Penny’s comparison of the Trinote vs Principal weekly planners

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Many thanks to Penny for showing us her comparison between the Trinote and Principal weekly planners!

Hi, I’m Penny. I’m a problem solver for technology and yarn. My cardinal rule of planners and planning is: my systems must work in harmony. I don’t want to search for information or figure out what goes where. I like consistency in format from week to week. I work with a hybrid digital-analog planning system. While I was a strong advocate of the Trinote I found I needed to juggle too much to make it really work for me.

I wear multiple hats during the day with two businesses and other personal projects to manage. I’m incredibly particular about page size and layout. I keep the bulk of my existence in an A5 log book (Classic Clothbound Clairefontaine 5/5 grid) that’s become easier to explain with the growing popularity of bullet journaling. I like to spread out and see multiple views at once so I like a planner that I can place next to this notebook. There are a few other items too, I’ve written about my current setup at my personal blog, Penguin Girl.

Where does the Trinote excel?

I believe strongly in the power of timeblocks to help with focus and attention residue. This is why I first turned to the Trinote. This layout echoes my preferred electronic calendar view. I thought it would assist me in seamlessly moving between the two systems.

Trinote weekly planner

It works to a degree, but I never quite felt at ease here. I wasn’t able to quickly see priorities across my focus areas. They would get shoehorned into the week view and too many things would be scattered. Further I had to flip among too many other pages to see where I needed to focus.

While I’ve made adjustments to my systems, this layout requires extensive editing to work with me. I’ve abandoned too many Trinotes mid-year for other formats to know it’s not the right fit for me. However, my cat Shadow finds them a very comfortable pillow.

How is the Principal® different?

I’ve corresponded with Karen of Exaclair for several years at this point. While we discussed my experiences with the Clairefontaine Roadbook, I mentioned my planner frustrations and a Principal® showed up at my doorstep to review.

This planner finally offers me the opportunity to wrangle my tasks and projects in a way I never thought possible.

I’ve entered my master week time blocking into the time schedule in the front of the book. This provides me with my longed-for week-view similar to the Trinote. I’ve since printed it onto a separate page so I don’t need to flip back and forth and lay it out while I plan. I maintain it in pencil so that if there is a large shift to the rhythm of my week I can easily change it without resorting to correction tape.

Each morning during my planning session (after I take my daily photograph) I sketch in that day’s time blocks. Known appointments, conference calls, meetings, etc, are added as soon as I’m aware of them.

Instead of using the sections for phone calls, emails, and notes I use these sections for big task/focus items for the day repurposing each section to a business and personal. This works better for me than the Trinote as I’ve standardized the order so I can quickly gauge the balance (or not) to each day. I like that they no longer disappear to the bottom of the book which would often get covered up with other ephemera on my desk.

The middle section befuddled me until I decided to turn it into the record of random things I feel the need to note that don’t necessarily fit elsewhere. I first tried this for part of last year, and I enjoyed it, but detested maintaining another book. Further, a few years ago I lost the ability to doodle (I knew too many Artists and felt inadequate). Since then I’ve made a concentrated effort to doodle daily even if it’s only a simple tea mug. The actual lines are faint and not intrusive. While I generally prefer a narrow rule, they work quite well for the little I record each day. I note how far I am from inbox zero, the weather, what I cooked for dinner, books I’m reading, and how I’m doing on my hydration. While I think excessive decoration of a planner is procrastination and distracting, I do find joy in the small doodles and spot illustrations. I recently discovered that the 90g white paper loves watercolours and I now color in my doodles while I wait for my morning tea to cool.

This planner lives open on my desk and travels to the dining table each morning. While I often lament that at 7 x 9 3/8in (18 x 24cm) it isn’t either A5 or the common US composition book size of 7.5 x 9.75in (19 x 24.7cm) (there isn’t one standard for B5), it’s ok. I’ve come to love this peculiarity in size. I do wish that instead of the included information and maps which I rarely look at, those pages were replaced with monthly calendars.

Do I use the notes pages in the back? Yes. I keep random notes in the back, they include pen testing, trying to find the right blend of watercolors to make what I think looks like tea, to a few addresses and phone numbers but I could easily track this all on one notes page such as the one in the front. I tried to use the removable Address/Memos insert and haven’t been able to make it work. Perhaps that could be reformatted into an 18-month calendar then I’d be more likely to use it.

The Principal® keeps me focused and has reduced procrastination and increased how often it is open and on top of everything on my desk. I count that as a win.

Penny’s summary of Trinote vs Principal®

Trinote loves:

  • Time blocking
  • Weekly tasks

Trinote isn’t great at:

  • Daily notes
  • More than 3 important tasks per day

Principal® loves:

  • Daily focused time scheduling/blocking
  • Daily priority tasks
  • Daily notes.

Who should consider this planner?

I think it’s a very useful and highly versatile planner. I believe I’ve demonstrated that one does not need to be in academia to benefit from working with this planner.


Author bio:

Penny Shima Glanz spends her days spinning yarn and code into memorable projects. Small businesses rely on her for smart technology decisions. Designers rely on her to sample, test, and edit their handknit and crochet patterns. She loves muddy trail runs, fosters kittens, and lives in Westchester, NY with her husband and two resident cats. You can find her at

2 thoughts on “Penny’s comparison of the Trinote vs Principal weekly planners

  1. A question: I’m not currently employed in any teaching position, although I used to be and I don’t exclude entering that river again some time in the future, so I’d probably have no current use for the weekly time schedule page that this planner appears to have. However, my question is: is there only one such spread in the Principal, or are there two? An academic year usually involves two semesters with schedules that might differ. It stands to reason that an academic planner would account for that.

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