Instead of an app or gadget that claims to jump-start your productivity, consider investing in a good paper planner. There is plenty of research that shows how actually writing down your to-do list and schedule for the day — rather than typing it out on a laptop or iPhone — makes you feel more engaged in the task at hand. And once the year is complete, a physical planner becomes an artifact — a time capsule, if you will — of that calendar year’s happenings. Leafing through the well-loved Hobonichi Techo planners I’ve used over the years brings me almost as much pleasure as scribbling in them did.
And while I’ve been devoted to Hobonichi Techo for most of my adult life, I’ve covered the Strategist’s stationery beat long enough to know that finding the right planner out of the very vast and very particular world of paper goods can be overwhelming. (I have, after all, updated this list faithfully every January and was tasked with selecting the best 100 notebooks for our massive notebook-testing story.)
So to find the best planners, we talked to 26 productivity experts, life coaches, and people who love stationery (including a few Strategist staffers) about their favorites, then culled our archives for standout styles we’ve written about before. Any of the 27 planners recommended below will surely go a long way toward keeping you on track this year.
What we’re looking for
Layout: Arguably, the most essential way to categorize planners is by how they’re broken down: weekly, daily, monthly, or quarterly. According to our experts, daily planners tend to devote an entire page to each day and are best suited for those with lots of daily tasks or for list-makers who need to focus on their day-to-day organization. A weekly planner’s layout allots one to two pages per week and is great for those juggling many weekly meetings, events, and deadlines. A monthly or quarterly planner is great if you have long-term goals and best for big-picture thinkers who have a lot of large-scale projects on their plates. And if none of these layouts sound exactly right for your needs, perhaps you’d prefer a completely customizable planner (which we have a few of below).
Size: Planners come in a range of sizes, which impacts how portable they are and how much space there is to write. Generally, if you’re looking for something super-portable, a pocket or personal planner is best. If portability is less of a factor or if you prefer roomier layouts, then a half- or full-letter-size planner is probably for you. We’ve noted the exact dimensions of each planner so you can easily measure the size before buying.
Cover: Aside from style, the cover impacts how well the planner will hold up against daily wear and tear. It also affects the weight: Is it hardcover, softcover, or leather-bound? If you’re less concerned about adding weight to your bag and want something that’ll definitely hold up all year, consider a leather-bound or hardcover planner. But if you need something lightweight, a well-made softcover planner is a good bet.
Best overall planner
Daily | 4” x 6” | Softcover
The Hobonichi Techo is a longtime Strategist favorite, used by three of our staffers (all three of whom have used the planner for years to stay organized). This long-term testing and devotion has earned it the top spot here. As New York Magazine deputy editor Alexis Swerdloff wrote in her initial ode to the cult Japanese planner, “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 an iPhone 6 and about the width of a Kit Kat.” Strategist associate editor Louis Cheslaw praises the planner’s “hard-wearing cover, thin (but quality) pages for a slim profile, lie-flat opening, and compact size.” He has already placed his 2022 order and looks “forward to critiquing [his] colleagues’ alternative planners” in the New Year. It definitely falls into the “if you know, you know” category of stationery. I find that it’s the perfect size to chuck into any bag and deceptively durable. I’m not precious with my planners and tend to subject them to a lot of wear and tear. The Hobonichi Techo has never torn on me and looks as good on December 31 as it did when I bought it the previous January. I also love that the light gridding on each page grants every day some order but still gives me the space to dash off notes, lists, and doodles.
Best weekly planners
Best overall weekly planner
Weekly | 5.75” x 8.25” | Hardcover
We first heard about German stationery company Leuchtturm1917’s weekly planner from self-described “planner power user” Perrin Drumm. As she writes, the planner’s “hardback is perfect for planning on the go or taking notes in your lap; and the layout ideal: days on one side, spaces for notes on the other.” Cindy Thompson, the blogger behind Instagram’s Plan Another Day, also loves this planner because it “features a simple weekly layout that can be utilized in many ways.” The two-year planner starts in January 2022 and will last you until December 2023, making it quite cost-effective.
Best weekly planner with tearaway corners
Weekly | 4” x 6” | Hardcover
This Rhodia weekly planner, which comes recommended by Strategist senior writer Karen Iorio Adelson, is organized with the days of the week on one side and a gridded page for notes and scribbles on the other. Each day’s schedule is broken down into hour-by-hour lines (from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.), and the pages have tearaway corners to help you keep your place.
Best large weekly planner
Weekly | 7.2” x 10.1” | Softcover
According to Drumm, “if Massimo Vignelli had $15 to buy a planner, he’d surely pick this one.” She loves the “non-nonsense” layout: “There is barely any type on the pages, so the dates, and pretty much everything else, are entirely up to you to plot out.” While the planner comes in four sizes, Drumm prefers the large, “which feels less throwaway than the smaller options.” She adds that her design-y friends go for the black-on-black option, but Drumm prefers the planner in Pepto-Bismol pink.
Best vertical weekly planner
Weekly | 4.3” x 8.3” | Softcover
Strategist writer Liza Corsillo loves this weekly planner from Traveler’s because “it lets you fill in the dates as you please,” so you can start using it at any point in the year. On top of that, because it contains just six months’ worth of undated weekly pages, it’s a great option to consider if you’re picking up a planner later in the year. In addition to those weekly pages, the planner contains a few pages laid out as vertical monthly calendars that you can use to keep track of important dates like birthdays or anniversaries. The paper itself is bleed- and feather-resistant, as well as fountain-pen friendly, she adds. While the planner as-is only has a simple card-stock cover — which Corsillo says works just fine for her — you can get a handsome leather cover to keep it in for an additional $50.