Quo Vadis 2017 Plan & Note Planner

30 01 2017

Welcome back, my fine friends, to a new year. New year, new planners. While the Hobonichi Techo has got a pretty firm lock on my heart, I do recognize that it’s not going to be perfect for everyone, so when the good people of Exaclair reached out to me many moons ago to see if I would be interested in taking the Quo Vadis Plan & Note for a spin, I was all for it. This is a planner coming from a good paper family (Quo Vadis, Clairefontaine, Rhodia are all of the same family), and I loved the Quo Vadis Miniweek back in my pre-Hobonichi days.

– All of my friends have decided that the texture of the cover resembles the peel of a banana. I am now questioning the sanity of all of my friends.

This is the Desk size Plan & Note in Violet. The cover is a rubberized soft-touch cover, somewhat but not quite like the Rhodia Webnotebook in texture, of a mostly firm, semi-flexible cardboard stock. The binding is designed to lay flat, and can be bent back on itself for added firmness and convenience when writing on the go.

On the go. The phrase sounded normal popping out of my head, and now looking at it on the screen is beginning to break down into inexplicable nonsense. How does one get on the go? Is the go going, or is it gone?

A matching purple elastic band holds the notebook closed. Size-wise, I was worried at the “desk” designation – I pictured some vast and endless windswept plain of fountain pen friendly paper, bound by the gods upon some ancient varnished desk. But who would need an elastic to hold that sort of notebook closed? Who would ever be able to carry such a thing anywhere to need to keep it closed? My fears were allayed by the actual facts of reality — the “Desk” plan and note, at 6″ x 8.5″, is an easily portable and slim planner, large enough to be useful while retaining the convenience of a semi-compact size. For at least three months I’ve been carrying this planner around (packed always next to my guilt at not having reviewed it yet), rarely taking care to protect it in any meaningful way. It’s important to see how such things hold up to the rigors and abuse of ordinary life.

The tell-tale puncture marks indicative of a feline presence

Looking close, you can find signs of wear, but the planner is still looking sharp. If you take even the slightest amount of care (i.e. not throwing it unprotected into a giant lunch bag full of knives, misshapen objects, and miniaturized kitchen implements) I’d wager you’ll still have a sharp looking planner by the time 2018 rolls around.

Unnecessarily dappled shading brought to you by my backyard trees

On to the features. In the front, a standard Personal Notes page, a 2017 reference calendar; in the back, an inexplicable nine pages devoted to contacts. In spite of all the signs, it IS 2017. Who is using this many, or any, planner pages to keep an analog record of contacts in a book only designed to be carried around for the course of one year? If you really keep an analog record of contacts, I hope you have a nice, separate book dedicated to such records, one that is not bound to any particular year. If a contacts section absolutely must be present, give it one, two pages at most. The rest of that space should go to notes, which this notebook currently only has two pages (a front and back) dedicated to. A Plan & Note planner should push the envelope a little more in the note department. Perhaps have the back free notes section include more than one type of layout to better facilitate brainstorming. Instead of all lined pages, you could have two dot grid, two grid, two blank, two lined, etc. This giant contacts section feels like a missed opportunity.

The entire time I’ve been trying to edit this picture on my phone in bed, the cat has been trying to stand on my face, my hands, or both

Back to the front of the notebook, to the first intriguing feature–the Anno-Planner. It’s a two-page spread encompassing all of 2017 that gives each day a little usable line. The second page header bills this as “The Organization of your year at a single glance.” It makes me think of the Bullet Journal Calendex layout. I feel like you’d need to develop your own legend involving some color-coding and symbols to get maximum usability out of this feature, but it holds a lot of promise.

Top: March-April; bottom: January-February.

