How to Choose the Best Planner for You

Daily planning is a key step to A Life Of Balance. But what kind of planner will help you with that step?

If you’ve ever looked for a planner to help you organize your life, you know that there are literally hundreds of them out there. How do you begin to narrow it down and choose the best one for you without using up lots of time that you don’t have? Each type is designed to fit a specific work or thought flow.

graphic of planner options and article title - How to Choose the Best Planner for You www.alifeofbalance.com

How many things or people you are keeping track of, the number of appointments you have in an average day/week/month, and how you manage your task list are all things that need to be considered when choosing the best option for you. You also need to revisit this process any time there are major changes in your life because the same planner won’t fit every stage or season of our life.

The first step is to decide what you need from your planner. Ask yourself these questions to help narrow down what features are important to you.

How much information do you want to keep in your planner?

Calendar

Do you only manage your calendar or do you need to keep track of appointments for of multiple people – bosses, subordinates, family members? The more people you keep track of the more space you’ll need in the calendar section.

Task list

Do you manage your tasks daily, weekly, monthly, or a combination? When combined with the calendar questions, this might eliminate some of the options. How many items are on a typical task list for you? The longer the list the more space you need for it. Do you use time blocking to work your list? If yes, many of your task list items will be on the calendar portion of your planner making that portion more important. How often do you prioritize your list and in what way?

Goals

Do you use your planner to help you set and track your goals? If yes, you want to make sure that the style you choose has a section for your goals. Do you break your goals down and then add them to the appropriate task list?

Health

Do you track exercise routines, water consumption, blood sugar levels? Is there room on your daily or weekly pages for this or do you prefer to have a separate section for this information?

Meals

Do you want to be able to plan your meals in your planner? Do you track what you eat? Again, make sure there is a place for doing this if it’s important to you.

Finances

Do you track your budget and spending? Do you keep investment information in your planner? Do you track your debt spending? Some planners have sections for tracking all of this information. Some also have an area on the daily pages for you to keep track of your spending.

Business

If you own your own business, space for business records and planning will be very important.

Journal

Do you use your planner as a journal, or is that a separate item for you? If you want to have room to journal, you probably need a 2-page-per-day version, or at the very least a 1-page-per-day type.

Team or delegated work

Do you work with a team and need to know what everyone is doing at any given point? Are you a manager who needs to track the work that you’ve delegated to others?

Contact lists

Do you keep these in your phone, in your planner, or both? These used to be standard in all planners, but as smartphones have become more prevalent, many companies or either doing away with this section or offering them only as an add-on.

Where will you use your planner?

Some people do most of their work at a desk or single location and want something that can lay open and stay there. Others do most of their work on the go and need something that will travel easily. A third group of people needs a planner that works well both ways. The type of binding that you choose needs to match the way you want to use your planner.

Once you’ve thought about the answers to these questions, you should be able to decide what type or style of planner is best for you at this stage in your life.

There are four major calendar view styles: Month at a Glance, Week at a Glance, One-Page per Day, and Two-Page per Day.  Planners also come in three major binding types: spiral bound, perfect bound or ring bound. Check out the links above for reviews of the main advantages and disadvantages of each.

examples of planner options

Making a perfect choice isn’t easy but it is worth the effort to make you more productive in your everyday life. The purpose of a planner is to help you accomplish more, not give you more to do. You shouldn’t ever feel stuck with whatever choice you make. Throughout my life, I have used two-page-per-day, week-at-a-glance, and one-page-per-day depending on what was going on in my life at the time. I’ve also used both spiral and ring bound planners. Don’t be afraid to adjust if your current pick isn’t working right for you. Whatever option you decide fits your needs best, remember, there is really no perfect planner out there — none of them will work if you don’t work the system.

Check out this post if you need help using your planner: Setting Up Your Planner and A Peek Into My Planning Process.

Each year I review several planners and choose my recommendations for each type. This year’s list can be found here Planner Recommendations.

Here are reviews that I have done for specific planners:

Franklin Covey Two-Page-Per-Day

Simplified Planner by Emily Ley

Fancy Pants by STARTplanner

Here are some planner options for you to check out:

What type of planner do you use and how is it working for you? Let me know in the comments below.

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8 Comments

  1. I have the Living Well planner from Ruth Soukup. I love it. It’s the first time in years I’ve actually thought of setting goals.

    1. I use the Living Well planner for my household planner. It works very well for that. Unfortunately, I can’t use it for my daily planner, there’s just not enough room for the daily to-do list. I’m planning on reviewing Ruth’s planner in the next couple of months as a household planner. Keep watching.

      1. Great post! Wow–you must be an extremely busy person–I rarely fill the To Do list side up. If I need a line or two more, I just use the appointment side too, as who has more than an appt. or two each day unless you’re using it for an at work planner? I really like that planner except for the Monday through Sunday weekly pages but I think she’s offering both versions this coming year.

        1. Thanks Barb.
          No, I’m not nearly as busy as I used to be. I was referring to the fact that there are only 3 to do items available on each day. I think you were probably referring to “The List” in the column to the right. I think it comes down to what type of things you put on your to-do list. I learned to plan in a Franklin Covey seminar where we were taught list everything that needs to be done, no matter how small. By listing everything, you make sure that it all gets done. I have used the appointment area too but I just never got comfortable with not having a daily task list. Usually, when I do my weekly planning, I decide what day I’m going to schedule everything that needs to be done. That way I allocate things more evenly and don’t stress myself out with too long a list. I used to put everything on the current day’s list and then just move forward the things that didn’t get done but I was re-writing things a lot. The way I do it now, only things that I really want to happen on that day go on that day’s list so I’m not constantly forwarding tasks. If it doesn’t need to happen that week, it stays on the master task list until I have extra time or get to the week that it needs to happen. This way I have a realistic list for today and the ability to pull things off the master task list if I have extra time to accomplish them.