How to Choose the Perfect Planner + Our Top 13 Picks for the New Year
Head into the new year on an organized note with our favorite planner picks.
If staying organized, motivated and on schedule is your goal in 2021, then it might be time for a brand-new planner.
If you're new to the world of paper planners, you may quickly become overwhelmed with all of the choices, options and variations, but don't worry — we've got your back.
We've researched, test-driven, compared and drooled over the best planners we could find to create our ultimate planner guide. Let's get organized — together!
CHOOSING THE PERFECT PLANNER
Here are some things to think about before taking the plunge with a planner:
1: Will you need to carry your planner around, or will it simply sit on your desk? If you're carrying your planner with you, you’ll need a bag to fit it in. Don’t forget to also think about the weight of your planner.
2: Do you like to customize your planners, or do you prefer one that is well-suited to your needs that you can leave as is?
3: Do you have specific needs for your calendar? Do you prefer a horizontal layout or a vertical layout? Daily pages, weekly pages or monthly pages?
4: In addition to your calendar, what other features would you like your planner to have? Do you hope to use your planner for goal setting, meal planning or business planning? What about tracking your exercise or water consumption?
5: Remember that there is definitely some trial and error involved when choosing a planner. You may need to try a few different planners and styles before figuring out what works best for you.
Ring-bound planners are reminiscent of the three-ring binders you might remember from school. The rings open and close, allowing you to easily add or subtract any pages from your planner. They come in a variety of styles and materials, depending on your budget. They also come in a variety of sizes, depending on how much room you might need. The three most common sizes include pocket, personal and A5.
These Planners Are Good For... Anyone who has trouble making up their mind and loves the idea of complete flexibility.
One of the OGs of the planner world, Filofax offers one of the most flexible and comprehensive planner systems of the bunch. They have a variety of different calendar inserts, as well as all sorts of additional pages, dividers, pockets and almost anything else you could dream up.
Day Designer has expanded on the Filofax idea by offering some more thoughtfully designed options for inserts. Again, because the ring-bound system is so flexible, inserts can be used interchangeably (as long as you have the same size planner). This one features a zippered pouch, slots for cards and a starter insert set of planner pages.
Choose from a daily, weekly or monthly layout and customize with snap-in accessories and page inserts. They're known for their vertical calendar layout, as well as including spaces for extras, such as meal planning or tracking your water consumption.
The largest category in the world of planners includes spiral-bound agendas. These planners are similar to spiral notebooks. They are much less flexible, in that it’s trickier to add pages to this type of planner (though ripping pages out is much easier). However, unlike ring-bound planners, it’s also much harder for you to lose any pages from your planner.
These Planners Are Good For... Anyone who wants an easy, all-in-one planner and doesn’t care much about customization.
If you're looking for a fun, light-hearted planner, then you definitely should look at ban.do's options. This one comes with a brightly colored daisy design cover, and in-between calendar pages, you'll find cute quotes, ample room for stickers and empowering illustrations. Plus, check out their simple daily to-do planners as well as their wellness planners.
Fashion designer Lilly Pulitzer offers a spiral planner that is reminiscent of the fun, colorful aspects of her clothing and accessories. Included in the planner are gorgeous watercolor illustrations, stickers, address/contact pages and a spot to write out this year's goals.
A popular pick amongst students and young professionals, this hardcover planner from Rifle Paper Company includes gold-foil stickers, an interior pocket and space to jot down special dates, monthly to-dos and notes.
Action-oriented planners should definitely check out the GET TO WORK BOOK. This planner was designed for those that want to commit to getting things done each and every day. Calendar pages are designed to help you identify your top three goals for the day, and at the end of each month, there's space for you to reflect on what worked, what didn’t and what can be improved moving forward. There's also plenty of space for future project planning.
These unique planners include a flexible system that makes use of round discs in varying sizes, depending on how large your planner is. These discs allow you to easily snap in and out any papers or items you’d like. You can include any of these items, as long as you run them through a special paper puncher first. While you’re not required to get one of these special punchers in order to use this system, it really does help you take your planning to the next level. Depending on which system you use, various inserts are available including calendars, note pages, pockets and more.
In addition to the two systems below, you can also find discbound planners from office supply stores.
These Planners Are Good For... Anyone who is looking for the ultimate in customization and flexibility for their planner. This system allows you to pretty much create your perfect planner from start to finish.
Levenger makes a number of stylish discbound covers. The great thing about this system is that you can create a planner/notebook hybrid, allowing you to add all of the elements you need to stay organized and on track. They have some great inserts, including calendars, specialized note pages, project pages and beautiful metallic discs.
This discbound planner is a great choice for anyone who wants to combine their calendar with memory keeping. Designed to work with a number of coordinating washi tapes, stickers and stamps, this calendar helps you stay organized, while also getting super creative. The flexible discs allow you to easily add odds and ends such as cards, menus or photos.
These planners are the least flexible of the bunch (minus the Traveler's Notebook), because they're bound like a standard hardcover book. They're a great option if you're looking for a slimmer, easily portable calendar.
These Planners Are Good For... Anyone who likes a sleek design and isn't interested in customizing.
This planner is designed to help you take your dreams and goals and break them down into actionable steps. With a vertical weekly spread, there is space to separate both work and life to-dos, track gratitude and brainstorm upcoming projects. There's also space to pinpoint what your focus will be for the upcoming week.
Bullet journaling is more of a planner system rather than a specific type of notebook or agenda. It's intended to help you get organized in the simplest way possible by tracking your calendar, lists and to-dos in a way that uses an index, a series of symbols and page numbers to help you stay on top of everything. Over the past few years, a cult-like following has developed around this unique system. Learn more here.
This planner is sort of in its own category. These notebooks were not originally designed to be calendars or planners, but they're so versatile, they ended up working great for that, too. You start with an outside cover, then use bound notebooks and calendars that you can slip into the cover to create the agenda you want. While the insert books are bound, the design of this planner is so unique, you really can customize it to create exactly the type of setup you want.