendars were “out there.”

Desperate, I prowled the shelves of local office supply stores. Y’all know how that turned out. I next tried Amazon, studying main internal pages of planners where available. Donning my Hammer mentality (🎵too legit, too legit to quit🎵), I returned to Google. Reading customer commentary in assorted nooks and crannies introduced me to the Hobonichi.

The grid background induced closer inspection. The grid’s subtlety induced a smile, as well as deeper research. Order placed, I scowled when it arrived two days later. Staring at it, I heard a Wizard of Oz tune (🎵we’re off to see the Wizard🎵) sung by munchkins.

new friend in my BuJo 'hood
new friend in my BuJo ‘hood

No way no how would the A6 Hobo dude in hand hold my analog life. Back at the drawing board, I popped for an A5 Cousin Avec, one year divided in half for two books. Upon receipt, I fell in love, giggling like a smitten school girl.

Sadly, planner peace dissipated as my Daily Log fought with the Cousin’s Daily pages for attention. Additional searches introduced me to Kokuyo’s Jibun Techo planner. Losing the Daily section, the Jibun appeared to be just what the BuJo doc ordered.

These days, when I need daily dated pages, it’s Hobo time. Otherwise, I hang out with the Jibun.  I summarize my deep appreciation of these gems in this manner: whoever said ya can’t love an inanimate object never shared space with a Hobo or Jibun.

The Primary Reasons For My Hobonichi/ Kokuyo Addiction

✧︎︎︎1⃣✧︎︎︎ I’m a functional planner who confines artwork to dedicated books

When I grab my bullet journal, I’m laser focused on

  • cementing thoughts on paper before they can take flight
  • discerning open checkboxes
  • selecting  items to award MIT status
  • outlining work/ milestones for the next day/ week/ month/ quarter
  • determining what’s-working vs needs-tweaking vs Bye Felicia!


I’m a firm believer in incorporating joyful obsessions into mundane chores. The glam planning some find therapeutic, I find tedious. That mindset extends to repetitive drawing of calendar spreads and trackers. Japanese planners spare me busy work, providing needed structure (e.g. calendars in multiple formats), plus a backbone for tracking. Yet, flexibility exudes from every page.

✧︎︎︎2️⃣✧︎︎︎ Quality products allow me to focus, without distracting petty irritants

As a decades-long stationery nerd, experience dictates my choices: pens, pencils, erasers (Kokuyo Campus 2B), and paper comprising my stash come from Japan. In my humble opinion, Japanese designers elevate all-things-stationery to a stratospheric quality unmatched by ANYthing stateside.

  • Spiral-bound books never snag.
  • All books remain bound, i.e. no paper falls out.
  • Books open/ stay flat, even when jammed in a container with adjacent books.
  • I’ve yet to witness Moleskine-style irritants (read: anything short of air feathers, bleeds, smears, etc., as if Moleskine is determined to trigger every ink-based woe known in this universe)
  • Nibs carrying a “fine” label prove truthful; Americans define fine as 0.5mm. PuhLeeeeeeeease!
  • Details count … and delight when responsive to customer needs!


In short, dealing with Japanese paper/pen products reminds me of Steve Jobs heyday— before Apple quality control descended into the valley of Windows Vista mimicry. In Japanese Stationery World, everything just works— close encounters of the oops kind remain rare.

✧︎︎︎3️⃣✧︎︎︎ Hobonichi / Kokuyo products uniquely meet my needs/ desires

I craved a flexible calendar. I wanted the structure of monthly and weekly pages. But I didn’t want to “feel” restricted by the layout.

My handwriting remains shaky enough to warrant guides.
Nor did I want smack me lines. I want the freedom to exploit what is, without being hassled in the process.

It’s like Japanese manufacturers crawl around on hands and knees, with beaming flashlight in hand, scrutinizing nooks and crannies for nuances to conquer. Example: the Hobonichi Cousin Avec presents a fine how-to-satisfy-customers model:

  • Some folks want a timeline. Others don’t. The configuration addresses both contingents. A timeline is present, yet subtle.
  • Some people choose 3 MITs daily; others employ a different get-it-togetha! scheme. Hobonichi provides 3 “gentle” checkboxes at the top of its pages. Exploit them if desired. Otherwise, ignore and they fade into the background.
  • Trackers tend to change month to month. Each monthly column provides room for notes and labeling. And the vertical-days week view, spread over facing pages, duplicates the feat.

