You Need a Planner
In my world of time management and productivity, you need a planner of some kind. But which planner is perfect for your needs?
There are so many planner options out there that you could literally spend a small fortune trying more than just a few of them. And the options they offer are seemingly endless. Which do you need? What ones do you want? And out of all of them, which are the most useful?
Every single decision that you make about your planner is a personal one. What works for you might not work for someone else.
I’ve listed a number of things that you need to consider in finding the right planner for you; one that suits your needs perfectly. I’ve also included reviews on some of the planners I have tried over the years. I’ve tried a lot; sometimes more than one in a year.
Digital or Paper?
Is your ideal planner paper or digital? A combination of both?
And have you checked out the newest thing? A planner that looks like a paper one, complete with stickers and colored ink, on your tablet!
I sincerely thought I had found the perfect planner for me when I heard about that, but it does require a bit of a learning curve. Also, I don’t always have internet availability on my tablet. Does that matter? I’m not sure.
And do I want to carry my iPad around with me all the time? Again, I’m not sure.
Let’s take a look at the advantages of digital vs paper.
A digital planner can be as simple as the calendar on your phone. Your phone is something you most likely always have with you, so that makes it easier to make appointments and check your plans when you’re out.
A digital planner also has the ability to remind you of appointments, tasks, and errands. You can set an alarm, or even have your phone remind you to pick up milk when you are near the grocery store. You can even do things like have the weather for the day show up on your calendar. Pretty impressive.
If you happen to have the same kind of phone, tablet, and/or laptop – usually either IOS or Android – everything syncs together. An appointment or reminder you add while at your desk is already on your phone and tablet. So wherever you are, you’ll have all of your important information with you, no matter which device you happen to have with you.
I like the idea of a digital planner a great deal, in theory. In practice, I just can’t seem to embrace it. But that’s my opinion, and you may find that a digital planner is perfect for your needs.
As I said earlier, the number and types of paper planners out there is just overwhelming! And when you consider the customizations that are available, it can make it almost impossible to decide which one to choose.
Even just this year, I ordered a planner that I thought would be perfect for my needs. And keep in mind, I’ve been using a planner of one kind or another for many years. But just a few months into the year, I found that it just wasn’t working and I switched to something different. Since then, I’ve gone back and forth, still not happy.
I’ve even tried a bullet journal, which can be anything you want them to be because you start with a blank notebook and fill it in according to your needs. Still deciding.
One of the biggest advantages of a paper planner is that it is paper. Many people prefer to use pen and paper to record their thoughts, and in fact, studies show that writing things down that way increases the likelihood that you will remember it.
In discussing paper planners it must also be noted that a big reason they are so popular is the way that they look. Fine paper, lots of colors and appealing designs, plus the options of adding stickers, doodles, and using a wide variety of pens and markers makes them appealing to a lot of users.
Of course, they have no ability to offer reminders or alarms and are bigger and heavier than a cell phone. Still, they are incredibly popular.
How Will You Use Your Planner?
Are you the type of person who is always on the go, very busy, and needs her schedule with her at all times? Do you have a secretary or assistant who may be updating your calendar as well and making appointments for you?
In that case, you most likely will want to use a digital planner.
Or maybe you’re not that busy, but you prefer to carry as little as possible with you. Again, a digital planner might fit your needs perfectly. You can put it on your phone, which you most likely always carry with you, and it adds no additional weight.
If you have a fairly routine schedule, with few appointments and a memory good enough to keep track of a short to-do list, a digital planner or simple calendar on your phone might be more than enough for you.
On the other hand, a paper planner works incredibly well for someone who tends to be visually oriented. If you find yourself responding more to color than black and white, and tend to remember pictures more vividly, then a paper planner might be ideal. (Although to be fair, digital planners can offer color and pictures as well.) The same goes for bullet journals.
Also, if you like to take a look at the big picture, getting an idea of how your month or week is shaping up, a paper planner can do that more effectively than most digital ones.
Paper planners are also easier to implement ideas like color coding and time blocking because they give you a better picture of your time. In addition, they are bigger in size than a cell phone screen or possibly even a tablet, which makes them more desirable for such activities.
