The new year is almost here, and that means it’s time for an updated planner. I live and die by my Google Calendar; in fact, right out of college I moved straight to a Palm Pilot device (it was like an electronic planner that synched with Outlook), and I was smug when a colleague lost her planner and she lost all track of her meetings and appointments.
But the reality is, there’s something about writing down goals, appointments, and tasks that helps me filter and prioritize. The essentials will always live on Google, but my planner is the go-to source.
With two kids in elementary school, I’m at the stage when a Life Planner makes a lot of sense. These work great for parents who stay home with their kids, working parents and anyone with a busy home and work life who wants one place to track everything going on. To help in your search, I’ve compiled the five essentials to look for in a hard-copy life planner and made a few recommendations of top choices in the market. Have another favorite? Share it with us in the comments.
The Five Essentials to Look for in a Hard-Copy Planner:
- Goals and action plans
Remember, this is a planner, not an agenda so while it must have space for your appointments, it also should have space for your—wait for it—plans. Look for space for the goals and related actions planned for each month. Consider color-coding different goals, including relational (one-on-one time with each child), physical (walk 45 minutes daily), financial (balance account records), and spiritual (pray or meditate for 15 minutes daily). You get the idea.
- Assessment and learnings
A space for evaluation and insights should be included in your planner. It’s important to take time at the end of every month and evaluate the success towards your goals. If you didn’t meet your goals, ask yourself what got in the way. Was it lack of setting aside time to exercise, or do you need to delegate more at work? Use your learnings to serve as a guide for planning the next month’s goals and targets. Don’t forget to add anything useful you learned, even if it’s “Don’t feed the kids anything with blue icing” or “Set aside more time for self-care.”
- Enough space for your daily tasks
Every planner has space for daily tasks, but don’t take that section for granted. Consider how much space you need for daily appointments for yourself and your family (You might determine you need a separate calendar or planner for the rest of the family.), and choose a planner that also leaves space for you to write daily tasks, which should be derived from your monthly goals.
- Expense section
Whether it’s tracking a daily budget or keeping track of work or health-related receipts, I love a planner that has space to track expenses and store receipts (although I prefer taking photos of work receipts). Consider your needs for tracking expenses and analyzing monthly spending related to your goals, and buy accordingly. Some planners offer an extended version of this as an “add-on.” No matter how you record them, check in on your expenses monthly and see what adjustments need to be made, such as less take-out food and more meal planning to stay on budget.
- Appealing aesthetics
Remember you will look at your planner every day. You don’t want to hate how it looks. So whether you’re a “Happy Stripe” or floral print type, or perhaps you like black leather with no decoration, be sure to choose something you’ll enjoy looking at for the next 365 days or so. Check the inside pages as well. If color is distracting, find a black and white. If you love color, buy coordinating markers or find a planner with colored pages inside. If you enjoy the process, you’ll spend more time in the planner.
Our Favorite Life Planners for 2018
4. The Passion Planner
If you’re the type of person who gets excited when asked about where you see yourself in five years, ten years, twenty—then the Passion Planner might be just what you’ll love. Passion Planner is a tool to break down short- and long-term goals and helps you incorporate them into your daily life. The creators bill it as a 24/7 life coach that fits in your purse or backpack. The design of the planner was created to help you focus on what’s important and prompt reflection. While it’s focused on future goals, it also encourages focusing on the present moment. The Passion Planner also includes a passion roadmap, monthly layout, weekly layout, space set aside for monthly reflection, 20 blank pages, and 20 gridded pages to draw or write your thoughts. It also has a durable faux leather cover with high-quality 120gsm thick paper. The best of all? They donate a planner to a school or organization for every planner you buy!
5. Organized planner by Intentional Moms
Kayse the blogger at IntentionalMoms.com designed this planner to include everything she considers essential for living intentionally. It has monthly spread to write your schedules, events, appointments and a note section. You have space to write your menus, health goals, and other plans. It has weekly focus and a weekly tracker for your goals and habits. You also have a daily space to write your schedule, top 3 priorities, tasks, daily chores, meals, water intake, wellness and plenty of space for your notes (including expense list). It also has a space to evaluate your week - success, failures, your insights and what you want to remember. You can buy it dated or undated in 8.5 by 11 or 7 by 9 in. sizes. You can also buy a download and print yourself.