Saturday, February 24, 2007

Levenger Circa sampler blowout!

As promised, the post about the paper planning system I'm currently trying out. I had been using a Franklin Covey "Classic" size planner. In short, it is a regular letter size (8.5" x 11") piece of paper folded in half. 5.5" x 8.5" if my math skills serve me right. This worked out great when I only have personal stuff to keep track of. Then I got a new job on January 2nd, 2007 after being unemployed for four months.

The new job is going great, but it is extremely busy. Except for my first week, I was always juggling at least three projects, at least two of which need to be done ASAP. It quickly became apparent I need some way to keep track of all this. Having been laid off twice in the previous two years, I like keeping my work and personal information split up. I don't see this job going away any time soon, but you never know... The problem is at first this approach required I carry two notebooks. I visited the site for ideas (site down at the time of this writing). It just happened that when I was looking, there was a review of a product called the Circa notebook by a company called Levenger.

I had not heard of Levenger before - I'm not sure how that happened. They make very nice looking office supplies. That description does not do them justice - their products are beautiful. The Circa is a special product they licensed from Rollabind. I think it was originally developed for scrapbooks and later for sales presentations. Levenger has taken the technology, licensed it, and turned it into a high-end notebook/calendar.

The idea of the technology is this: where as Franklin Covey, DayRunner, and just about every planner out there is some kind of rings you open and close to add pages, Circa (and Rollabind) are plastic disks that hold the pages. The pages have mushroom shaped holes in the side. It works like a really big Rolodex. Two things you must realize here: this system holds the pages in place remarkably well and also the disks are equal distance apart. The offshot here is you can put any smaller size pages into a bigger notebook. Index cards in a notebook that is similar to the "Classic" size, 2 inch notecards in a letter size notebook for a todo list, and all kinds of other things you can do.

Back to the diyplanner site... After reading about the system, I really wanted to try it out. Having recently come out of the unemployment line, I wanted to spent the least money possible to see how this thing worked. Target carried some Rollabind notebooks but they were out. Staples carried some so I picked a Junior size notebook (similar to FC's Classic size) for around $8.

After using the notebook for a couple weeks, I really love the idea, like the system, just didn't like the general notebook. The pages don't turn that smoothly, and pages almost always seem to pop out when I tried to foldover the notebook. See's foldover notebooks for pictures on what foldover means. It is easier than describing it.

After reading and commenting at, it turned out that one of the members over at that site is Ryan Rasmussen - an employee from Levenger. I am not entirely sure what his job title is, but his role seems to be a cross between customer service and product development. He has a diyplanner account, a flickr account, and a youtube account to show off the company's products and find out what their customers want!

I emailed Ryan some questions about how Levenger's Circa compares to the Rollabind products and found out they sell a sample pack on their site. The idea being if you are near a retail store, you can walk in, try out the product, and come out with a sample notebook to play with. They try to do that online. Unfortunately, the sample pack did not have two major components I'd need if I were to replace my planner with a Circa notebook: calendar and address book. An email exchange with Ryan later - explaining how I'd like to use my ideal planning system he says he'd send me a sample pack with some items I may be interested in.

I didn't hear anything for a couple days and next thing I know, there's a FedEx next day package sitting in front of my front door from Levenger! Ryan blew away all my expectations. Included in the package was a Junior and a Letter size notebook with all kinds of sample products along with a hand written note! When is the last time you've got a hand-written note from the staff of ANY company? I can't recall one time. That is an awesome touch of customer service.

Included in this sample pack...

In the Junior size notebook: compact size address book cards (one card per contact), address book cards (their own size - bigger than compact, smaller than Junior), address book pages (junior size), business card holder.

In the Letter size notebook: notetaking pages - I think they are Cornell notetaking system pages, 5 plastic dividers (letter size), one plastic page marker (index card size with a tab sticking up), todo list pages (junior & compact size), index cards (punched on top & side, in white, grey, green, and yellow), wallet size cards (about the size of business cards), one month per page calendar pages for February and March, two page per week pages from this week until the beginning of April, blank pages, graph paper pages, pages that look like they are for storyboards, business card holder, letter size address book pages, project planning pages, and a plastic page with 8 slots for holding index cards on the front and 8 slots on the back.

That's a ton of stuff! For those of you who may have missed it: all this stuff was shipped to me next day FedEx at no charge to me just because I thought the product sounded great and wanted to try it out! I have never seen customer service like that.

I'll post pictures of this gear later.

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