A few months ago, work started getting rather busy to the point where I was having trouble keeping track of all the different tasks I was asked to do over the course of a single week. Being the sole designer on my team I was frequently stuck in meetings which led to lost time doing hands-on work. I tried all kinds of to-do apps and lists and they just didn’t cut it. I was the kind of person content with planning each and every hour of my day so that no hour was “wasted”. That was when I discovered the Hobonichi Techo.
The Hobonichi Techo is a daily planner/notebook made by Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun. I initially discovered it when I discovered Shigesato Itoi’s (creator of the Mother/Earthbound series) daily blog and - you guessed it - he is the owner of Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun and the creator of the Hobonichi Techo.
The planners come in A6 and A5 sizes, and the pages are printed on Tomoegawa paper, which is thin and bleed resistant. This means it works well with almost any kind of pen or ink, with the exception of oil-based pens. The books come in Japanese and English though some configurations are not available in English (like the Spring 2016 version). I decided to pick up the Spring 2016 A6 “Original” version and give it test run.
The planner has full year calendars and full month calendars to start, which then lead into the meat of the planner which is the individual day pages. If you get the “Original”, the end of the planner has some additional pages like Favourite Things and a Gift Log.
I didn’t really get in to using these pages but I did use them for major milestones and important dates that I needed to remember. I would usually set up these pages at the beginning of the month, or whenever I felt the need to add an important date like a wedding. You can purchase stickers to go on these pages at the Hobonichi store.
The day pages are divided into a few sections. The top left contains the month, day, weekday and stage of moon cycle. Next to it is a checklist template of up to 5 items. The main section is divided into two portions, the left being the day schedule, and the right is a general notes area.
I bought the English version of the “Planner” version (basically not the “Original”) to see what was different and it was a little less thick of a book than the Original. The front had an embossed 手帳 “techo” which means “notebook”. I thought it looked a bit classier than the Original.
The inside structure of the book is more or less the same, in this case in English, but it is noticeably missing the checklist and a clearer separation between the schedule and notes areas. Personally I love the separator so I’m not sure if this is a feature of the “Planner” version or because it’s the English version.
Oh yeah, the quotes at the bottom are all translated too.
One of the best features of the Hobonichi are the variety of covers you can get for it, and you’ll definitely want to get one. There are a variety of designs but I personally think the best ones are the Mother series covers. My personal favourite is from the 2016 collection called “Cast” showcasing the cast of Earthbound.
The covers usually come with a plastic covering…a cover for a cover if you will. I highly recommend using it as some of these covers look like they could get dirty and would be difficult to clean.
The covers also serve a purpose! The inside of the covers have various pockets to hold all your Hobonichi accessories like stencils, stickers, etc.
(I love the Mother series covers because they all come with a hidden message in the inner pocket!)
Other accessories include highlighters, multicolor pens, stickers, page tabs, and bookmarks!
The day planner is where I spent the most time. I would spend some time at the beginning of each day to write down my schedule as it existed in the morning. Any meetings were marked off in purple highlighter, personal chores and non-work stuff marked off in blue, heads-down work time in red, and fun stuff in green.
I use the triangle bookmark to keep track of the day and the rectangle bookmark to keep track of the month.
I use the standard pen I got by purchasing the Hobonichi because of its multiple colors! It also works great with the thin paper and lets me write pretty small (as the planner is pretty small). Throughout the day, if something comes up during a meeting I’ll write in the notes section. Some days I’ll completely run out of space. Other times I’ll write random thoughts throughout the day as a way to remember things.
I’ve been using the Hobonichi like this every day for the past three months now and looking back at my notes I’ve learned a lot about myself and what my next steps should be. It’s also helped me through crunch time as I easily forget the smaller tasks I might’ve been given unexpectedly or advice given from mentors. I’m definitely going to continue using it as, frankly, it’s addicting to write in this thing.