I’m doing this Panda Planner review on a whim because I didn’t want to admit to the world that I’d purchased yet another planner at first. I was totally going to keep quiet until I finished the year with a bang and a completed to-do list. Then I was going to be all, “Look what this planner helped me do!” But I’m impatient and figure someone out there might be feeling about like I do now that summer’s over. Did summer break throw you off?
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Why Did I Buy the Panda Planner?
I’m still finishing the year in my Commit30 planner, too, (I love it!) but the Panda Planner is set up differently. It looked like a good way to get my brain back on track after summer basically snatched the roadmap out of my hand and tossed it to the wind from a speeding, sporty little convertible I wish I had. A few weeks into summer, my morning routine disappeared like dew under those thirsty rays of June morning sunshine.
The feelings of being completely overwhelmed started to come over me again a couple of weeks ago. Toward the end of July, I had my first panic attack in years.
I woke up before dawn several mornings even before that with feelings of unexplained terror and anxiety. My thoughts made sense to a point, but my body’s reaction to them was way too intense and left me too drained to do much about any of it for the rest of the day.
Hello, heightened unproductivity.
I was just surviving and trying to make summer not suck for my kid even though it kept raining and our vacation’s planned for later in the year. (Spoiler alert: Some of my anxiety-ridden mornings were because I was telling myself what a horrible job I was doing at that and how I’m rapidly running out of time to create childhood memories with her that she can cherish forever. Do you beat yourself up that way too?)
I Wanted a Reset
I wanted to try the Panda Planner and do a Panda Planner review because I needed help getting back on track in seeing things to be grateful for, things to be excited about, and positive things to remember about myself (affirmations). I also needed to have that daily reflection at the end. I knew I couldn’t be the only one needing a little post-summer boost.
If I were the designer, I might add some sort of meditation and/or prayer section at the beginning and end of the day just because those bring me peace (I learned this when I went through Gabrielle Bernstein’s May Cause Miracles book several years ago), but that’s just me. I can write those in myself, wherever I want them. And really, I could just go back to my affirmation in the evening, focus on my breathing for a couple of minutes, and call it good.
I had no idea if I’d use the hourly part but I love it. I love getting ahead on it like I’m racing the clock. I love staying on track and knowing that I can leave work behind–even though I work at home–at the planned time.
Alright, it was a little bit FOMO because of all the cool planners I was seeing everywhere for back-to-school.
Panda Planner Review and Overview
I haven’t had this for long, but I’m already in love.
So, the Panda Planner is set up in three sections:
Normally, I want my planners:
- Dated (this one isn’t)
- To fit a whole year (this one only covers three months)
- To have monthly and weekly reflection areas to be in the order I’ll use them instead of grouped together by category (this one has a monthly section with room for all the months, followed by weekly, followed by daily).
At a glance, it looks like everything I don’t want in a planner, but it’s still managed to become everything I do want in one.
Tracking in Monthly, Weekly, and Daily Sections
I’ve never used a planner with a page for each day and this one actually has two per day, so that’s different. It’s also why I love it. If I had the patience to do bullet journaling (I tried because I love to draw and letter, but I apparently don’t love it that much), I would set up my days, weeks, and months just like this.
It has almost everything I want to track in it, so my Panda Planner review is almost completely positive. There’s room in the back for me to track things it doesn’t have room for on the daily pages. I’ll track books I’ve read back there if I ever migrate completely into it and leave the Commit30 and Passion Planners behind for good.
Flipping between sections isn’t as much of a pain as it could be because the ribbon bookmarks make it easy to find your place. I’ve had other planners with the monthly sections at the front and weekly sections behind that, and I missed things from the monthly section because there was no reminder to go back and look and it was annoying to try to find the right month in a hurry.
The monthly section is a two-page spread and includes:
- Goals (room for 3)
- Distractions to avoid (room for 3)
- What I want to focus on (kind of a theme for the month more than a specific project)
- Habit (this month’s is exercise, but you get to choose your own, of course)
- This month’s wins (room for 3)
- Insights gained (room for 3)
- There’s also a tiny bit of room for notes and enough monthly pages to plan six months, though this does not match up with the number of weeks you have. This is one of the biggest gripes I’ve seen in other Panda Planner reviews, but it doesn’t really bother me.
The weekly section is another two-page spread. It includes:
- Big wins from last week (room for 5)
- How I’ll improve (room for 2)
- Things I will do to make this week great (a box each for personal, work, family/friends, and relationship)
- I’m looking forward to… (room for 3)
- Habits I’m focusing on developing (room for 2)
- Learn something new
- Passion project (not necessarily work, but maybe yours overlap like mine do)
- Four boxes for planning out four different projects
- Top goals this week (room for 5)
- There are 13 of these.
