There are plenty of apps and gadgets that claim to jump-start your productivity, but if you’re really looking to buckle down and make the most of your time this year, it’s time to invest in a good paper planner. And though we’ve written about some of our favorite planners in the past, like this Strategist-editor-approved Japanese paper planner and this daily diary, we wanted to find the best planners. So we reached out to productivity experts, life coaches, and people who just love stationery for a living and asked them about their favorite planners. Below, the best life planners, day planners, and planners that will just help you get things done in 2019.
Life coach Penny Zenker recommends the BestSelf Co. Self Journal because it helps to break down big goals into digestible 90-day chunks. “I use this now because it is a comprehensive goal-setting-and-tracking system with reflection all in one. It helps me align my goals and my daily tasks, which makes me more productive.” Liz Sumner, progress and life coach, agrees, and also feels strongly about the Self Journal. “I’ve been using it for several years, ever since I discovered it on Kickstarter. It combines the best parts of a journal and planner,” she says. “The basic version has a lot of valuable material for getting started on goal-setting,” in case you don’t know where to start.
Christy Whitman, law-of-attraction coach and author of The Art of Having It All: A Woman’s Guide to Unlimited Abundance has been using the Day-Timer for over 20 years. “I love this brand because the layout of the pages allows me to have a place for the items to be done today, a schedule, and also a page for writing and taking notes. So each day is on two pages and gives me a full look at my day,” she explains. “If I have an appointment scheduled, I can write notes next to the appointment and remind myself of call-in information, the name of the person, or any other important information.”
Whitman also loves Day-Timer’s customer service, specifically the reminders to get new pages for the new year. “They send me an email with the order number, refill numbers, and it is just easy for busy career people.”
“My favorite planner is Emily Ley’s the Simplified Planner,” says Julie Solomon, branding and marketing consultant and host of The Influencer Podcast. “I love how clean it is and truly how it helps me simplify my day. All of Emily’s products are amazing, and this doesn’t disappoint.” The daily planner for 2019 is already sold out, but there are some styles of the weekly planner that are still available.
Wakako Takagi, co-founder of Los Angeles–based stationery store Baum-kuchen likes the Jibun Techo from Kokuyo, Japan. “This is my right-hand analogue tool that goes everywhere with me. 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 (like how many miles I run on each day to train for a marathon).” Plus, she adds, this journal’s card-holder insert does double duty as her wallet. “So I just need to grab Jibun Techo and my keys and I am ready to head out!”
“My favorite planner is the Brepols Diary,” says Sandeep Salter, founder of Picture Room in Brooklyn, and this simply designed planner has helped her transition from digital calendar user to written one. “I was actually exclusively a Google Cal user until recently when I flaked on a very important studio visit. Just didn’t show up because it had been accidentally deleted from the Cal! I was mortified. That’s what’s great about a physical diary. My toddler cannot randomly delete important events at any moment. So now I use the Brepols for meetings and studio visits specifically. Dates in front, notes in back.”
“Having spent a small fortune over the years looking for a planner that can really help with keeping you focused, and on task, the Full Focus Planner by Michael Hyatt is the best I have found,” says Richard Janes, personal-brand expert. “The reason it works so well for me is that the layout provides clear focus on what is important, while still enabling me to empty my head of all the other tasks that are lurking around — but it doesn’t go overboard so that I can easily get to the actual planning of my day, week, and month.” Plus, because this planner is organized in 90-day chunks, you can start it at any point in the year.
If you’re feeling like splurging, writer Leah Bhabha likes her Smythson Soho Diary. “Larger than a pocket calendar, which affords little writing space, and smaller than a desk diary, which is like lugging around a textbook, the Soho is the ideal size,” she writes, adding that the actual format is nice, too. “The weekly agenda devotes a sizable square to each day, and there’s a weekly to-do list on the opposite page.” Plus, the paper itself is “half the thickness and weight of normal pages, but suffice to say, they make for easy writing with no ink bleeding through.”
2018/19 Mid-Year Soho Agenda ($260)
There’s also a mid-year version of the Smythson Soho diary, if you’re looking for a planner that’s timed with the school year.
Another back-to-school option is this 18-month weekly planner from Leuchtturm, recommended by self-described “planner power user” Perrin Drumm. “As for the specs, the hardback is perfect for planning on the go or taking notes in your lap” — which would be ideal for the classroom or on-the-go note-taking — “and the layout is my ideal: days on one side, spaces for notes on the other,” she explains. “Crucially, the page layout description is clearly noted online, which I appreciate. Planners don’t love surprises.”
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