Six Paper Planners to Get Your Year Started Off Right

Have you started thinking about your New Year’s resolutions yet? Maybe you just want to get your year kicked into high gear and hit the ground running in January. Either way, one great way to ensure that you start off 2018 on the right foot is to incorporate a planner into your life. You may already be a list and organization freak (like me), or perhaps it’s something you’re looking to get better at. Each of these planners can help you make a plan and keep it together as the year progresses, so think about what you need from a planner and take a look at some of my favorites below.

 Ban.do Planner

Ban.do Planner

Ban.do: 17 Month Medium Agenda ($28)

My favorite thing about the Ban.do agenda is probably the weekly format. It leaves a lot of room to separate out your day into categories for freehanded to-do lists and the like. I actually used this planner for 2016 through early 2017 and would take each day and divide it between work, school (at the time I was finishing my Masters degree), and home to-dos. I would make notes at the bottom of any events to remember for that day as well. It’s flashy and fun and has some wise statements baked right onto the pages to remind you how awesome you are when you’re having a down day. It also has sticker, and spacious pockets to hold those things shouldn’t be forgotten and might otherwise get lost. The downside of this planner is that it really doesn’t have a lot of room for tracking appointment times. If your day is usually packed with meetings or places you need to be at a certain time, then this might not be the right fit for you.

 Erin Condren Life Planner

Erin Condren Life Planner

Erin Condren: Life Planner ($55)

Erin Condren offers more planning solutions than I have room to mention here, which can either be a great thing if you like options, or completely overwhelming if you’re struggling to make a decision. While there are many different planners that can suit a range of needs and price points, I’m highlighting their Life Planner because it allows you to uniquely customize your planner for the way you plan. Those options include a truly massive array of cover designs including customizing them with your name and even your personal photos. Once inside the planner, you have the option to arrange the daily space vertically, horizontally, or by the hour depending on how you choose to track your day. It also has a lot of extra space for notes and colorful monthly motivation to keep you tabbing through your year, as well as a pocket for organization. All in all it’s a great planner if you want control over the cover design (there’s literally something for everyone), and if you have a specific preference for how you like your weekly planner arranged.

 Blue Sky Planner

Blue Sky Planner

Blue Sky: Weekly/Monthly Planner ($17)

Here is your no frills planner that still gives you just enough space to capture the important parts of your day. This version is 8” x 5” which means unlike a lot of the larger planner it can actually fit in your purse. I’ve used the larger version of this planner in the past and love that it gives you an open space to track what you need to. It’s very utilitarian in that regard, so if you’re looking for a bright design and motivational sayings up the wahzoo, this probably isn’t the right planner for you. If you want something cheap and professional, or if you’re just starting out with a planner for the first time, this might just do the trick.

 Spiral Bound Planner Pad

Spiral Bound Planner Pad

Planner Pad: Spiral Bound Planner ($30)

The planner pad offers a really unique way to schedule your week, which I can’t help but get excited about. While it may not look like much from the outside, it is specifically organized to help you get the most out of your week through their funneling method. Each week is divided into three sections. The first section is where you list all of your to-do’s by category for the entire week. Next is the prioritization section where you take those to-do’s and assign them in order of importance to a specific day of the week. Lastly, there’s an appointment section at the bottom that allows you to keep track of where you need to be each day of the week. There’s also additional space for expense tracking and notes on the margin of each page. The only downside of this planner is that there are very few design and color options, but hey… nothing some washi tape couldn’t fix, right? If this is how your brain works when it comes to planning, or if you need help turning your to-do’s into action items, this may be the perfect tracker for you.

 Day Designer Daily Planner

Day Designer Daily Planner

Day Designer: Daily Planner ($59) 

Now back we go to the land of bright and colorful things! I learned about the Day Designer earlier this year, and full disclosure, it’s my current planner. After years of using a weekly planner, switching to a daily one was a bit of an adjustment, but so far I’ve been a big fan. Each page equals a day and half of the page has room for appointments while the other half is a large to-do list. Then in the margins, there is room for all sorts of good stuff, including my favorite, a list of the top three to-do’s for that day. This is really helpful if you tend to tackle the less important tasks first because they are the low hanging fruit. When you list out your top three it really forces you to tackle those first. It also has a notes section, a place for jotting down what you’re grateful for, a little section for dollars (presumably your remaining cash flow for the month), and a few other goodies. Each day has an inspirational saying, and can we just talk about the cover art for a minute? There are so many gorgeous and contemporary designs that you will want to buy them all. Overall, this is an amazing planner for someone that needs a lot of space on a daily level (a.k.a. control freaks).

 The Bullet Journal

The Bullet Journal

The Bullet Journal ($0 - $25)

I would be remiss not to mention the bullet journal on this list. It’s an analog system to help you keep everything organized by moving from a monthly task list down to a daily list using a universal bulleting language. It uses a simple approach to organization and indexes all of the information so that you can easily find tasks that need to be done without needing a traditional tabbing system. It allows for a lot of flexibility and is very intuitive to learn and modify if something doesn’t work for you. The website includes a four minute tutorial that does a great job explaining how to use the system and it will make you want to get started ASAP. The best part about the bullet journal, is that you can use any notebook lying around in your house. No need to spend money you don’t have, though there is a $25 official bullet journal available for purchase that helps you set up the system. There is also a highly rated $3 app that is a great companion to keep you organized. If you’re looking to get started with a planner for next to nothing cost-wise, consider bullet journaling. It’s a great way to turn your braindumps into working task lists.


Written By: Lindsay Dell Cook

Lindsay Dell Cook is a CPA, finance writer, and founder of Budget Babble. She lives in Philadelphia with her uber supportive husband and adorable daughter. When she's not working, she enjoys spending time with her family, taking their lovable mutt for walks, or reading a good book while buried under a pile of cats.