The daily section is what I really bought it for (and still my favorite part of this Panda Planner review). It has:
- Gratitude (3 spots)
- I’m excited about… (3 spots)
- Affirmation (they recommend sticking with the same affirmation for at least a week)
- Focus (same from your monthly plan, but writing it here too ensures that it stays fresh in your mind)
- Today’s priorities (5 spacious boxes for those)
- Schedule, with hours 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. This is something I’ve never wanted or stuck to before. I have had planners in them and generally ignored the hours or put washi tape over them. Now I’m using them and it is keeping me on track. I wish it went 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. but it’s not a big deal.
- Tasks (checklist style)
- Notes box
- Today’s wins (room for 3, to be completed at the end of the day), which I adore because there are so many days and nights that just leave me asking, “What did I even do? Where did today go?”
- How I’ll improve (room for 1)
I’ve used guides and journals that had bookends to the day with gratitude/meditation in the morning and reflection in the evening. They seemed to keep me calmer, happier, and help me feel more in control of my time. This journal was actually created with happiness and optimism in mind and I have faith that it will do wonders for my mental health.
There’s enough room in here for all the things I really need to do (which helps de-clutter my mind), but not so much room that I feel like I need to just fill it up with tasks to complete (I will make a mile-long to-do list if I have the space). I really get to focus on the real work and leave all the busy work behind.
At the back, there are dotted notes pages and a nice little envelope. There’s even an elastic band to hold the book closed. The paper is smooth and thick. It’s on par with most planners I’ve used, other than an Inkwell Press one from several years ago. I’ve only used the Papermate Flair felt tip pens so far. There’s been a little ghosting, but nothing terrible as long as I kept the pen moving. The dark purple was the worst.
Oh! When your planner arrives, you get access to ebooks and videos about making the most of your planner in different areas of your life (as a student, freelancer, etc) as well as positive psychology (fascinating stuff). And coupons to share with friends (feel free to use mine):
It doesn’t lay completely flat, but it’s not always trying to close itself on my hand, either. I like to hold it open, but it’s not a struggle. Does that make sense? It feels almost like a well-worn paperback from the library (but with a hard cover and three awesome ribbon bookmarks to mark each section).
I’ve enjoyed filling it out so far, though I’m having a hard time coming up with different things to be excited about every day. My life’s not that exciting. Maybe I’ll work on that now. Lol
I feel like that hourly schedule is constantly nudging my brain back on track. I’ll find myself starting to wander off into YouTube-land, glance at my list, and hop right back to work again. This girl is focused now and destined to create all the things on that ever-growing to-do list.
Are We Peanut Butter and Jelly?
Will I buy it again and again after my reset/after the three months are up because I just don’t feel like myself without it? Maybe. I’m not sure. I usually only buy one planner per year for that price, so this would have me spending four times that amount. (By the way, the reason it only covers three months at a time is that it’d be a huge brick of a book if they tried to do 12 or even six months.)
It honestly does irk me a little that it’s undated because I can’t enter future appointments without extra work. Still, I totally understand why it’s not and could probably learn to rely on monthly pages for that.
Pros and Cons: Quick Recap
Things I Like
- The gorgeous cyan color (it’s also available in purple, black, and orange)
- The cute panda on the front
- Three color-coordinated ribbons (there’s white, silver, and cyan on mine), since some planners stick one color of ribbon in all their planners, regardless of the color of the cover
- Elastic band to keep it closed
- The size of the Classic is perfect for me (5″ x 8.2″ x 1″) because it doesn’t take up a lot of space on my desk and would fit well in most purses
- Gratitude/excitement spaces on the daily pages
- Habit tracker on the monthly pages
- Wins and room for improvement (or insights gained) at all levels
- There’s just enough room where you’re setting goals and making task lists to cover the essentials without creating busy work for yourself
- It’s making me feel way more balanced in my life by reminding me to work on other areas, not just work
- I DO feel like it’s retraining my brain to stay on track throughout the day
Things That I Wish Were Different
- The price. My biggest complaint in my Panda Planner review. I have to buy four per year if I stick with it. Each one costs almost as much as what I’d spend on a planner for the year. I have spent more on yearly planners in the past, but only enough to cost as much as two Panda Planners. That said, because of the design, I think it may be worth it. Maybe.
- A meditation section each morning and evening would be nice. Either in habit-tracker form or a prompt with space for reflection. Not a big deal.
- I still have mixed feelings about it not being dated. The bookmarks help, though.
- The inside is a little uninspiring because it’s all in black and white, but adding color would probably push the price higher.