What I chose for my 2023 Digital Planner

This post is quite late but I’d rather post it late than let it sit with the other I-should-have-posted-these-drafts in my folder of regrets.

After setting my 10-year goals (or skill plan), it’s time to write about the digital planner-journal I’ve chosen for 2023–something that will satisfy my need for finishing quick tasks and crossing off items in my checklists and at the same time, provide a place for my thoughts or experiences, be they mundane. I know, iOS has a built-in Reminder app, Google Calendar has Tasks, and I still use Trello for projects, but I’ve been wanting to have a digital journal where I can put anything and everything, even the foreign language vocabulary or expressions I learn for the day.

When I used OneNote last year, I had the freedom because I could create my own templates – yet I chose not to!– and write whenever I wanted to – yet I didn’t! It seems too much freedom isn’t good for me. I enjoyed brainstorming by myself using the tool. I was able to create multiple diagrams–of course not as good as the ones I use for work, but good enough to sort my thoughts. Some sections served as my ‘learning’ notebooks where I jotted notes about career-related seminars I attended or lyrics of songs in the languages I was studying. It was–is a good tool and I still want to use it for studying. However, I noticed I had spent too much time planning the planner template of it, how it would look like, what pen I should use, what line-spacing, etc. Sure, it was nice in the beginning but eventually, I started thinking, creating templates that would help me reach my goal was a roundabout way of doing things. This year, I want to leave that creative side of things to those who are interested in creating planners for other people.

Researching for the best digital planner was a fun experience, similar to online shopping, and wasn’t entirely new to me since I had been inspired by some in creating my 2022 planner. In December last year, I saw a number of Youtube videos and read several blogs before finally deciding on one.

My criteria were as follows:

  1. Minimalistic – so I can still have the freedom to add stickers/photos/ diagrams and they wouldn’t have to fit an aesthetic (e.g. cute, edgy etc.)
  2. Month view – again, I know Google Calendar exists.
  3. Week view – see #2 note
  4. Writing space – I find using my Pencil very therapeutic so space for thoughts or doodling will be great.
  5. PDF format with hyperlinks – I want to have a clickable index that will enable me to quickly access different pages.

HiNa’s 2023 Digital Planner

With my criteria, one could argue that any planner would do and I would agree with that. However, this planner from HiNa provides the answers to my needs best. Not only does it have everything I listed in my criteria but also elements that I think are helpful to me for almost everyday journaling / planning.

Free Aesthetically-pleasing PDF Planner compatible with Goodnotes 5

I started using Goodnotes this year to be able to fully appreciate this planner and can finally understand the hype. I’m still using the free account though (3 notebooks) and if this planner helps me become more consistent in planning/ journaling, then I may consider buying the full version at the end of the year.

The overall aesthetic and color-scheme appeals to me. Its simplicity allows me to be more creative. I enjoy experimenting with different pen types, thickness and colors that match with the planner. I also find choosing stickers relatively easy since there isn’t any glaring theme (e.g. cute/ edgy).

It also has hyperlinks (clickable areas particularly the Months) that help me navigate through different pages / templates.

Life Plan template

In my previous posts, I had a simplified version of my 10-year plan. HiNa’s planner has a similar template where I can put my goals, the activities to help me achieve them, and metrics to evaluate them not only for 2023 but for life, or loosely defined here as a longer period of time. This makes so much sense for me in two perspectives: 1) how I plan this year will and should affect the next year/s 2) my long-term plans or what I want to achieve (e.g. by 2033) can be broken into smaller, achievable tasks/ steps. This way, instead of having a digital planner/ journal showing me how productive I can be or have become, I can gauge whether such ‘productivity’ contributes to what I want to achieve in life.

Planning and Feedback / Evaluation pages

As a Business Analyst by profession, I’m used to Scrum events e.g. Sprint Planning, Refinement, and Retrospectives (one reason why Trello works better for me versus Google Tasks/ iOS Reminders), so having this page side by side with the planning month helps me compare what I commit and what I accomplish and make better decisions for the succeeding month.

My incomplete January Retro page ^_^
Monthly Planning Page (March)

There’s a Daily version as well which allows for so much flexibility and I have to commend HiNa for this layout. I can still log when I finish a particular activity and compare my progress to my actual plans. This is one of the elements that made me remember my struggles in planning and journaling- scratching plans at a certain schedule and transferring it to another timeslot. The frustration I normally get when I can’t meet the deadline is not as strong as it used to be.

Daily-Weekly Planning Page (March)

Undated Journal pages

In HiNa’s digital planner, there’s a spread for weekly journals and doodling. When I feel fancy, I use the larger area for brainstorming, charts and other random stuff. I appreciate digital journaling even further at times when I feel restricted by smaller spaces. I can simply resize a paragraph or a sentence or even use the entire week-page when I want to.

Another advantage of it being undated is I can reuse it next year if I want to –unless HiNa-nim creates a new one as good as this or better.

To know more about this planner, check this video out where the creator shares her vision in making the digital planner and how one can maximize its elements.


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