Kokuyo has its own delightful tricks to share:

  • Want a quick and easy mood tracker? Checkmark the smiley / frowney/ blank face peeking from 3 checkboxes.
  • Weather too? Ditto.
  • Does your world rock to the tune of trackers? Enjoy the unique monthly Gantt Chart, allotting 2 check boxes per day with 24 rows. (Sleep tracker with half-hour increments, anyone?) Incredible!

✧︎︎︎4️⃣✧︎︎︎ Glorious companion booklets

Both Hobonichi and Kokuyo exude productive humility. Say whaaaa? Concerned they may have failed to address a user’s needs, each presents a planning nerd’s kitchen sink. It takes the form of companion books, sized similar to its parent. Thin, they add no bulk when slipped into the cover holding the planner. Yet, the under 4 mm blank grid paper can hold a ton of handwritten notes.

The paper quality spells superb. Tomoe River (TRP). in terms of every Hobonichi product. Kokuyo uses TRP for its Jibun Standard (colorful) planners and blank companion Idea booklet. It switches to proprietary MIO paper for its companion Life booklet (a/k/a forms up da wazoo) and Jibun Biz (monochromatic) models.

For what it’s worth, I stick with the Jibun Idea booklets, as opposed to the Hobo Memo Pads. Why?

  • The Life booklets include left margins, my personal preference.
  • The tad-smaller A5 Slim sizing makes the Jibun booklets friendly to the A5 Hobonichi. I can jam a few Ideas into the front pocket of the Hobonichi cover (Lihit Lab or the recently revised (3 bookmarks and a more accommodating fit) Kokuyo Systemic).

✧︎︎︎5️⃣✧︎︎︎ The products effect a trustworthy system

My home office includes book shelves. I’ve dubbed one shelf Abandonment Row. That zip code houses neighbors with whom you may be familiar: Ms. Lucy (formal surname: Leuchtturm) lives next door to the tall B6-sized Harry, a/k/a Quo Vadis Habana. Equally lean, both provide pleasant company. But Momma taught me to keep only those friends who bring out the best in me. These guys failed the test. Calendar relatives too numerous to mention round out the population.

Planning soars when armed with empowering tools!
Planning soars when armed with empowering tools!

Getting things done (David Allen) mandates a trusted system. A system becomes trustworthy only when used on a consistent basis. Because these books bend to my will, I truly enjoy them. Because I enjoy them, I reach for them daily, multiple times.

A loves-my-back-jeans-pocket Hobonichi Weeks plays appendage, always within easy reach. It works hand-in-glove with the BigBoy planner. No other books —jointly or standing alone— instigated the long-term fidelity these books inspire. I’m faithful. Translation: I get things done!

 

Image Gallery: Hobonichi and Kokuyo Pages

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Call to Action

If your bullet journal serves as your productivity BFF, questions:

  • Are your trackers geared toward goal achievement or conquering fears, or do they constitute mere busy work?
  • Have you established a fail-safe method to catch thoughts while out and about?
  • Is your use of your system consistent? If not, what joyful obsession can you incorporate to coax consistency?


Your world. Your choices. Emerging as your best requires implementing the best get-&-keep-it-together scheme tailored to your workflow, strengths, and weaknesses. It took me umpteen tries to get to my homerun. So keep trying. Happy planning!

2 Quality Planners that Will Make Your BuJo Terrific. (Blue + Gold Macaw, S. America. Snapped @ Sylvan Heights Bird Park, Scotland Neck, NC)
2 Quality Planners that Will Make Your BuJo Terrific. (Blue + Gold Macaw, S. America. Snapped @ Sylvan Heights Bird Park, Scotland Neck, NC)

2 comments

  1. I absolutely love your unique writing style besides realizing what a neatly layered, artistic mind you have. This one line is my favorite! “Incorporating joyful obsessions into mundane chores.” I will remember that forever.
    You are a master of planners and layouts. Awesome job! Thank you for blogging this.

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