The new year means a new planner, and while choosing one can be a surprisingly personal decision, there are characteristics that all the best planners share. A paper planner should be sturdy, something that can withstand a year’s worth of daily use without falling apart, and it should have enough room for you to write down your calendar appointments or to-do lists, as well as notes. And — based on your own individual preferences — the planner should be dated, so you can easily look ahead and make plans for months in the future. (However, if you’re more of an undated planner kind of person, we’ve written about some of our favorites here, too.)
Beyond those basic criteria for a dated planner, there are countless other features and style choices you can make, from the type of binding to the amount of guidance your planner provides. So to help find the best planner for you and your organizing style, we took a closer look at our editors’ personal favorite planners, dug up the 2019 editions of some of our the ones experts have recommended us, and scoured the internet for more recommendations, then organized the best of every type, from the most minimal to the most programmed.
Best Weekly Planners
This planner from Detroit-based Shinola is a nice alternative for those who like the look of Smythson planners but don’t want to spend that much money on a notebook that’s only good for a year. The weekly layouts are straightforward, rectangular grids, with little calendars in the upper left-hand corners to show where you are in the month.
The best planner for minimalists with a strong design sensibility is this, the OCO 2019 Planner from Portland, Oregon-based Ointment Co. Every day is broken down by hour, with a little dotted grid for notes spanning the bottom of each spread. But the biggest advantage this planner has over other minimalist models is its quality. The pages are thick, the cover is made of a soft, gray linen, the binding is woven and truly lay-flat, and it comes with handsome brass tabs to keep track of your pages.
We were first tipped off to this weekly planner from German stationery company Leuchtturm1917 by self-described “planner power user” Perrin Drumm. As she writes, “As for the specs, the hardback is perfect for planning on the go or taking notes in your lap; and the layout is my ideal: days on one side, spaces for notes on the other.”
Moleskine makes a weekly planner with a similar layout to that of the Leuchtturm1917, though this one has a soft — but still sturdy — cover. Again, in this layout, the days of the week are laid out on the left-hand page, while the right-hand page is ruled for notes.
This Rhodia weekly planner, which comes recommended by my Strategist colleague Karen Iorio Adelson, features a similar layout, with the days of the week on one side and a notebook page on the other. What makes the Rhodia planner a little different, however, is the compact, hourly layout for every day. Plus, while the Leuchtturm and the Moleskine models each use a little ribbon to mark pages, this planner has tearaway corners.
For those who like that weekly layout but want a little more structure, this notebook from Australian stationery company Milligram Studio is a good option. That’s because the right-hand pages of notes starts with a to-do list, for urgent action items, so it’s nice for those who use their planner to write down tasks rather than keep track of appointments. The one downside for American users: the holiday schedule is Australian, which can be a little confusing.
Gridded pages, like those in the Rhodia, are actually quite common in Japanese planners, like the Jibun Techo. This one was recommended by Wakako Takagi, co-founder of Los Angeles-based stationery store Baum-kuchen. As she explains, “I use the monthly pages as a master planner, and my weekly pages to keep me oriented with detailed appointments, things to remember, as well as documentation of some of the key ingredients in life.” The tightly gridded pages make it easy to keep everything organized, as well.
This planner from Ink and Volt is halfway between a traditional day planner and a productivity planner. It opens with a guided exercise to write out your intentions and goals for the upcoming year, and then, at the start of each month, there’s a place to write your goals for that month and the steps you’ll take to achieve them. The weekly layout is otherwise pretty simple, with giant, rectangular boxes where you can write down tasks or appointments. But this one is great for those who want some hand-holding when it comes to staying accountable to long-term plans but don’t need to be reminded every single day.
If you’re really into goal-setting, or if you have specific, long-term projects you’re trying to accomplish in the calendar year, and need a little bit of help to get there, you’ll probably get into the planners from Melbourne, Australia-based stationery company MiGOALS. It is, admittedly, an intense productivity and goal-setting planner, with a long introduction and exercises to help you narrow your focus. But if you’re committed to planning, doing, and then reviewing your progress every day, this goal planner has all the tools you need to do so effectively.
Best Daily Planners
If you like that gridded style but want a daily diary, rather than a weekly or monthly one, the Hobonichi Techo is a perennial Strategist favorite, used by two of our editors. As Alexis Swerdloff wrote in her initial ode to this cult Japanese notebook, “The leather-bound book is hefty and feels like I’m actually holding something substantial (unlike a Moleskine), while still being incredibly compact: It’s little bit taller than my iPhone 6, and about the width of a Kit Kat.” Each page is for a different day and has light gridding, which suggests order but doesn’t demand it.
If you want to go old-school, or you need a planner that’s exceptionally sturdy, you can always go for a Day-Timer planner. The main advantage of the Day-Timer is that you can use the same binder for years, and it can withstand a lot of wear and tear; you just swap out the pages.
Just don’t forget the actual pages you’ll need for the binder.
We were told about Emily Ley’s Simplified Planner by Julie Solomon, branding and marketing consultant and host of The Influencer Podcast, who loves its clean layout. The months are tabbed so they’re easy to find, and each page is for an individual date, with space for both to-do lists and for notes. Other than those two lists, there’s little guidance, so it’s a nice for those who want more space for their handwriting and less printed text but like to keep track of both appointments and tasks on one page.
This planner from Day Designer is marketed to women (and it would actually be great for moms), but its clear, day-to-day layout is nice for anyone with a lot of projects on their plate. Like the Simplified planner, the months are tabbed, so it’s easy to jump from one month to another, and each dated page has a place to put appointments and make a to-do list. Where it gets a little more hardcore is with the guided exercises on every page. At the very top is a little place to write your top three objectives for the day, as well as to take note of your spending habits, and the bottom has a place for you to write down a “Daily Gratitude.” The biggest downside is its size; this daily planner is giant, with large spiral binding, so it’s better to keep on a desk than to lug around in a work bag. But it’s a well-thought-out daily planner with plenty of room for organizing your myriad thoughts and tasks.
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