Late last year, I decided to try a Hobonichi Planner. It was a bit of a gamble, because I haven’t used a day planner for many years. My workflow is mostly software-based: I use Calendar on Mac OS and iOS to record events, and (currently) OmniFocus for my tasks. However, for a while I have thought it would be interesting to have an analogue daybook of sorts, to plan out the current day, record what I have done, and also to jot down random thoughts. I wasn’t entirely sure that I would use it consistently, or if I did, that I would find it helpful.
I’ve been using the Hobonichi Planner for a couple of months now, and I have to say that I love it. Despite being devoted to my software tools, writing things down in this little journal helps me to get a different perspective on my day. I still keep all my tasks in OmniFocus, but at the start of the day, I choose which tasks I’m going to tackle today, and write those down at the top of the page. As the day progresses, if I get those tasks done, I check them off – both in the Hobonichi, and in OmniFocus. That might sound redundant (because it is), but marking things done is so satisfying, that it’s even better to do it twice. I also enter events (like meetings, lectures etc.) as they happen, marking them up with a triangle to make them visually distinct. Often little tasks pop up during the day which I do as they occur. I usually don’t bother to enter them after the fact in OmniFocus, but I do write them down in the planner, because it helps to give a more accurate picture of what I’ve actually been doing all day. Similarly, I make a note of work in progress, bits of information gathered and other ephemera that might otherwise be lost. What I end up with is a kind of outline sketch of my day.
It isn’t really a diary (of the excruciating ‘Dear Diary’ sort that I wrote as a teenager), but I do sometimes think on paper about any worries, and whether I ended the day feeling as if I had achieved a lot, or whether it was one of those days that is a tedious struggle from first to last. For example, one day I was procrastinating dreadfully over one particular task, which wasn’t really difficult. I wrote a note in the diary about this, speculating about why I was being so pathetic about it. Something about that process helped me to get a grip on myself, and the next day, I got the task done and wondered why I had ever made such a big deal about it. I’m an adult, and I ought to be able to handle these kinds of things without writing them down, but setting pen to paper helps me in some way I can’t quite explain. It might also be interesting to look back on these pages at a later date, but at the moment, just the act of writing it is a help.
The planner itself is a lovely thing. I worried that the small size (A6) would make it feel cramped, but actually the pages are just the right size for me to fill over the course of a day, and because they lay beautifully flat, there’s no problem with writing anywhere on the page. The Tomoe River paper – as many people have said – is fantastic. It’s extremely thin, but fountain pens can be used on it without any kind of bleeding or feathering, and there is and remarkably little show through, particularly if you use a fine and relatively dry nib. I’ve been using my Pilot Capless (with J. Herbin Violette Pensée ink), which looks lovely on the page, and is extremely convenient for quick notes, because there’s no cap to unscrew or post. I also splashed out on a Gfeller cover using some Christmas gift money, which was another gamble, not because I thought I wouldn’t like the cover1, but because I might not end up getting a Hobonichi in subsequent years. I think that gamble has paid off though, because I’m addicted to the planner now and the Gfeller cover protects it perfectly. I got my cover from Nanami Paper, and since I was paying shipping anyway2, I also got some notebook rubber bands to hold the cover closed (they are much more robust than ordinary rubber bands, and don’t mark the cover), and some mini clip bookmarks that I use to mark the current day and the current month planner page. I do miss having the ribbon bookmark and elastic band that you get with other notebooks, so these accessories have solved those niggles.
Obviously, I had a bit of a hunch that I would like the Hobonichi Planner, or I would not have risked the money on it, but I’ve been surprised by how useful it has been. I’ll certainly be getting one in future years.