After the Anno-Planner, we have a feature I can’t live without–monthly grid pages. A monthly grid helps me best visualize my life, especially working night shift as I currently do. The layout is oriented sideways to allow for maximum writing space in each square, which feels a little odd but is admittedly useful. My biggest issue with these monthly pages is the repeating of lines at the end/beginning of months. Look at the last week of January and the first week of February up there. It is the same line twice. I find this visually off-putting and potentially confusing. At the very least, don’t print the dates in the same color–where you have overlap, use something like a light grey to print the beginning of February that’s on the January spread, and vise-versa the end of January that’s on the February spread. Or, given that the next line is right there, why print the overlap at all? This issue pops up on every monthly spread; several even end up with two weeks printed twice. It’s wasteful, inefficient, and really throws off my groove. If you’ve got page real estate to spare, leave it blank so it can be used for something like …notes!

I really need more commitment to the Note half of this Plan & Note theme

The rest of the meat of the planner is devoted to the year’s worth of weekly spreads. Each day gets an equal amount of space (which is really nice especially when trying to plan in a business that is open seven days a week), with a section at the end of each week just for notes (notes! finally!!). No complaints here; it’s a solid, standard weekly layout. Each page has a perforated tear-off corner in the bottom, to mark where you are in the notebook and theoretically make it easier to flip to. I prefer ribbon markers for that purpose, but the concept works. I might prefer the perforated corners to be on the top, for even easier flipping. After the weekly spread, there is a monthly grid for January 2018, a 2018 reference calendar, and a 2018 Anno-Planner spread to ease the transition into 2018.

I don’t know if any paper exists that does a decent job with the ink of those little stamps at the bottom. They were forged at the bottom of a volcano out of the decanted acid derived from demon blood. Probably

The pages of the whole planner consist of 90gsm white paper, very fountain pen friendly with no bleedthrough and minimal show-through. The paper shows off shading fairly well (not so much on the sheen factor), with a decent dry-time between around 7 and 11 seconds for fountain pen ink. Most surprisingly, I was able to lay down some watercolors with no bleedthrough and no noticeable buckling of the paper. Although the overall format of this planner doesn’t lend itself to the type of planning/journaling where watercoloring would typically be found, it can be done. Of course, with this brand I expected good paper; thankfully, Quo Vadis delivers.

(Exaclair provided this product at no charge for reviewing purposes–opinions entirely my own)

Hobonichi Techo – A [3/4ths] Year in Review

31 08 2016

The Hobonichi-ordering season is swiftly upon us, so it’s time to gather up my thoughts on the beloved planner and share them all with you.

Look I’m a hip internet thing with my washi tapes and my book readings

Prior to the Hobonichi, I used an extra small Moleskine to keep track of my work schedule and overtime hours, but the paper was terrible. I also had a tiny Quo Vadis Miniweek to have good paper in my life, but the Miniweek didn’t have the monthly overview I needed to plan out my overtime at work. And I’m sure an assortment of various other planners or pseudo-planners waltzed through. My life was a shambling mess of too many not-quite-perfect planners. So why did I go for the Hobonichi Techo? Probably pretty pictures layered with dream-colored filters on Instagram. I too could have a neatly written and washi-taped-up life, if only I bought this fabled amalgamation of Tomoe River paper and unicorn wishes.

here let me bookmark the tl;dr version for you

The short review: I’m buying another planner for 2017. And getting a leather cover for it, so I’m planning on continuing this tradition for a while. The end.

Case closed. Mystery solved.

I ordered the English Hobonichi Planner with Custard cover from the Hobonichi store. It also came with a clear Cover-on-Cover, which I abandoned pretty promptly. It felt too slippery? It made the whole thing ever so slightly wider? For whatever reason, I didn’t like it, took it off my planner, and last I recall it was in the trunk of my car some months ago. No idea if it’s still there now. No desire to find it.

Mostly because my trunk is an interdimensional portal to a netherworld of paper cuts and old iPhone cases

The Custard and Cream color polyester cover is beautiful. Choosing just one of the vibrant covers was hard, but I’m happy with my choice. The drawback to abandoning the protective Cover-on-Cover is that the actual cover has become a little dirty over the course of the year. I could try to wash it off. Or I could order a leather cover for next year. The responsible choice is obvious.