How Do You Plan Your Days?
Are you the type of person who needs each day listed out by the hour? Would a simple morning, afternoon, evening work? Or maybe just space to write for each day? Do you prefer your days to be listed vertically or horizontally?
Some of these questions pertain more to paper planners than digital ones, but digital planners are beginning to catch up.
Another consideration is how much space you will need. Some people prefer a monthly and weekly view, followed by a page for each day. A digital planner could probably expand as much as you needed for each day’s notes (depending on which one you choose), but a paper planner that offered such an option would almost certainly be kept strictly at home due to size alone.
One nice workaround for this, especially if you’re unsure of how you want your days to look, or if now and then you have an extra busy week and need more space, is the bullet journal. In most cases, people create their journals a little at a time, so you have the flexibility for one week (or even a day) to look completely different than another one.
Bullet journals also allow for future planning, as they call it, so you do have a place to record appointments that take place any time during the year, even if you haven’t created that month’s calendar yet. I’ll write more on bullet journals in a future post.
What Else Do You Need in Your Planner?
Some planners come with additional features, like meal planning pages, budgeting sections, or even places to set goals and work out how to achieve them.
This type of customization is more common in paper planners; with digital planners you would most likely be given the option to link to other apps, depending on the planner you choose. Even then, your options tend to be limited.
One interesting option is the Cozi Family Calendar. Not only does it sync across devices, but it allows you to give access to others, presumably your family. That way, everyone has access to the grocery list, so (theoretically) whoever goes to the store knows that you need milk.
It also offers lists other than grocery lists, recipes for meal planning, to do lists, and a family journal. You can add a picture or just jot down a quick note about something that happened that day. It’s one of the most comprehensive planners around. I used it years ago for quite some time. I think the reason I gave it up was that I really am a paper person at heart.
Do You Need Cute?
There’s no shame in it if you do. There is a huge business in stickers for planners and they’re not all being sold to teenaged girls.
Not only do I own way too many, but I’ve recently found out how to make them! Look for a sticker shop opening up on this site sometime in the future!
A paper planner, for many, is not just a way to keep track of days and appointments. It can be a bit of an outlet for some creativity, add some spark (or sparkle) to an otherwise dull day, and even give you the chance to play a little bit. That in itself can be therapeutic and an easy form of self-care.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, there are some digital planners out there offering the same type of experience as a paper one, with stickers and colored inks. At this point, you would need to find one on Etsy that you like and then download the app that the software works on.
There is a learning curve involved, or there was for me anyway, and I consider myself to be pretty tech savvy. Also, as far as I know, you have to have an iPad that works with the Apple Pencil in order to use them.
Which Planner is Perfect for Your Wallet?
Planners can be expensive. Most paper ones, unless you’re using a bullet journal, start around $50.00 and go up. I get my favorite bullet journal on Amazon for just over $6.00, and even the more expensive ones are around $25.00. Of course, we are talking about the difference between a beautifully printed, colorful planner with everything laid out for you versus a pretty much blank notebook.
Another consideration is that you will need to purchase a new one each year.
And a great deal of the most popular planners are sold online only, with a limited amount printed, which means you may not be able to get the one you want unless you act quickly.
A digital planner, on the other hand, is a one time purchase, if you pay for it at all. Many are free (with ads included) and some offer an upgrade (without ads) that may offer additional features for a nominal price. More and more are turning to the subscription model, where you pay a monthly fee, usually under $10.00, in order to continue using the app.
Reviews of Some of the More Popular Planners
As I mentioned earlier, I used the Cozi Family Calendar for a few years and even paid for the upgrade for a while. I only paid for it for a few months because it wasn’t that valuable to me.
Since then, they have changed their upgrade features and I would be more inclined to use them.
- No ads
- A monthly calendar view on your phone
- Calendar search
- Themes to change the look of your calendar
- Multiple reminders – worth the price alone!
