Ultimate Guide to Professional Planning

I have been planning for as long as I can remember. In school with agendas for homework, to now as I’m preparing my planner for my second year of college, I’ve always loved planning. I’ve even done bullet journals too.

But today I wanted to share a different kind of planning: professional planning.

What is Professional Planning?

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Professional planning is a loose term for the type of 6 ringed planners used usually in a professional setting like work, but can be used for minimal personal planning.

These planners the majority of the time come in 6-ringed binders, although I’ve seen some disk planners as well.

It’s a branch of the planning community which involves pretty minimal, muted colors, but mostly black and white with some beige tones as a general aesthetic. I like that it’s an alternative to the very colorful and sometimes cutesy look that planners can go for. It gives off that “professional” vibe.

Professional planners have inserts, which are pieces of planner paper with designs like monthly spreads or goal tracking, etc. They come in sets that you can buy either physically which are sent to you, or printables that you can print out at home.

Rather than a strict definition, professional planning is more of a general look and feel. When you see a professional planner, you know. It may also be called a minimal planner or custom planner.

What are the different sizes of binders?

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There are several different sizes in the binder family.

There’s the pocket, the smallest option around 3.5 x 5.5 inches so it’s a pretty compact design. It may be too small for the majority of people, but I’ve seen some people rave about that size in particular working for them.

The next size is the personal, the current size I use. It’s still pretty small at 3.75 x 6.75 inches, but it’s getting closer to a more comfort size. I think it’s a great option for those who want something small to travel with, but still want a decent amount of space. There’s also the less common size of personal wide, which as the name states is much wider, but be aware it’s harder to find inserts for them.

Now there’s the classic B6 and A5. The B6 is smaller than the 5, with dimensions of 5 x 7 inches. I think if you want a pretty good medium-sized planner which feels like your writing on normal paper, this a great option. Also be aware that even if the paper size feels good to you, the binder covers add a good bulk extra, making it a little bigger than you may expect so keep that in mind.

The B5 is one of the biggest options you can find for these types of binders. If you don’t mind carrying around such a big size, it’s a nice option just for the sheer amount of room you get to write and plan. This comes in the size 5.8 x 8.2 inches. This is great for anyone who works at home, or doesn’t plan to travel much with their planner.

So, to recap from smallest to largest: pocket, personal, personal wide, B6 and A5.

Be aware there’s a lot more sizes, but these is just the most popular in my opinion. Here’s a table of a few other options:

A65.8 x 4 inches
Happy Planner Mini4.65 x 7 inches
Happy Planner Classic7 x 9.25 inches
Hobonichi Weeks 3.75 x 7.4 inches
Filofax Compact3.7 x 6.7 inches

*Keep in mind some sizes under different names have the same dimensions! (For example, the Filofax Compact and Personal sizes are very close, almost identical)

Are their different types of covers?

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There are two main types of covers: a clear, plastic-like PVC cover and PU faux leather/ leather version.

The clear, soft PVC ones can be find online on Amazon, or places like Aliexpress. I personally tried a few clear ones, and the main problem is that they don’t lay flat. It can be difficult to break in, and may never lay flat which makes writing much more difficult if the paper is still in the rings. But, these versions are usually much cheaper. This is also a very popular cover choice for the Kpop journaling community.

Another option is the PU faux leather version. These come in multiple colors, textures, finishes and so on. There are some real leather options as well out there if you want to try that as well.

Where can I buy covers?

Covers are mostly sold on their own business’s websites.

For example, I got mine from Webster’s Pages and on their website they have several different color and design variations. Some places only have certain sizes as this store only haves the sizes personal and A5 on their site. They range from $25 to $50 on their covers depending on the size.

Another store which I’ll mention again later is Cloth and Paper. They have a variety of planner covers, inserts, sticky notes and accessories. They have A5 and personal planners at around $130 and $160 respectively.

If you are interested in more variety, Filofax has leather options with several different collections. Roughly, they have a few options under $100, with a majority in the $100 range and some in the $200 range. They also have a variety of sizes compared to the previous two I mentioned. There are some vegan leather options, but not a lot. Filofax will be a good option if you are looking for something specific, or real leather.

There are a lot options on Amazon that I looked into. They are limited in certain sizes and colors so I decided to get the Webster’s Pages version, but if you are on a budget, Amazon may be your best bet. Here’s an A5 option in a few pastel shades, another A5 option with brown and black versions, and this Anter A6 version just to name a few. These Amazon ones are usually under $20.

So as you may have noticed professional planning can be quite expensive if you want the very popular, trendy brands and their products. But, there are a few alternatives to save money, so whatever your budget, you can usually find a cheaper alternative.

Where Can I Buy Inserts?

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You can buy some inserts on Amazon, but they are mostly plain or dotted paper. It works better as a little more akin to bullet journaling, where you make the spreads and set ups yourself using plain paper.

Remember when I mentioned Cloth and Paper? This is where I’m talking about them again. I love their inserts and the overall black and white aesthetic they have. They have very luxurious, professional designs that look so pretty. They have your classic monthly/yearly/daily inserts as well as some extras like goal planning and project management. They are a little pricey, but you can find some small discounts online.

Ellemon Paper Co. is another popular company in the community. They sell your typical inserts as well as dashboards and cover pages. Dashboards are usually decorative, but can separate different sections of your planner, or it can be a great place to stick sticky notes. Cover pages act similarly. If you are a fan of Cloth and Paper’s sleek designs, then you’ll probably like Ellemon’s slightly more beige but still monochrome aesthetic.

