Posts on Hobonichi planner are no strangers to this blog, but I often wonder whether there are alternatives to Hobonichi that will work for my current two-planner situation. Plus, trying out new stationery items is always fun. Obvious win-win!

At the beginning of 2017, I revived an old planner and filled it with Muji blank planner inserts as a second planner. This switch is a significant reduction of usable space from Hobonichi Techo Weeks, since the planner measures roughly 4 inch x 5.5 inch (10.16 cm x 14 cm), which is a significant reduction in usable space. At first, I assumed this set-up would work since I mostly jotted down to-do items and checked them off when completed; however, I overlooked my gathering and list-making tendencies– write down items of interests that I should check out later, and memo pages to keep my bank ledger. By mid-February, I was contemplating alternatives for the rest of the year. I coincidentally found a planner sale on Bokelai (博客來; an Amazonesque site in Taiwan), where I saw this Hightide Weekly Planner. I have encountered Hightide planners in local Japanese bookstores and recalled them as being well-made. At 50% off, it is a worthy stationery adventure.

Appearance

Similar to most Japanese planners, the design of this planner is simple. It has a cotton cover with linen finish with fresh produce motif and embossed year. A PVC cover is included to protect the textile cover from becoming soiled. Besides cosmetic protection, the plastic cover serves a functional purpose as well; it has a page marker, a pen loop, and a slot for ID/transportation pass. The design and set-up are almost identical to Hobonichi’s cover-on-cover for Weeks. Two page markers in two different colors allow users to mark two different sections of the planner easily.

HIghtide weekly planner
Hightide Weekly Planner with PVC cover
HIghtide weekly planner
Just for perspective, this is the planner without its cover

The planner is measured 10.5cm x 16.2 cm; a size that can easily fit in either purses or bags, and is filled with cream colored paper. It is no secret that I am partial to off-white paper because it is easier for my eyes. To reinforce the legibility, all dates and days are printed in a sans-serif font. The paper is smooth to touch but without a glossy finish, so the ink would not pool on the surface. Similar to Hobonichi techo, this Hightide planner is stitch bound. The durability of this binding has been tested and tried in my somewhat turbulent messanger.

Planner layout

In contrast to most planners I have used (Midori Traveler’s Notebook Weekly Planner being a known exception) with monthly spreads in one section and weeklies in another, Hightide planner clusters the monthly spread with the weeklies. The merit of this set-up is that the monthly view is within the reach of 4-5 pages. Each month is tabbed that allows easy navigation from month to month. Another visible difference is that Hightide takes a purist approach to planners. There is nothing borderline superfluous, such as conversion chart or address pages. The only “extra” is a personal data page that could help recovering the planner in event of misplacement.

HIghtide weekly planner
Cover page with tabbed sections

Each month begins with a 2-page monthly spread for an overview. My first impression of it is that is has a lot of space. In addition to the customary memo grid at the bottom of the page, 2/3 of the second page is blank. A small calendar for the following month is printed on the lower right hand corner of each monthly spread. This set-up is helpful to those who are accustomed to monthly planning. Followed by the monthly spread is another 2-page spread with check boxes, lined and blank grids. While the set-up looks neat, I have no clue what it is for or how to use it. As the owner of this planner for the past 6 months, I have only used this section as a monthly to-do list. Given the mixed format, I speculate that these pages are ideal for project planning and tracking. The check boxes can be used for tasks within the larger project, while the blank boxes can use for brainstorming.

HIghtide weekly planner
Monthly spread. Do you see all the white space?
HIghtide weekly planner
The “project management page” or to-do list in the monthly section

Similar to the monthly section, the weekly spread consisted of 2 pages, with the week on one side and lined memo page on the other. The current month and the week in the year we printed on the header of each weekly page. Moon phases are notated, similar to what most conventional planners, but Hightide only indicated full and half. I surmise deliberate lack of markings is to create a sense of openness in a compact planner.

HIghtide weekly planner
Weekly page

While Monday through Saturday are printed in gray, the Sunday is printed in green. For weeks that bleed into the following month, those days are printed in light gray. I usually use those pages as memo pages. Different from Midori Traveler’s Notebook and Hobonichi Weeks, the opposing memo pages are lined and with a divider in the center. In Hobonichi Weeks’ memo page, there is a vertical “secret line” that is slightly darker than the rest. This line can give a memo page more structure in a sense that topics can be jotted down left to this secret line, while all the notes and details stay to the right. At a glance, the line is barely noticeable so even if one opts not to use it, the page is still versatile. Even though the center dividing line is faint in Hightide, to me, the format resembles an address book. It may sound odd, but writing over that center line felt like trespassing the border. To calm my OCD, I have been using the page by blocks: I cluster tasks with similar natures in each box and check off as I complete them.

HIghtide weekly planner
Memo page

Overall Impression

While the first impression for this Hightide planner was positive (nice linen cover, cream colored paper, minimalistic design, overall sturdiness), the performance of this planner is less than satisfactory. The page marker attached on the PVC cover does not stay in place unless you put the planner in a pouch for added security. Before I carry the planner in a pouch, it often goes butterfly in my messanger. The pen loop is quite wide to the extent that even a multipen runs the risk of flying out (the one I tried was a three-colored Coleto). To my surprise, the paper is having a hard time taking fountain pen ink, which is contrary to most Japanese paper. Nib size above a Japanese size F will cause visible and varying degree of feathering and spreading. What I can deduce is that super absorbency of the paper contributed to the feathering, since ink dries almost instantaneously. This may be disappointing to most fountain lovers, but on the flip side, gel pens can take more of beating in anyone’s bag more so than fountain pens. Perhaps this can be considered as an advantage? Though the paper is on the thicker side, there is show- and bleedthrough, especially with fountain pens with broader nibs or more penetrative ink.

HIghtide weekly planner
Not the most fountain pen friendly paper, but it takes gel pens and pencils just fine. Note the show- and bleedthrough

While I have preferred simple designs, for some reason the placement of the dates in this Hightide planner is a bit disorientating and somewhat obstructive to my writing. As you can see, the the placement of the date encroaches upon the space of previous day. In addition, the font size for day is significant smaller than the date and it is placed in close to the top line. Consequently, I have often written over the day because I kept forgetting that I need to reserve some header space for each day. It could be as matter of adaptation, but the extra thinking reduces the intuitiveness that is innate to any good design. The memo page is limiting due to the line in the center. I wish I can cross the line and conquer that odd obsession!

HIghtide weekly planner
Still manage to write over the date or the day, even after 6 months of using

Choosing a planner is a very personal choice– what works well for me might be disastrous for you. It is a bit of a cliché, finding that right planner is similar to how the prince finds Cinderella, until the shoe fits. It takes trial and error on selection of a planner, as well as adaptability and creativity of the users to become accustomed to the set-up. I hoped that Hightide planner was intuitive to use, but unfortunately it may  have been a mismatch. It may not for me but it does not mean it is a horrible planner. For those who are looking for a planner with lots of planning and brainstorming space, this planner could be ideal, for the variety of page formats in it. It is also suitable for those who wants nothing but a planner; Hightide is definitely lighter than a Hobonichi techo. With the end of year approaching, I am still hopeful in discovering a better fitted planner!

Have you found the perfect planner? What have you used before you have found it?

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