Review: Circa notebooks from Levenger

For the past few weeks I’ve been using Circa notebooks from Levenger on a daily basis as a planning tool. I’m going to share my experience with these so far and tell you what I think about the product.

What’s Circa

First, it’s worth explaining what Circa notebooks are. The Circa system uses plastic disks of various diameters to bind together notebook covers, tabbed dividers, and a wide variety of pages. Pages have to be specially punches to fit on these rings, which function similarly to the way Rolodex cards are attached to a Rolodex.

The beauty of this system is that it allows you to create custom notebooks. This is more than just a fancy version of a three-ring binder. Because there are generally several Circa disks involved in creating a notebook (11 in the case of a full-sized 8½ x 11 notebook), pages of different sizes can easily be inserted into the same notebook. This turns out to be surprisingly useful.

Circa notebook with different sized pages

Circa notebook

What I ordered

There is a wide variety of Circa products available from Levenger, but I started out by ordering a Circa Simply Irresistible Sampling Kit. This is a very low-risk way to start experimenting with Circa. The package is $40, but comes with a $40 Levenger gift card, so you end up paying just for shipping (assuming there are other things Levenger sells you might be interested in if it turns out you don’t like Circa). This kit includes the disks, a variety of different sized papers, notebook covers and other items.

I liked the first sampler pack so much that I ordered a second one, plus a packet of 300 letter-sized 8½ x 11 sheets with the special Circa punching. I ordered the note taking style sheets, which I find are useful for not only taking notes, but lots of other things, too. On my second order I also ordered some additional compact size “Things To Do” refill packs. I use these for my daily to-do lists. (In another post I’ll write about how I use a single Circa notebook to manage all of my projects and tasks at work and at home.)

What I think of Circa

A number of people have said to me that Circa is simply a fancy, expensive, overpriced version of a three-ring binder. I suppose that criticism is fair in some respects. You could do what I do with my Circa system with a much cheaper three-ring binder, mostly. But I think Circa does have several characteristics that make it superior to an ordinary ring-style binder.

  1. The rings in the circa notebook are more compact, and the whole package is more compact — more like an actual notebook, less like a binder.
  2. The pages can be moved about the notebook more quickly than if you were using rings you had to snap open and shut repeatedly.
  3. The ability to easily insert multiple sizes of paper into the notebook, which is difficult with a ring-style binder, is both useful and attractive, and allows me to create a notebook that does exactly what I need it to — no more, no less.

In addition to the qualities of the Circa system itself, Levenger does a great job of providing paper sheets that are ideal for organizing, brainstorming, taking notes and planning. The paper is beautiful and a little heavier than run-of-the-mill filler paper from your local office supply store. It comes with a variety of unusual and useful printed forms, like the notes style sheets and various planner inserts — calendar pages, to-do lists, etc.

There is one big downside to the Circa system: The Circa punch. The punch that’s required for you to punch your own Circa paper costs $58 from Levenger. That’s a lot of money for a hole punch. I’m looking for alternatives that aren’t quite as pricey, and for the moment am fairly happy ordering inserts from Levenger. The quality of paper and the preprinted templates are worth the extra cost. But it would be useful to have a punch (though my boss has one that I could probably borrow if needed). If I stick with Circa in the long haul I’ll probably end up buying one.

Bottom line

If you’re not a big paper person, you may find the whole set-up a little over the top. That’s fine — different strokes for different folks.

If you like to organize on paper and take notes on paper (and I do), and if you appreciate the quality of the paper, pens and other items you’re actually using, I would definitely recommend Circa. It’s attractive, functional and flexible. For my money, given how it allows me to be better organized and gets me off the computer, it’s worth it.

Any experiences with Circa or similar products you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments.

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Comments

  1. says

    I ordered the same pack.

    Here’s how I’m planning on using it: I was thinking about creating client notebooks and when we have update meetings, we’d print out the data (graphs, list of holdings, etc) and hole punch it for them. I’d tell them ‘bring your notebook’ and we would add any new pages to it when they came. We could also add sheets for goals, notes from our meeting, we could add “to do” sheets for things we need the client to take care off before our next meeting . . .

    I think the potential is there. It’s just getting started that takes some effort.

    After reading your posts, I’m thinking about using it for myself now.

    Keep up the good work.

  2. says

    Great idea, Justin. I would imagine this would help to personalize the information for the client, too. I can easily see these notebooks as a replacement for files.

  3. Dev Dhruv says

    I like discbound notebooks like Circa too. I know of Staples’ Arc notebook, which is like Circa but much, much cheaper. It also comes with good quality paper: 100 gsm. Circa mostly has 90 gsm paper. Arc had dividers, tabs, pockets, a punch, discs, and much more. But, this system is knew, and growing. It doesn’t have all the things Circa has, but it does have most of the products Circa has. I use alot of Arc products, but sometimes use Circa if Arc doesn’t have the products. Rollabind is also another good sytem like Levenger’s Circa and Staples’ Arc

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