How to Choose the Perfect Planner

planner 2011

image credit: shutterstock

There are literally thousands of different kinds of planners out there to choose from.  The variety can be overwhelming for sure.  I can’t tell you which one to buy, as every person and family has their own set of unique circumstances, however asking yourself a few questions first before grabbing the first one you see might help you narrow down the selection and avoid disappointment.  I also know there are many different kinds of electronic calendars and planners out there as well but since I don’t personally use any of those, today’s post is all about the paper kind :)

7 Things to Consider When Choosing a Planner:

1.  Purpose

You want to choose a planner that fits your lifestyle and needs and thankfully with all the selection out there the chances of you finding one that does is pretty high.  Do you require a planner for home or office use or both?  Will multiple members of the family need to access it?  If so it will need to reside somewhere central where it’s visible and can remain open.  In that case a family calendar may be more appropriate.  Do you want to track and log additional things in your planner such as exercise, lists, etc.  There are planners that provide space for these things.  Do you require extensive planning space (hour by hour) or just a few details about your day?

Make a list of all your planning needs and take that list with you to the store.

2.  Size/Weight

Size is important for a number of reasons.  Where will you use it?  Does it need to fit in your purse so you can take it places?  If so you might want to consider a lighter one to avoid back strain.  Will it need to sit out on your counter or desk?  If so what kind of space do you have there?  Make sure you have enough room to leave it open so you will be more likely to check it.

3.  Inside Space

Big squares, small squares, lined squares or blank?  It all comes down to how much information you need to record and how you want to record it.   Then there’s weekly planners vs. monthly planners.  Weekly planners often provide more daily space so it’s important to really think about how much information you need to keep track of.  Some planners include both which is a great compromise.

4.  Design/Color

Are you the type that’s inspired by pretty?  If so don’t buy an ugly planner, I’m just saying.  You’ll be using this thing all year round so why not buy one that makes you happy every time you see it.

5.  Feel

I’m including this one because I do know a few ladies who are particular about how their planners feel in their hands.  Consider the texture if this is something that matters to you.

6.  Price

What is your price limit?  Planners exist for all price points.  The dollar store even carries them however you may have to sacrifice on some of your considerations at this price point.  It may help to prioritize your list of needs BEFORE going planner shopping in order to remain within your budget :)

7.  Binding

I highly recommend a coil binding that lays flat when open.  This may seem obvious but believe me I’ve seen many a planner that doesn’t.  Watch for this.

What I’ve found extremely helpful is purchasing a few in January when prices are much lower and taking them for a wee test drive.  I think you’ll know fairly quickly which one is for you and which one isn’t.  Or how about having a planner party with your friends where everyone compares the planners they use and what they do and don’t like about them.

As you become more aware of your individual needs you’ll easily be able to recognize if a planner is going to work for you or not.

I currently don’t use a planner myself as I use a central fridge calendar instead for managing my family activities.  Last year I started using the Mom’s Ultimate Family Fridge Calendar and it is awesome!

I do however use a planner for my business activities.  Here are a few that I have used over the years and liked:

The Womans Day Planner

The Womans Day Planner is designed by a Canadian woman living in the same province as I do.  What makes this planner special is the unique split page layout that allows you to flip through the weekly pages while still having the month view remain constant at the bottom of the page.  It’s brilliant and I’ve never seen another one quite like it.  It really makes me happy.  This picture will give you a better idea of what I’m talking about:

The 2011 Womans Planner has many new features consisting of;
-pockets between each month for bills etc.
-five year forecast (to plan out your families next 5 year goals)
-planning pages galore . . . appliance tracking, yearly budget planning, wish lists and even holiday planning
-size: 8.5×10

Also be sure to check out the lovely Girls Planner she has available as well.

Corrie is offering a special right now…..take 10% off your order using code OJ2011, good through to Feb 28, 2011.

Blue Sky Planners

I had the opportunity to try these Blue Sky Planners out as well even though they are only available in the US online and at Office Depot.  These delightful and simple planners come in a variety of fun colors:  Raspberry Bloom, Periwinkle Cornflower and Green Vines.  They also come in a variety of sizes and are lightweight, both nice features.  My hands down favorite feature of these planners though are the tabs that help you quickly find the month you need.  Love, love, love that!

