I joined the Kickstarter for this planner last year, but it turned out to not be a planner I wanted to use in 2018. It’s more of a productivity guide, as the weekly/monthly planning pages are interspersed with what is literally a small book on how to run your life and priorities. This would be a great planner for someone heading to college for the first time, or who hasn’t yet explored productivity, task management, and goal setting. Singaporean designer Kar Villard currently has a second edition running on Indiegogo, although with 3 days left to run this hasn’t yet gained enough traction to be funded.
It’s an undated A5 planner – so the exact same size as a Hobonichi Cousin – with a Monday start for both weekly and monthly spreads. The planner has two ribbon bookmarks in coral and powder blue. The bookmark colors mean that 5 out of 5 male Kiwi tradies in my impromptu focus group would not be prepared to use it (because fragile masculinity and peer pressure, aka bullying). In addition, the advice sections talk about “dating too many men,” “the cute guy who always sits in the same spot in the cafe,” and the attraction of “his hair and the smell of a good aftershave,” so although the cover colors are gender-neutral the overall tone of the planner definitely seems aimed at humans identifying as women and who perform normative heterosexual femininity. The designer, Kar Villard, projects a normative female identity, and from the tone of the planner this seems like a personal project in which she is speaking to other humans just like her.
The navy or black cover is vinyl (aka “vegan leather”) and there’s a notch in the spine so you can slip a pen in and carry it without needing an external pen loop. There’s a soft elastic band on the back cover to hold the planner closed. This is looser than I prefer, but I guess that leaves a lot of room for your planner to bulk up with use. It’s about the same tension as a Moleskine, but the elastic is a nicer quality with a slightly plush texture.
The cover is debossed with the Neuroplanner logo and name. The planner is 2cm thick (3/4 of an inch). Overall it feels very nice in my hand and looks smart and efficient. This is definitely a planner you could use in a professional setting. The paper is cream, with dark grey printing. It feels smooth, like Rhodia/Clairefontaine. I’m not doing a pen test, sorry, as I will find a good home for this planner so I want to keep it unused.
The planner starts with a five-page guide and introduction.
Then there’s a two-page quick-view calendar running from October 2017 to March 2020.
Each month starts with a two-page spread for focus/goal setting/brainstorming, then there’s the monthly spread, which is followed by five weekly spreads.
The month spreads only have 5 weeks, but there is enough dot grid below the layout to allow you to draw in an extra row for the 6th week on the couple of months that require it.
The weekly spread includes separate columns for Saturday and Sunday (which I consider essential). The days are divided into hourly appointments from 7am to 10pm, with a space at the top for a daily focus. The spread has room for a weekly mindset, three focus items, six home to-dos, and six work to-dos, as well as five habit trackers and an open dot grid area.
At the back of the planner are 13 pages of 5mm dot grid paper (6 sheets + one single side).
Inside the back cover is a paper pocket with ribbon reinforcement on the gusset.
What makes this planner different is the productivity information. There are 48 double-page spreads on aspects of creating a productive life, incorporating handy tips from neuroscience (hence, the name of the planner).
These spreads cover: creating a vision, setting and achieving goals, how to form a routine and how to learn, dubunking productivity myths, nutrition, fitness, multitasking and planning, creativity, non-romantic relationships, romantic relationships, future planning, and neuroplasticity.
While the productivity information is useful I really hate it being interspersed with the planner pages. So, you get monthly goals, the month spread, then an info spread, a week spread, an info spread, a week spread, an info spread, and then two final weeks – a total of four double-page info spreads per month. That takes up a lot of space. I’d much rather these pages were instead dot grid pages, and the planner came with a booklet of this productivity info, sized to slip inside the back pocket. I could paste plain paper over these info pages, but even if I use tomoe river paper that’s going to bulk up the planner a hell of a lot. It’s not like I didn’t know what I was getting when I backed the project. I liked the idea of the neuroscience. It’s just that in person I realize I don’t want to actually use this product the way the planning and the information are sliced together.
My least favorite part of the planner is the section on Romance, in which Villard says, “physical attraction . . . [is the] first thing that draws us to the other person.” For asexuals this is simply not true. We are definitely talking normative NT sexuality, here.
Other nitpicks: Villard also calls humans a “race” of animals, instead of a species (section 37). And in section 40, Offspring, Villard says, “When you start to have children . . . ” I would definitely have been more comfortable with the phrasing “If you decide to have children . . .”
Kar Villard is doing a whole lot of promotion and expansion of the Neuroplanner concept, including an online community called Think Tank, and a separate booklet of the productivity pages which she recently Kickstarted. If she produces the planner without so very much productivity info it would be more useful for most people, but then I’m not sure what the point of difference would be. The current campaign on Indiegogo is asking US$40 for the planner, and for that you do get access to the online community, but in all other respects, it’s pretty much identical to any other weekly A5 planner like the compact Passion Planner (US $25) or the Transcending Waves Planner (US$19.97), although those both offer 30 min appointment intervals instead of the more cumbersome hourly spots.
So, yeah, overall this wasn’t the planner for me, but if the neuroscience tips sound useful and you’re new to organizing your life and/or time, then this might work great for you. If you are in NZ and want to try this planner I’m happy to send this one to you for free: just email me.