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Published Aug. 21, 2021

If your digital devices are pinging you nonstop with calendar reminders and your apps are rife with unread notifications, it’s important to know that you can take control of your daily schedule without adding to your screen time. The best daily planner is a refreshingly analog way to organize your life, break down big projects, and keep your focus on what matters most to your personal and professional aspirations. With the right planner, keeping track of your time and both short-term and long-term goals will become second nature. Here’s how to pick the best daily planner for your lifestyle.

What to consider as you select the best daily planner  

So much of our time each day is already spoken for before we can decide what to do with it. Work meetings, health appointments, and family duties can easily fill schedules and make them feel overwhelming. Calendars and to-do lists can help, but serve different purposes: calendars show you precisely when you’re doing something, and to-do lists tell you what you want or need to accomplish without allocating an exact time to achieve your goals.

If you’re using these two productivity tools separately, it’s easy for other people’s terms to dictate your schedule. After all, it’s much harder to say no to inbound requests if you haven’t already blocked out time for tasks that help you reach your personal goals. The best daily planners provide a solution that combines all the facets of a dynamic life to put you in the driver’s seat as much as possible. 

Daily schedule makers come in a variety of types, from high-performance planners perfect for people who thrive on leveraging popular productivity methods to academic planners students and teachers can use to organize assignments and meet study goals. As you learn more about the top planners on the market, the most important thing to consider is that you are the ultimate expert in what styles and methods you’ll actually want to use. Instead of being just one more obligation, deciding how to spend your time ahead of time should help you feel motivated and confident.

Undated and 18-month daily planners can get you started right away

If you’re a procrastinator, most daily planners can seem intimidating for the simple reason that they are issued on an annual basis. You might still be tackling your New Year’s resolutions to create a half-marathon workout strategy in April, but if you buy a January – December planner a quarter of the year has already elapsed. On the other hand, eager achievers with goals to map in the fourth quarter of the year may have a harder time finding the planner they want when their favorite brand is just about to release a new edition.

There are two main kinds of planners tailor-made for this dilemma. An undated daily planner is the most flexible and provides templates you can fill in with the day of the week, day, and year. An 18-month planner starts in July of a given year, which is especially useful for students and educators using their summer to envision the upcoming school year and beyond. 

Best minimalist planner: Moleskine Classic 18-Month Daily Planner

Aesthetically Pleasing

Plot out your future with this long-term planner. Moleskine

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The Moleskine Classic 18-Month Daily Planner is made from high-quality paper and comes in a range of colors. It begins in July and goes through December of the following year, so you can make some long-term plans. The binding lies flat so you can reference a full day broken down between the left- and right-hand pages. Plus, those who appreciate structure will like the ruled lines for recording tasks, events, and pertinent details. 

Academic planners are designed for education

While 18-month planners that start in July of a given year can be useful for anyone in the education field, academic daily planners offer additional customized features for teachers and students. At a minimum, academic planners begin in July of one year and go through June of the following year, thus covering the entire academic calendar.

If you’re a teacher, maintaining both an academic planner and a personal planner can help you maintain a better work/life balance. A daily hourly planner may offer space to detail activities based on a typical teaching schedule—for example, covering a period starting at 7 a.m. and ending at 7:45 p.m. on weeknights, with limited hours on the weekend. Other features teachers may benefit from is space for lesson plans and recording student birthdays. 

Students who are night owls or take evening classes should make sure the academic planner they like covers the full spectrum of their class schedule and study time. Both students and teachers may enjoy academic planners with stickers for decoration, graph paper for computations, and blank paper for jotting down notes. 

Best daily planner for teachers or students: AT-A-GLANCE Daily Appointment Book and Planner 

Practical and Durable

This simple tool helps educators and scholars stay organized. AT-A-GLANCE

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The AT-A-GLANCE Daily Appointment Book and Planner is a no-frills academic planner with hours broken down into 15-minute increments. This spiral-bound daily planner comes with a faux leather cover.

Don’t forget to consider size and materials 

When you think about the role a planner will play in your life, it’s helpful to take into account where you’ll be using it. Will you be referring to your schedule and goals predominantly at an office, or is it essential you have your planner at your fingertips throughout the day? Full-size planners can be about the size of a sheet of letter-sized paper, giving you plenty of room to fill them in by hand without having to print microscopic letters. However, for people who use their planner predominantly to stay on top of appointments, a pocket-sized or mini daily planner may be more efficient to pack when you’re on the go. 