Right now you can save 20-30% off selected planners.  Promotion ends January 30, 2011.

BusyBodyBook Planner

The BusyBodyBook planner has a very different layout inside that consists of a weekly grid format with five vertical columns accommodating up to five family members or other activities such as meal planning or household chores..  Check it out:

This is the one I’m currently using for my blogging activities.  I designate the columns as follows:  Advertising, Posts, To Do, Reviews, Ideas.  It works really well!

Select planners now on for 15% off.

Polestar Family Planner

I’ve used the Polestar weekly planner for a number of years in the past.  This daily planning guide, also designed in Canada, has columns for family appointments, meals/kitchen and home and to-do.  The spaces are very generous for each and the price is excellent right now at the reduced price of $10.00.

Dotmine Day Planners

Very similar to the Polestar planner, the familytime.mine planner also features large weekly squares but also includes master schedule guides in the back.  Also has a place for notes and tear-out lists.  I especially love all the fun cover designs on this one and the wipeable durable plastic cover.  In addition to the family planner they also have a planner that combines work & family life and one for active individuals.  Available online and at Borders. Size: 8.5×11

Do you have a favorite planner?

Filed under: Calendars/Planners


49 Responses to How to Choose the Perfect Planner

  1. 1
    Amanda says

    I know what I want. Spiral bound, with tabs for months and weekly pages between. And NO ABREVIATED SPACE ON WEEKENDS. My weekends are full, I don’t need half-spaces for Saturday/Sunday to share like most planners try to give you.

    Can you tell which feature is the most difficult to satisfy?

  2. 2
    Joyce says

    I don’t like a spiral planner — too limiting. I use a looseleaf version so I can customize and keep lists, etc. as well as the calendar pages. I use DayRunner but I’ve mixed pages from other brands as well as they come in standard sizes. I keep a year’s worth of month at glance pages plus the current month and next month in page a day format (they also come as two pages for a week) for to do lists and more detailed notes plus address pages and lists — shopping, birthdays, books I want to read, plants I want for next season’s garden, etc. And yes, it does fit in my purse.

    • 2.1
      Laura says

      Yes Household Notebooks are very popular with many for sure.

  3. 3
    Angie says

    Great post Laura! I love all the planners you mentioned! Angie xo

  4. 4
    Amber Cussen says

    good article, very informative. I finally went paperless last year and love it. Everything is in my IPhone. No more paper! It’s liberating and a true testimony to my clients when they ask how to do it.

    • 4.1
      Laura says

      Amber would love to have you guest post for me on that topic!

  5. 5
    Angie says

    I love the planner from – Saturday and Sunday are each in their own space. There is space for up to 4 people and their activities (they call it kids but I have 3 kids so hubby has his own space) and an area for dinner plans. I love it :) It is spiral bound and they have loose leaf ones too. Some have tab dividers and some don’t – they have a couple of different versions – weekly, daily, spiral bond, loose leaf, tabbed, not tabbed, etc.

    • 5.1
      Laura says

      I’ve heard a lot about MomAgenda, but have not tried it myself. It sounds similar to the BusyBodyBook, is that correct?

    • 5.2
      Dena says

      I am a Myagenda Junkie! My Agenda is the non-Mom version by the same company. I got something else this year and ended up buying a couple of different replacements, nothing else quite worked for me. I have already gotten my MyAgenda for the next school year & will fill in with printables. I find that a vertical layout is key for me. The days run down the page next to one another. It looks a little bit like the kind of thing they use in a salon to track who has customers when. On a standard horizontal layout I write things down & still miss them on the page. Clearly most people are smarter than I am because this type is the most common, but I have to go with the one that works with my brain!

  6. 6
    Gilda says

    I too (like Amber) have found the best planner to be “in the cloud”. I have everything in separate calendars all in one Google calendar. This means I can add things from my iPod or my computer, send reminders to myself and keep any number of notes I’d like. It’s worked well as a family calendar too because I’m not having to rewrite the item in my/the family planner and then again separately for my husband (who occasionally wants a paper planner for himself to plan out non-family to do items). Now we can all use the same paperless planner (for things that concern all of us, the family) and everything really is in one place (but accessible almost everywhere). It’s a great system, I’ve converted a few friends already (especially those with smartphones!).

