We’ve all been there. It’s the start of a new year, or a new semester, or the beginning of a new job; regardless of how you look at it, you’ve found yourself at the same impass you’ve come to many times before. It’s time to choose how you’re going to organize your life for the next six months (because let’s be real, I’ve never been able to keep up with a planner for longer than that, and if you have then I am in awe of you). Yet in this day and age of hyper-organization, the possibilities for planners of all shapes and sizes are endless. Where do we even start?

As someone who tends to change around her planning system every six months, I’ve had my fair share of experiences with different planner types. Weekly spreads, daily spreads, bullet journaling, filofax, A5 size, printer paper size – you name it, I’ve tried it. So if you’ve found yourself lost in the sea of planner possibilities, or if you’re curious as to your options as you prepare for your next big step, then read below!

This post contains affiliate links with Amazon.com, meaning that if you click a link and choose to purchase something, a small percentage of your purchase will go towards creating more content for this blog! I will never promote or link to content that I myself do not believe in. 

Picking the Perfect Page Style

In my opinion, the most important aspect of a planner is what you’re actually going to do the planning on: the pages inside. While having a beautiful cover or delicate filigree on the corners is aesthetically pleasing to say the least, this means nothing if you don’t end up actually using your planner – take it from someone who has made that mistake. I’ve outlined the four most popular page layouts below!

1. Blank

While a blank page may sound strange (and in fact, more like just a regular notebook), this is the ideal type of layout for those who like to keep a bullet journal rather than a regular planner. This type of page is ideal for those who don’t need to plan very far ahead and enjoy getting creative with their planners!

2. Horizontal Weekly

This spread is good for students who need to keep track of their assignments for their classes! The wider boxes make it easy to write both the assignments you need to complete that night as well as assignments that are due that day.

3. Vertical Weekly

The boxes for the days of the week are much longer and thinner on this spread, making it ideal for those who like to keep their to-dos in list-order. Some layouts may even be organized by morning, afternoon, and night, giving you even more organization to your tasks. This layout is ideal for those with busy days and time sensitive tasks, such as on-the-go parents and students.

4. One Day per Page

This layout gives you by far the most space per day, often with separate sections for an hourly schedule and a to-do list. The amount of space and dual function makes this type of layout ideal for those with constantly changing schedules and packed days that need to remain organized.

Picking Your Perfect Planner

1. A Bullet Journal

The blank pages of a bullet journal allow you to get creative with washi tape, colored pens, and stickers to create your ideal layout, and you can use the pages to keep different lists as well a weekly spread. Keep track of things like TV shows you want to watch, books you’d like to read, and places you’d like to travel in addition to your weekly layout as the blank pages give you freedom to do whatever you’d like. This type of planner is ideal for those who prefer to take it a day at a time, as creating the pages yourself means that you can’t plan further ahead than maybe one week. This is also great for those who function best with task-based lists!

I used this type of a planner one summer when I was working a few days a week and needed to keep track of homework assignments for my summer classes along with simple things like chores. I’m also currently using this set up for my job, as my schedule day-to-day doesn’t change and I just need to keep track of my tasks by week. My favorite notebooks for bullet journals are definitely a tie between Moleskine Cahier journals and Leuchtturm Softcover Medium Dotted journals!

  • Flexibility: 9/10
  • Organization: 3/10
  • Creativity: 9/10
  • Customization: 10/10
  • Price: $

2. An Erin Condren Lifeplanner

While I’ve never personally owned an Erin Condren, I couldn’t not include this planner in my list. The options for customization that you have are endless, but you don’t have to be a creative genius to put it together, either! The cover page, stickers, page layout, and insert can all be customized to you, making your planner one of a kind and unique. This planner offers the option vertical weekly, horizontal weekly, and now hourly pages, depending on your preference, meaning you don’t lose out on all the cool options just because of your page style choice!