Buy the leather cover AND a new polyester cover. Obviously

The standard Hobonichi cover comes with a lot of little pockets that I like in theory and decoratively, but haven’t actually used that much. The bookmarks and pen loops, however, are essential to my life. I keep one bookmark on the current monthly overview, and the other on the current day. The little tabs at the bottom of the bookmarks weight them just enough to help them lay where they need to and make them easy to grab hold of to move. I think the pen loops are intended to be used as a sort of locking device, the idea being you put one pen through both loops and it holds the cover shut, but I’ve done that approximately zero times since trying it once. I prefer to put one pen in each loop, keep my options open.

And the book open, since it’s not locked shut with writing implement


I will not delve much into the extra content, such as size charts, conversion tables, country codes, national holidays, information about Japanese geography, dining, etc. because while these are interesting, they are not the practical-use stuff I’m interested in analyzing. Functionally, the Hobonichi Techo contains the following sections: yearly overview (2016 & 2017), four months at a time overview, monthly overview, daily pages with extra blank page at the beginning of each month, and blank dot grid pages.

The yearly overview is good for quick-glance planning with the strange rotating-pattern schedule I have. The four months at a time overview has left me stumped. I have not yet hit on a good use for it in my life. Maybe if I planned out exercise routines? Planning out dinners? Format-wise, it doesn’t work as well for planning out my work schedule as the monthly overview does.

Here’s the section that has eliminated the need for my little Moleskine planner. This format is perfect for planning out my work/life, and easier for me to visualize my overtime sign up especially given that I work the night shift. There’s just enough room to write down everything I need. Monthly overview, don’t ever change.

On to the daily. I lasted about 1 month writing large fancy things in the middle of pages and filling in words around them. Once I settled into a pattern of just writing whatever I want I’ve done much better. Usually, it’ll be a summary of the day. Sometimes to-do lists. Sometimes doodles, or stickers, or recipes, or whatever. Really, truly whatever. A book this fancy may come with an intimidation factor, perhaps, that causes some people to abandon the effort. Don’t try to force it. Don’t wreck yourself trying to make each page some grand work of art. Let it be what it will be. For me and my life, it’s just enough room to summarize the occurrings of any given day.

The beginning of each month features a “Coming Up!” page, which I’ve used backwards from what I think is the intended purpose. I use it to document an overall summary of the month – the books I have read, the new recipes I have tried, the days I got more than 10,000 steps, the major events that occurred in that month. I’m sure it also works great for making plans if that’s what you’re into. Bonus, the Hobonichi includes half pages for the last 2 weeks of the previous year and the first week of the next year, which is great if you’re just starting a Hobonichi but I’m wondering how I will utilize this transitioning from 2016 to 2017 Hobonichi.

The blank dot grid is where I’ve kept track of the pen and ink combos that I’ve used in the notebook throughout the year. The Hobonichi is known for its use of the magical Tomoe River paper, a substance that is both thin and fountain pen friendly (and friendly to other things like watercolor, but I haven’t gotten that highfalutin this year. I have some mini watercolor pans in a tin. I guess the next step involves actually using them). Tomoe River paper can take a lot of ink without any bleedthrough, but being such thin paper you can absolutely see through it. This may be a drawback or dealbreaker for some people, but it keeps the planner relatively slim and portable while still being wonderful for fountain pen ink. Only you can decide how showthrough impacts you.

Only you can prevent forest fires

Will I be patient enough for the Hobonichi to be in stock thru Jetpens? Or will I cave and order it at the first available second direct from the Hobonichi website? We’ll find out on September 1st, 11AM Japan time if I can resist the temptation.


Update: Of course I wasn’t patient enough to wait! The Hobonichi website on the first day of ordering is an exercise in frustration and futility–the servers historically have never been beefed up enough to handle the worldwide demand for a planner we really won’t actually be using for several months. After about 8 or more attempts in which my cart kept repeatedly getting deleted, I finally managed to place my order on September 1st. It was shipped September 8th, and made it all the way from Japan to my apartment complex office in NC on September 13th. As for JetPens, the planners came in stock on September 15th, and I completely missed the email about it. The only thing you don’t get from JetPens are the Hobonichi Store Exclusives (this year, a small toast-shaped plate and a 3 color pen), nor access to the accessories (I also ordered a planner ruler and a pencil board).