In a world of phone alerts and online calendar notifications, it’s easy for plans to get lost in the grind. I’ve tried the Bullet Journal system in the past, but I could never devote enough time to make it look fancy, so it always ended up as little more than a to-do list in my notebook. This year I decided to step up a little. The kind folks at Baron Fig provided me with one of their Confidant size 2018 planners, and I also picked up the infamous Hobonichi Techo for the sake of comparison. Well, we’re just about two months in on 2018, so let’s see which system is getting the job done.
BaronFig 2018 Planner
The BaronFig planner is simple enough at first glance. The cover is the same thick stock as the Confidant notebook, with the same comfortable fabric-like texture. The book is available in the Charcoal Grey color, has a built in light grey bookmark, and has a debossed “2018” in the corner. Inside the book you’ll find Baron Fig’s fantastic fountain pen friendly paper, which is thick enough to avoid show through, tough enough to prevent feathering, and smooth enough to provide a little feedback without being scratchy.
The sections of this planner open with a year-at-a-glance overview calendar, followed by a full page spread for each month with daily grids for important meetings or events. Following that, we get into the main section of the planner. Each page is split up into three sections, or three days per page. The dates are all pre-filled so if you’re a little looser with your planning and occasionally skip a day or two, you’ll end up with some empty spaces. Or opportunities for creative writing, if you prefer. The final quarter of the book is a devoted note section filled with Baron Fig’s dot-grid format. This section is useful for highlights, recalling important events, meeting notes, or if you just need to test a pen.
The BaronFig Planner retails for $22 usd, and is available from Baron Fig directly. As of today, February 22, the planner is on sale for $14 while supplies last.
Hobonichi Techo 2018
The Techo is one of Hobonichi’s most popular books here in the US, but still may be unfamiliar to a lot of stationery people out there. This is an A6 sized softcover planner from Japan. The primary selling point of Hobonichi’s planner line is the inclusion of the legendary Tomoe River paper which, while very thin, is pretty much the best paper you can get when it comes to using fountain pens. Most US retailers only carry the Techo planner toward the end of the year, so if you want to get one, you have to commit early.
The format is similar to Baron Fig’s, opening with the year at-a-glance. Before moving on to the full page calendar view, the Techo includes a monthly breakdown which provides a single line of writing space for each day. This space is useful for noting birthdays, anniversaries, or trips, but not much more. Beyond that, each day is given a full page that includes the date, a grid layout, an icon for the current phase of the moon, a small calendar showing place in the current month, and a quote that is usually motivational or thoughtful, and designed to help you reflect on the day.
Like the Baron Fig, there is also a small section of dot grid formatted pages for notes, followed by sections for important contacts, international size charts, a conversion table sheet, a list of highlights in the calendar year in Japan, a chronology of Japan’s history, Japanese folk tales, International country dialing codes, national holidays, and finally a section for your personal contact information. The books are even individually numbered so you can confirm ownership if it ever gets lost. Basically, this is an incredibly handy little planner.
The Techo retails for $33 usd, and can be found at Jetpens, Anderson Pens, and other fine stationery retailers.
Using the Books
Baron Fig Planner – As I’ve stated before, I love the size and feel of Baron Fig’s flagship Confidant. Smaller than an A5, larger than a pocket book, and a very comfortable texture inside and out. But that size can be a double edged sword. Depending on your bag/carry situation, it may be difficult to bring this planner with you throughout your daily routine. On the other hand, this book makes an excellent desk planner. Something to sit at the ready when you have a moment to record your thoughts. The blank spaces provided for each day leave enough room for brief task lists, meeting reminders, or just summarizing the day’s events.
My carry set up involves a convertible messenger bag briefcase in which I carry my laptop, Sinclair pen case, a Leuchtturm A5 for creative writing, and my planner(s). The Baron Fig planner fits right in, but it does get a little crowded. That said, the rigid cover and medium size make it very easy to pull this planner out for quick notes, even if I’m not near a table or desk.
Hobonichi Techo – The Hobonichi Techo’s size and feel are new for me. I’ve used books with similar dimensions before, like the Leuchtturm pocket notebook for example, but something about the Techo caught me by surprise. The soft cover is texturized with a faux leather finish. The 52gsm Tomoe River paper is soft and gives a very satisfying crinkle when you turn the page. The full page per day layout leaves enough space for pretty much anything you would need to write in a planner. Each page is adorned with a 4mm grid layout which is small, but manageable for most writing styles. Although I shield mine behind a fairly thick cover, I find the Techo to be highly portable. Were I a less paranoid person, I would carry it uncovered in my back pocket and it would travel very well.
That portability can come with a price. Due to the book’s size, it’s a little challenging to hold the book with one hand and write with the other. The Tomoe River paper’s brilliant quality with fountain pen inks is fantastic to have, but longer dry times mean you cant just jot something down and close the book. Even some thicker ballpoint inks may get smudged or transferred to the opposite page. That said, a spare sheet of paper used as a bookmark will at least prevent any ink from crossing pages.
As I mentioned, I carry my Techo in a case, so it takes up about as much space as a fully loaded Nock Co Sinclair. So long story short, it has a minimal footprint in terms of bag space.
Deciding on the right planner for your situation can be simultaneously very simple and very difficult. After nearly two months of using both of these planners, I can honestly say that most people would be satisfied with either. The Baron Fig planner features excellent design and build quality, and it’s great for tracking my blog posts and job hunt. The Hobonichi Techo is, well, it’s sort of the Platonic ideal of a book if that makes sense. Holding it, you feel like you’re holding something precious. When you open it up, its true usefulness is revealed.
Ultimately, due to the Techo’s limited availability, price point, and somewhat particular use qualities, I can’t say that it’s a great recommendation for everyone. The Baron Fig planner is priced right and easy to find, but fountain pen enthusiasts might not have as much fun with is as the Techo.
In the end, whichever way you go, these are both quality products that I am proud to have in my bag.
The Stalogy Editor’s Series 365Days A6 notebook is a near perfect stand-in for the Hobonichi Techo. It’s the same size, has very similar cover qualities, and if the paper is not Tomoe River, it’s the closes thing to it in terms of feel and quality. The notebook uses a grid layout but does not include any dated pages or advanced statistics in the back of the book.
The Stalogy book is available all year from JetPens for $19.
Disclaimer: The Baron Fig planner was provided to The Poor Penman free of charge for the purpose of review. The Hobonichi Techo and Stalogy notebook were purchased by me for the purpose of review and to feed the addiction. All opinions stated are those of the author.