From what I’ve seen, Erin Condren planners are an extremely popular choice for college students and young professionals alike who need to keep track of a schedule in any way that they need to. They even have a Teacher Lesson Planner now for those in the education sector! The bonus is that the customization means that you’ll never mistake someone else’s planner for yours.

  • Flexibility: 3/10
  • Organization: 7/10
  • Creativity: 8/10
  • Customization: 8/10
  • Price: $$$

3. A Lilly Pulitzer/Kate Spade Planner

If you’ve paid attention in any class on your college campus, or even just logged into Pinterest, you’re sure to have seen the faithful Lilly Pulitzer spiral planner or the Kate Spade agenda at least a few times. These planners are popular staples amongst preppy college students and young professionals alike for their simplicity in organization and eye-catching cover and page designs. Those who prefer bolder colors and more intricate designs tend to choose Lilly Pulitzer as their go to, whereas the simpler Kate Spade planner tends to attract those with more classic tastes. Both of these planners come with a horizontal weekly spread page layout and pockets inside for storing things like post it notes and stickers, which makes them perfect for keeping all of your planning materials in one place. The added bonus of the Lilly Pulitzer planner is that it comes with special Lilly stickers that match your planner pages!

I used a Kate Spade planner for a semester while I was in college to keep track of my assignments and extracurricular activities, and I found that so long as I color-coded my tasks, it worked well for keeping track of what I needed to do or have completed each day without having to design anything myself! If you’re looking for something simple that will get the job done without all the extra frills that (in all honesty) tend to distract you from getting actual work done.

  • Flexibility: 3/10
  • Organization: 6/10
  • Creativity: 5/10
  • Customization: 2/10
  • Price: $$

4. A Day Designer

Day Designer planners have become much more popular in recent years amongst college students and young professionals alike, especially since they launched a more affordable version of their planner in Target stores a few years ago (which, unfortunately, is no longer in-stock on their website, but you can still find the occasional steal in store). This planner features an entire day on a single page, leaving plenty of room for you to input your schedule for the day (depending the size you choose, you can have anywhere between 8 and 14 hours on one page) on one side and your to do list for the day on the other. There’s also spots for you to log your water intake, meals, and top three to dos for the day!

The best part about the Day Designer, in my opinion, is that you can try out their planner for free before actually purchasing one, since they’re definitely an investment! The creator of Day Designer has a specific section of her website that has free printables of her daily planning pages as well as other favorites, such as an undated monthly page, summer bucket list, books to read, and other great pages. While I’ve never owned the physical copy of the Day Designer, I’ve definitely used the A5 daily planning page for times when my life has gotten too hectic to handle.

  • Flexibility: 3/10
  • Organization: 10/10
  • Creativity: 3/10
  • Customization: 2/10
  • Price: $$$

5. A Filofax

Filofax planners have been a staple of professionals young and old for quite some time now, but if you don’t actively seek out organizational content on Pinterest or tumblr, you may have missed the recent surge in content surrounding them! Filofaxes are popular because of the wide range of things that you can use them for: cookbook, life planner, family planner, work schedule, blog planner, etc… you can basically do whatever you want with them depending on what type of fill page you order for them!

Here’s how they work: you order what is essentially a binder cover in whatever size/color/textile you want (for instance, mine is gold faux-saffiano leather similar to this one from Dokibook), and then you pick whatever you want to fill it with! Remember how I said I had used the Day Designer pages but never the planner itself? I printed out the A5 size of the daily planning pages, hole-punched them, and put them in my Filofax, along with weekly and monthly planning pages! I even made my own dividers and added pictures of my friends to them, as well as purchased a page pocket to keep my sticky notes and stickers in to decorate my pages.

If you’re using a Filofax in the U.S., unfortunately it might be difficult to find already-printed pages to fill it with in the correct size. If you’re planning on printing your own pages it also takes more effort since it’s nearly impossible to find A5 and A6 (the most popular sizes for Filofax-type planners) sized-paper, so you have to print the pages out on printer paper and cut them out yourself. But if you’re someone who wants to customize as much as possible and really create the perfect planner for you, this is an amazing choice!

