Craft Your "Living Analogue System" - part 1

Craft Your "Living Analogue System" - part 1

For many of us in the BK analogue community, deciding what planner/analogue system we will be using in the upcoming year is a soul-searching process.

The biggest secret to finding the perfect planner/diary for the new year is to remember that there is no one right answer. The ideal system depends entirely on YOU!!!

At Baum-kuchen, we have been spending a lot of time helping analogue enthusiasts pick out their planners for the upcoming year. When we advise our customers in selecting the analogue system, we feel like we are taking part in crafting the hopes and dreams he or she might have. We take the process very seriously and are honored that we are included in such a personal journey. The idea of "Planner Peace," figuring out how to choose the perfect planner, can be exciting and aspiring, yet very confusing. I would love to share three big, personal questions we ask our BK in-store customers while we are discussing their planner candidates!

1. Why are you searching? 
Before we start to get nitty-gritty of the which planner to use, I would love you to take a moment, take a very deep breath, and think about why you are in the planner shopping mode. From my personal experience, when I change my planner system, I am in the process of redefining my life.

Here is a quick timeline of my planner/diaries I used in the past and what I was aspiring to project in different systems!

2008: I stumble upon Traveler's Notebook in Tokyo in the midst of my design and trend research career and adventurous weekly commute between Los Angeles and Seattle. The idea of being able to hold onto my notebook long after each refill was complete gave me the sense of groundedness, yet the system was lightweight and travel ready! You know the rest of my story:)

2014: When I sought out Roterfaden, my family & Baum-kuchen were both growing, and I needed a place that was as versatile as Traveler's Notebook but with more space to spread my ideas and thoughts.

2015: I got introduced to Hobonichi Cousin and MD Diary when I was yearning to document my life with more intention. Capturing internal and external world including my family life and writing letters to our little ones (back then... 2 and 5 years old) became a big part of my everyday ritual.

2017: I was so excited to incorporate Jibun Techo, which led me to visualize my time and priorities more critically as Baum-kuchen continued to grow and my girls had more activities to attend. The combination of Jibun Techo and Traveler's Notebook has helped me center my mind in the midst of the chaos called "life"!

You can see how my analogue systems have served an integral part of the changes I have made in the last 10 years and I am so thankful that I have a moment to reflect each year to imagine and re-imagine what I want to focus on during the next year by selecting the system intentionally. Here are some big questions you can discuss with your inner self to create a parameter for the search.
  • What kind of changes do you want to see within and around yourself next year?
  • What are your hopes and dreams in your life? There is no limit! Think and dream really big.
  • What do you want your planner/diary to do for your life? 
  • What are the projected roles of your system? If you can, name them! Some examples are: Master planner to stay on top of my schedule, Memory keeper to document and savor my life, Diary to jot down and work through my inner thoughts, Health Track to log my wellness habits and achieve a healthier lifestyle. 
It is truly a soul search, and I hope, each year, you will be able to take a moment to ask these big questions to yourself.

2. How does the analogue system fit into your life? 

Once you figure out "why" you gravitate to a certain planner/diary or a way of using a new system, you then have to ask this critical question. "How does this system fit into my life?" For me, I can be in love with the concept and layout of a planner/diary, but if the system does not meet specific functionalities, I won't be able to use it and feel happy. Some of my personal critical functions include well designed monthly and weekly spreads, a place to jot down BK related notes, and personal space to journal. Today, I accomplish these functional needs by carrying Jibun Techo combined with Trust the Process Notebook and Traveler's Notebook. These are the non-negotiable ingredients for my planner. Here are some questions you can ask yourself.

  • When and where will you use your planner and how much do you plan to reference your pages throughout the day, week, and month?
  • Do you want to carry multiple notebooks vs. all-in-one system? 
  • Which planner spreads will you use most frequently (monthly, weekly, daily)? 
  • Is this your EDC (every day carry)? If so, which bag (or a pouch) will you be carrying your planner in? Is weight an issue? 
  • Do you plan to capture your thoughts/ideas while on the go, where you might not be sitting down? 
  • Will it be stationary at your home or office? If so, how much space do you have to use and store your notebook? 
  • How big is your handwriting and how much detail will you be capturing? These two questions will yield a helpful cue for determining the size of the page. 
  • Do you skip journaling/planning sometimes? If so, perhaps looking into undated calendars/planners might be a good option. 
  • How much flexibility do you need throughout the year? Do you enjoy personalizing your system by mixing and matching different brands? Do you need the ability to swap the inside notebooks to accommodate your needs? 
  • How important is it to incorporate actions and to-do lists?
  • Do you need room for lots of notes and information? 
The combination of the first and second questions gives you an opportunity to assess your overall life vision thoroughly. Whatever you decide, make sure your system fits your life (not the other way around) so it can be your partner through the ups and downs of the year. 
3. What kind of quality are you looking for? 
This is the fun part of the planner soul search! You will want to make sure that your planner aesthetics, layout design, details, paper quality meet your needs and style. Also finding the "perfect cover" to house your planner is such a fun process.  Here are some questions you can ask yourself.
  • What kind of writing instruments are you planning to use with your system? Is paper quality in the planner/diary compatible with the way you are hoping to use your system?
  • Do papers in the system work with mediums you are going to be using? (watercolor, rubber stamp ink, fountain pen, etc.)
  • Do you love the overall design? Do you feel happy when you see your planner? Does it trigger positive feeling when you hold it in your hand? Does it feel amazing when you are writing and interacting with those pages? 
  • How will it evolve and age through the course of the time used? 
  • Is the graphic layout of the system easy to use and inspiring? 
After considering all aspects of these three big questions, it then becomes "give and take" of different criteria. You might have to drop the planner design you love to meet your functional needs. Or giving up portability might provide a sense of groundedness and mindfulness as you sit down and write every day. 
I believe we could really consider our planner/diary as a reflection of a home where we can nurture our souls. Yes. Looking for the "perfect planner/diary" is the beginning of the journey and it is only the projection of our hopes and dreams. We still have to do our own work inside and outside of those pages throughout the year to make our dreams come true. Yet, I have seen a lot of changes and personal growth happen through my pages and am so thankful that I can continuously reinvent my "living analogue system". 
And thank you so much for letting us take a part of YOUR analogue journey! 

p.s. thank you, Susan, for helping us with the qualitative research on this topic:) 


  • Dennis : June 21, 2019
    Author image

    Thank you for this thoughtful post! I am celebrating a big birthday in the Autumn so really thinking about a new planner for the new year. BK is always full of inspiration!

  • Kourtnie: October 23, 2018
    Author image

    Oh, I love these kinds of thought provoking, inquisitive questions to get down to the nuts and bolts of unlocking the potential.In reading these questions, I looked back over my last 2 yrs of planning and what really worked for me and what I missed. This post has helped me to understand that no matter what path I’m on, it’s the right one for me NOW.

Leave a comment

All blog comments are checked prior to publishing