  7. 7
    Katie says

    I am always a super picky planner picker (say that five times fast), but I do love the Blue Sky that I got at Target this year. It’s super cute and functional!

  8. 8
    Shannon says

    How did I not realize you were in Canada? I really love that Womans Day planner but it’s kind of pricey and the shipping (to USA) is alot but I really like!! I made a household notebook for the first time this year and I am quickly figuring out what parts of it work for me and what parts don’t and the biggest part that is not working is the calendars and the Womans Day planner does exactly what I need – I love the split view thing.

    • 8.1
      Michelle says

      I ordered this planner last month. It was a little pricey, but I will tell you that it was worth the money. I love it and it fits all my needs.

  9. 9
    Suzanne Jackson says

    I’ve always been a paper planner but, in recent years, have not been able to find the perfect planner for me. So, like Amber, I’ve made the switch to an electronic planner.

    I’m loving using my iPod Touch as a planner. The calendar function doesn’t limit me and easily allows me to schedule repeating activities. And I downloaded the “todo” app, which is perfect for making my to do list. It allows me to apply specific characteristics to each item — is it for my family, my home, my Willow House business, or for church, or an errand? And it’s easy to reschedule those items that I don’t quite get to. It can alarm me or not, depending on what I set up.

    It’s much more portable, so I always have it with me. And I love that when I sit down with clients to schedule, they cannot see my whole life laid out before them!

    So far, I’m sold!

  10. 10
    Andi says

    I was given an “Our Daily Bread” planner for Christmas and have found it perfect for meal-planning and blog post planning. On each side of the two-page weekly spread there are perforated lists, one says “shopping list” and one says “to do.” As I fill out all the meals for the week I also fill out the grocery list and make my plan for Saturday cooking (I do all my cooking/food prep for the week on Saturday mornings). I also make note on each day any extra prep that might need to be done for the next day (i.e. take pizza dough out of the freezer) I then tear off the shopping list and am ready to go the store. (I love that all of this information is all in one place!) I use the “To Do” to plan my blog posts, so as I am cooking I remember what I want to take photos of. It’s not something I went looking for, but it is definitely one of the most useful planners I have ever owned.

  11. 11
    Tara @ Tara Being Tara says

    I am a planneraholic… I’ve had every planner! I’ve done the MomAgenda, Franklin Covey… one time during a snowstorm, I actually designed my own that I used for a year!

    My very favorite is my Erin Condren planner. I love the blank spaces and the crisp design. I love that the day is broken down into morning, day and night. I love the stickers – this is my favorite by far. I actually believe I will re-order this planner at the end of the year. First time I’ll have ever done that!!

  12. 12
    Bren says

    I simply cannot function without my planner from! Folded up it takes up no more room than a standard planner, but the pages fold out to be HUUUUUGE so I can fit EVERYTHING in there. I love that I can see the whole month at a time but still have the same (more, even!) amount of daily space as other planners. Plus the overleaves have plenty of space for notes, numbers, etc. There are even clear plastic pockets in each binder for coupons, tickets, etc.

    I am a demonstrator for Stampin’ Up! and I love that I can stamp on the pages without bleed through, that I can actually keep track of both family AND business stuff in one planner and that it serves both as a showpiece for my business and keeps my life in order.

    And the woman who owns the business, Tammy, is a total sweetheart (though we’ve never met in person!) and genuinely cares about every single customer. I won’t ever change planners now that I found the perfect one!

    • 12.1
      Laura says

      Will have to check that one out, thanks!

  13. 13
    needtochange says

    I use the Kikki-K weekly family diary. Its has 6 sections per day for family members, I dont use it like that though as I have a large family calender for all of the family movements, I use the difference sections for times and events for myself, its very rare I have only one thing on per day so I need the extra spaces for myself. I love it actually, this is the first year I’ve used that particular one. I love the plastic pockets at the back to store bills etc. It has multiple pages at the back for notes/ideas, sections to list family clothes sizes. Its has a strap to hold it closed which is great as I usually store pages – like Drs referrals on the day of the appointment. The thing I love the most is the overall routine sheets it has at the front – there are 6 of them so I can do a new one each school term. It breaks the weeks into days, then each day into morning/midday/afternoon/night so I can see at a glance our weekly routines – which day is library day for one daughter, which day is sport day, what afternoons are we away from the house.

