If our propensity for getting organized continues, the human hand will one day evolve so that the thumb and the forefinger form a natural curve for holding planning calendars. More than 20 million people use planners to get it all together. The Big Three of personal planners — Franklin Quest Co., Day Runner Inc., and Day-Timers, Inc. — offer a dizzying array of products. Day-Timers alone features more than 150 different binders. Do they work? That depends on custom-fitting your needs and preferences with the right planner. We've roadtested three samples — one from each company — to demonstrate the range of what's available.
Day Runner Pro Business System
Your Life: International Road Warrior: juggling time zones, meetings around the clock, shotgunning teams in Europe and Southeast Asia.
Check Out: Day Runner Pro Business System, #222-6499
Big Picture: This leather-bound loose-leaf planner opens with a section for objectives and milestones, followed by monthly and daily scheduling pages and sections devoted to projects and contacts.
Features: There are tabs-within-tabs that can be useful. Under the "Priority" section, tabs marked 1, 2, or 3 enable you to relocate paperwork as a project's importance changes. This model comes with a built-in calculator and a leather flap for your passport and other documents.
Time-Sink: The quick-scan feature is convenient, but it can require double and triple entries.
Vital Stats: 9 5/16" x 8"; 3 1/8 lbs.
Coordinates: $115 ($85 for vinyl); $23 for filler sets; 800-635-5544; http://www.dayrunner.com
Franklin Quest Classic
Your Life: The Commuter: shuttling between home and office; consistent, uncomplicated planning needs.
Check Out: Franklin Quest Classic
Big Picture: A good all-purpose planner, the bulk of it consists of the two-page-per-day "daily pages" for appointments and prioritized daily task lists, followed by calendars, phone and address pages, goal planning, and reference sections.
Features: There are customized pages for users in particular jobs, such as a "contact log" to help salespeople keep track of prospective customers, project management pages for contractors, and special pages designed for real estate brokers. Also included are customized pages for personal management, such as an exercise log.
Time-Sink: This model comes with an abundance of extra material that most business users would find unnecessary — such as the Franklin Spending Matrix.
Vital Stats: 5 1/2" x 8 1/2"; 2 1/2 lbs.
Coordinates: $64 for standard kit; $21 for filler sets; 800-654-1776; http://www.franklinquest.com
Your Life: High Flier: moving fast, traveling light, leaving the details to others.
Check Out: Pocket Day-Timer
Big Picture: It includes dated pages for appointments and notes, a section for advanced planning, and one for addresses and phone numbers.
Features: With seven different page formats available, it's highly customizable. You can choose one page per day (most efficient), two pages per day (more space), or two pages per week (view the entire week when you open the planner).
Time-Sink: Not a lot of extra space for extended note-taking.
Vital Stats: 3 1/2" x 6 1/2"; 1/2 lb.
Coordinates: $7 to $72 for binder, depending on material; $15 to $32 for refills; 800-225-5005; http://www.daytimer.com
A version of this article appeared in the August/September 1996 issue of Fast Company magazine.