If you love highlighting special events or adding accents to your planner with colored markers, look for high-quality paper that prevents ink from seeping through to the other side of the page. Consider an elastic closure to prevent your planner from opening inside a backpack or handbag, to keep loose papers like sticky notes or receipts from slipping out. Some brands of planners have optional covers that offer your content extra protection from spills, tears, and creases. 

Bindings for daily planners range from simple staples to glue, wire spirals, and ringed metal clasps. While binder-style clasps add weight and bulk to a planner, they allow you to rearrange pages to suit your needs and are often compatible with customized inserts, like templates designed for project management or specific productivity methods.

Best daily planner notebook: LUX Productivity PRO A5 Planner

Customizable and Comprehensive

Start any day of the year and easily reorganize or add new pages. LUX PRODUCTIVITY

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The LUX Productivity PRO A5 Planner features an attractive faux leather binder that comes with a six-month set of templated pages. Undated daily planning pages, weekly reflection pages, and more are included. Plus, you can purchase additional inserts designed for specific tasks like storyboarding or using the Pomodoro Technique.

Daily planners for productivity balance inspiration and accountability

If you’re an avid reader of the latest scientific research on productivity methods, practicing gratitude, and the neuroplasticity of the human brain, you’ll love productivity planners. Any planner can optimize your ability to get things done, but productivity planners include extra prompts and systems for you to follow. Designated space to identify a key focus for each day and to write down what you’re grateful for are just some of the features you can find with this type of planner. 

To get the most out of these tools, it can be helpful to think of them as a life planner that complements the larger habits and practices you are cultivating to meet your goals. If you journal to start your day—something we recommend as part of a DIY morning routine—a productivity planner can double as a mini-journal with room for affirmations and quotes. 

Before you purchase this type of daily agenda setter, review which special features it contains and assess whether or not it will feel uplifting to use them, or like extra homework that distracts you from your most important goals. Creative and abstract thinkers may find they get more out of a bullet journal system that’s infinitely customizable. 

Best daily planner for productivity: Panda Daily Planner

Celebrate Your Work

A holistic tool for achievement and reflection. Panda Planner

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The Panda Daily Planner incorporates gratitude, affirmations, and introspection into the mindset of maximizing productivity. Unique page layouts feature prompts to review progress and build habits over a three-month period. 

Smart planners work with your favorite digital devices

Non-digital paper planners offer the tactile sensation of setting pen to paper away from the tyranny of screens. However, if your daily planner is an outlier in a home full of the latest tech, you might find yourself using some awkward workarounds to fit an analog device into your digital lifestyle. 

Smart daily planners are a fun compromise worth considering. You can still have the pleasure of writing on the pages of these unique smart notebooks, but your efforts can be uploaded to the cloud and integrated with other apps you use on a regular basis like Google Drive or Evernote. You can also erase and reuse the pages to save paper and space in your desk drawers. 

Best smart daily planner: Rocketbook Panda Planner 

Clever Design

Write with a pen while staying connected to the cloud. Rocketbook

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The Rocketbook Panda Planner is a smart notebook collaboration between Rocketbook and Panda planners. This colorful set includes an erasable pen and a spiral-bound notebook. Scan and digitize your daily agenda and goals with the Rocketbook app for use with Dropbox, Slack, Evernote, and more.

FAQs

Q: How do I choose a planner?

To choose a planner that’s right for you, you’ll want a good understanding of your existing work habits and time management skills. Other factors to consider are whether you want a planner for work, school, or to maximize productivity in every area in your life. Size, materials, and customization are also important to think about.

Q: What size planner is best?

When determining what size planner works best for your lifestyle, consider both the dimensions of the planner and how each page is divided. A large planner full of blocks for reflection or affirmations might feel cramped if your top priority is ample room to detail what’s happening in each hour of the day. A pocket-sized planner could be just right for remembering all of your appointments. 

Q: Do planners really help?

Yes, planners really can help with organization and productivity. The best daily planners are invaluable tools for achieving long-term and short-term goals in manageable steps that fit your schedule. However, a planner is not a “set it and forget it” type of tool. It’s up to you to continuously evaluate your goals, allocate your time, and then stick to the tasks and schedule you’ve put in writing.

A final affirmation about the best daily planners

Productivity tools appeal to our loftiest aspirational goals about the lives we dream of living vs. the life we are currently living. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter whether you use a Moleskine daily planner, Panda planner, or an app to stick to your agenda. The best daily planner for you is always going to be the one that inspires you to cultivate routines and habits that make your dreams a reality. 

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