8Lotus (the 8 is an infinity sign) is a similar shop. They are more similar to Cloth and Paper with very simple inserts. They also have some printable versions of their inserts as well as physical. 8Lotus has a service where they will also customize your dividers to fit whatever sections you want in your planner.

*Ellemon Paper Co., Cloth and Paper, and 8Lotus have a majority of physical products. Double check to make sure you are buying the correct kind you want- printable or physical!

Etsy is also a really good place to get designs! People sell both PDF printables and physicals. There’s a ton of options out there with a variety of prices and designs. If you want to save money, buying $3 printable designs may be cheaper, but make sure to factor in the extra costs.

One final thing to look out for: double check how many sheets come with each purchase. I went to purchase a weekly insert thinking the price covered an entire year’s worth of weeks, but in reality only covered 3 months! So be care to read the fine print.

Functional Accessories?

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A lot of these companies also sell accessories for your planner- both functional and decorative.

There are dashboards- which is vellum inserts that are usually decorative, but can be useful. For example, there’s some with an artsy version with the year on it or dashboards for inboxes, etc.

This one is from Cloth and Paper, and it’s called the Inbox Planner Dashboard, and it’s a great place to stick sticky notes or reminders that need to get done. Inbox sections are great for to-do lists or anything else that is needed to get done, but maybe doesn’t have an assigned date yet.

Cloth and Paper also have more design-oriented dashboards, such as this one. It’s common for the brand to have quotes, or very minimal art and designs on their dashboards. I like this one as well called the “Do What You Want” dashboard. Very sleek, simple and minimal.

There are also journaling cards because often, the leather and faux leather covers come with a lot of pockets and slits to put things in. It’s common to have both decorative and function planning cards.

Ellemon Paper Co. has a lot of journal cards than are more decorative. This Chasing Dreams one is gorgeous! It has pretty typography and a swipe of a light grey to add a bit of interest. This Flourish planner card is a great option as well, it’s very pretty and colorful, but still fairly minimal.

What else do I need?

Here’s a quick list of other supplies you need or might want!

  • Pens
  • Highlighters
  • Hole puncher and paper cutter (for printable inserts)
  • Pen loop (if it doesn’t already come with one)
  • Dividers (top and side dividers)
  • Planner pockets
  • Page marker
  • Page flags
  • Sticky notes (functional and decorative!)
  • Stickers
  • Adhesive pockets/card holders

This sounds like a lot… Alternatives?

This type of planner is amazing because it’s so extremely customizable, but that can be intimidating to others.

Of course, there’s regular spiral-bound planners which are great options if you want something easy and cheap. You can find them about everywhere, but I liked the ones from Michael’s in particular!

I briefly reviewed Amanda Rach Lee’s Doodle Planner and I think it’s an amazing option! It has her hand-drawn designs, but the entire book is black and white, allowing you to color it in any way you want. The spreads are also set up like typical bullet journaling with things like dotted paper, goal tracking and habit trackers. I highly recommend for those who want something quick and easy to write in, but still want a little customization.

There’s also bullet journaling, which is very customizable, but you don’t have to worry about inserts, planner cards and pockets. You create your own spreads by yourself, so it depends a lot on your creativity and how much you are willing to spend each day writing. A big con for me with bullet journaling is the high amount of time it takes to make weekly spreads as opposed to using a standard planner. But if you have the time and love to draw, that’s an option as well.

There’s also traveler’s notebooks which is an interesting hybrid of bullet journaling and ring-binder setups. It comes with a cover and instead of rings, it comes with strings that you stick booklets into. These booklets slide right in, and can be plain or like inserts, have things like weeks or yearly designs. Really, there’s a lot of planning options out there.

Functional planner can get expensive, so consider the costs before buying! There’s a lot to buy at the beginning, but also inserts can add up quickly over time. Of course there’s some cheaper alternatives, but if you are on a budget, maybe stick to a bullet journal or standard journal to save money. Constantly buying inserts in addition to an expensive cover adds up the costs.

Where Can I See More?

I’m going to link a couple of my inspirations! I haven’t know about this branch of the planning community for long, but I have found some major inspiration and lovely content from other creators.

  • MadyPlans (Youtube)- I love her content! I think she was the first Youtuber I saw with this type of planning layout. She has that amazingly minimal and beautiful aesthetic to her videos, but she’s still really down to earth.
  • Rana Plans (Youtube)- Another Youtuber I love the content of! She and MadyPlans are very similar aesthetic-wise. I love her hauls and just seeing how she explains her planner is so relaxing!
  • Fluffy Angel Stationery (Instagram)- Now, here is the person who got the ball rolling for me! I saw her little pocket planner and I was obsessed. She also does minimal yet cutesy sticker designs with her bunnies.
  • Planning Happiness (Instagram)- Here’s another lovely person! I love her aesthetic, which leans more towards warm browns and nudes rather than black and white. She has such pretty planners!

I also post occasional planning posts on my Instagram. Here’s an example:


So that about does it for this ultimate guide! Did you learn anything new? Feel free to ask me any questions you have on functional planning.

As far as my own set up, I’ll create a new post once I finish but spoilers: I got a Webster’s Pages Personal-sized planner in the color natural, which is a pretty soft, nude shade.

So let know if you ever heard of functional/professional planning! Also let me know if you want to see more posts like this one, I have a lot of ideas!