- Change notifications – if someone makes a change to their calendar, you are notified
- Shopping mode – check items off your list and they drop to the bottom, plus if anyone adds anything while you are shopping it automatically shows up on your list and is highlighted so you’ll be sure to see it!
- Contact information can be shared across the family
- A birthday tracker
- Priority status when contacting support
I used Cozi for a couple of years at least. This was when my kids were younger and doing lots of activities, so I had a lot to keep up with. I would highly recommend giving it a try. They also offer a free trial of the upgrade so you can decide on that.
The other digital planner that I have tried was one I purchased from Etsy that was made to work with an app called Good Notes.
The part I purchased from Etsy was a series of digital files that made up the planner. In addition to written instructions, it also came with videos to show you how to install and use it. Despite that, it was a challenge for me to get it put together and to use it. In fact, I never used it enough to see if it was something that might replace anything I was currently using. I guess that by itself tells me all I need to know.
There are a lot of digital options out there now. The market seems to have expanded a great deal in just the last six months. If this is something you’re interested in, and you have the right equipment – mine needed an iPad that would work with the Apple Pencil – then check it out.
There are so many paper planner options available – even just narrowed down to ones I’ve used – that I could almost write a book! Instead, I’ll list the ones I’ve used along with my opinions.
I think the Erin Condren planner was the first expensive, customized planner I ever used. If you think you will use most of its features, I highly recommend it.
Everything about the design and construction of this planner is exceptional, as is their customer service. Getting your order in the mail is like getting a gift; even their packaging is special. These planners are only sold online and can sell out, so be aware of that.
There are so many customizations and features, you would be hard pressed to not find a planner perfect for your needs.
The Happy Planner
I think the Happy Planner might be the biggest competitor that Erin Condren has. They offer a wide variety of products, including different sizes of planners, which I love. Their designs are colorful and fun, and they offer more stickers than I can count.
One big advantage to me is that their products can be found in craft stores as well as online. That instant gratification is pretty powerful!
Another thing that I like about their planners is that they are bound in what is called a disc binding system. The discs come in a variety of sizes and look, for the most part, like big buttons you would sew on a coat. They come in different colors with hearts cut out in the middle, so you can switch yours out if you like. This would let you change colors, or go to a bigger disc in order to add more pages.
The pages are punched in a way that makes them easy to add or remove, and you can purchase a punch so that you can add your own pages.
The Living Well Planner
They offer less customization than the other planners do, and they come undated. There are sheets of stickers included, however, that include enough for the monthly tabs and the monthly pages. This has an advantage in that you can start your planner with any month you like.
While the customizations are minimal (a selection of two different covers), the pages included are pretty comprehensive. In addition to hourly increments on each day of the weekly view, there is also a designated spot for recording what’s for dinner, as well as a spot for notes and the important things to remember for each day.
It also includes goal setting pages, budgeting pages, and project planning. There are also a couple of groups (one Facebook based) as well as a series of emails to help you use your planner.
The planner is well made, nicely packaged, and colorful.
The Passion Planner
The Passion Planner is entirely different than all of the other paper planners I have discussed.
It’s almost like a spiral notebook rather than a traditional planner, but without the spirals. It looks much like a bullet journal. The pages are sewn in and it has an elastic band to keep it closed. It also has a ribbon for a bookmark.
You can choose from 3 different types: dated, undated, and academic. The undated and academic ones also come in 3 different sizes; the dated one is about 7 x 10.
The other unique thing about the Passion Planner is that it exists not only to help you plan your days but your goals. There are places to explore your dreams and questions designed to help you figure things out.
They also offer free downloads on their site, so you can try it before you buy it. And each purchase comes with a buy one, give one promise from the company. For each planner sold, they give one to help positively impact someone else’s life. And a portion of their profits goes to a number of worthy causes.
So Which Planner is Perfect for Your Needs?
That’s not an easy question, for sure, but hopefully, this article has helped to give you the information that you need to make a decision. A lot of it comes down to what your personal needs are and your own preferences.
There is a lot of information online that might make your task a little easier. Also, be sure to check out my Pinterest boards for more ideas and inspiration.
And don’t forget to sign up for your free mini-course on planning your time!