While Filofax brand is the original, there are plenty of other brands that sell similar products, depending on what you’re looking for. Kikki.K, Dokibook, and even Kate Spade occasionally are all good options that you can look at to really find exactly what you want! Discbound planners even similar, but with a slightly different set up, and different companies sell their own variation of that as well. And when it comes to inserts, my recommendation is to look for printables on Etsy so you can ensure that you love everything that is in your planner.

  • Flexibility: 9/10
  • Organization: 10/10
  • Creativity: 8/10
  • Customization: 10/10
  • Price: $-$$$

Overall, the most important thing about having a planner is that it works for you. All of these are great options that you can tailor to your life, but make sure that you’re choosing something that works for your life as it is now, not the planner you wish you could use! As much as I adore the Day Designer planners, my schedule doesn’t really change much day by day, so I wouldn’t be using that planner to its full potential. Make sure you’re making your planner work for you and that you’re not working to fill your planner!

Do you have a planning system that you adore that isn’t on this list? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to check it out!

12 thoughts on “Planned, Planning, Planners: Choosing the Planner Set Up Best Suited for Your Life

  1. I absolutely love this post!! Organization is under valued, but it is such an important aspect of everyone’s life. Thanks for the detailed features of each planner. I’ll be waiting for the next post.

    1. Thank you so much, Lora!! I feel the same, too often we get organized because we know we’re supposed to, but then we don’t focus on what actually works for us.

      I’m so glad you liked the post, and let me know if there’s anything else you’d like to see on my blog!

  2. As a person who has tried to use a planner, but never had any luck keeping it going, I love the descriptions given of the different types and how to use them. I love organization, but I fall short with the planner. You have made me rethink using one and want to give it a try again.

    1. I’m glad that I inspired you, Lisa! Let me know if you end up picking it back up again and what type you choose, I’d love to hear about it!

  3. Wow, great review of some wonder options to keep organized. I’ve been using the blank page with post it notes and colored pens for a long time. I keep toying with going 100% electronic, with my iPad or iPhone… I’d love to hear your thoughts on that!

    1. Overall I think you should use whatever works best for you, and if you can commit to going electronic, I’d say go for it! I primarily use my iPhone for events, but I still prefer the handwritten method for day to day tasks and to do lists.

  4. Hello Logan

    Being a young professional myself, I have found that a lot of planners are designed to accommodate college students by using a 12-month school year system rather than a 12-month calendar year one. Structuring my year in this manner is not particularly useful to me, since I have no attachment to the month of August as a starting point any longer and would prefer to keep a planner from January to December in case I need to go back and reference something from earlier that year at any point.

    Do you have any recommendations for people like myself who are creatively lazy, but value the organizational aspects of having a planner? Can I somehow get around having to use a blank journal or have you found that the vast majority of planners, it any, simply do not start in January?

    1. Hey, Fred! My biggest piece of advice to you would definitely be to check out online retailers or the specific website of the planner you’d be interested in. Unfortunately most brick and mortar stores are focuses almost solely on the student market, since they’re the ones that supposedly “need” the planners the most, but most brands will sell both academic year and calendar year planners on their websites. By looking online you’ll definitely be able to find the calendar year set up you need, and you’ll have plenty more options by way of planners to choose from, too!

    1. Thanks so much Sheila! So the picture of the bullet journal I used is from a spread I had about three years ago, when I first started getting into bullet journaling. My spreads are definitely much more utilitarian now!

    1. Thanks Amanda, I really appreciate it!! I think that the Erin Condren are so cool but you’re right, they’re super expensive and they’re a bit bulky for me.

      I didn’t realize that Target had Day Designer’s again!! I’m totally going to check that out because I definitely need something a bit more structured for my blog!

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