    I can see me ordering this one for years to come.

    • 13.1
      Laura says

      Wow I’ve never even heard of that one, will check it out!

  14. 14
    Anna says

    I’m always changing planners, but I think I found one that will work for me. It’s a Franklin Covey 365 compact planner that I bought at Target. I like that I don’t have to change my whole planner each year, address book, etc. I also try to keep all my various lists and notes to self in one place, and I want it to be small and light enough to carry around. It was also inexpensive. Some of the planners that I saw online looked great, but a bit pricey.
    I was wondering how I would get a refill or new planner here (in Congo) with no internet for about 5 months. But it is common enough that I could tell my sister on the phone, and she could send it with my brother when he visited us for Christmas. I like that each day (Monday-Friday) has the time listed, and I use this to plan home school and the rest of the days schedule and responsibilities. This helps me stay on track.

  15. 15
    Stephanie says

    I use my blackberry calendar for work, home, and family. I also use a free calendar website that my family has access to. They input their schedules in the online calendar and I am able to sync it right to my blackberry. The website also sends a weekly agenda to my email in the event I forget to sync things up.

  16. 16
    Michele says

    I absolutely love my Blue Sky planner, as well as my Blue Sky wall calendar (both from Target)!

    The planner fits perfectly in my purse so that I can always have access to my not-so-concrete schedule of clients–all of whom got the very same planner for Christmas. ;) The wall calendar hangs in the kitchen and is our family planner. It has the perfect size block for each day, as well as a notes section on the right. They’re also printed with soy ink on recycled paper, which is a huge plus in my book.

  17. 17
    Living the Balanced Life says

    it is amazing how much conversation can be envoked just by talking about planners, lol! Women are as picky about planners as they are about their purses! (I am too!) Most of us can’t just go buy whatever off the shelf and it work right. We have to try different styles and versions to find what works best for us. I find that using Google calendar, along with a small composition notebook works well for me at this point in my life!
    Eating for Balanced Living

  18. 18
    Bekah says

    I cringe every time I fall in love with a planner and they discontinue it! My most recent love of a planner is the Mead Weekly/Monthly planner. Got it at WalMart for about 15…and it’s a year and a half planner. It is large (8 1/2 x 11), with a sturdy plastic cover, and is spiral bound. I love it that it has a monthly spread…so I can see things at a glance…and also plenty of space for each day on the weekly pages. And in the back…a little pocketed page where I can tuck in papers to transport them temporarily. Love it!!!!!

  19. 20
    heidi @ wonder woman wannabe says

    I used the busy body book last year – it was a fun change of pace but I prefer a layout with weekly AND master grids.

    I’m using the DotMine planner this year and am LOVING it so far!

    • 20.1
      heidi @ wonder woman wannabe says

      oh- and I usually wait until January 1st to buy my planners – they are usually 1/2 off at large book stores!

  20. 21
    Allysgrandma says

    I have used the Amy Knapp planner for several years. This year I went to a larger size Family, Time.Mine and miss the Amy Knapp. I wish she made a full sized one.

  21. 22
    Carolyn says

    I have used the Amy Knapp Family Organizer for 5-6 years now. Each year I tweak it to fit my own needs. I add tabs for the month. And in the back, where there are a number of blank (lined) pages, I add a tab for menu planning. I have lists of tried and true main dish menu ideas, I can quickly scan down the lists and choose a variety of meals for the week. Chicken one night, breakfast for supper the next night, etc. Amy Knapp suggests adding a zippered pouch to the inside back cover, it works well to double tape it in, then you have space for stamps, return address labels, note cards, etc. I love my Amy Knapp Family Organizer.

  22. 23
    Firma contabilitate says

    Hi. I too enjoy the BusyBodyBook Planner. It works for me very well. Thanks for the other ideas as well. You never know when you feel the need to change something.

  23. 24
    Sharisse says

    I absolutely LOVE the busy body book! I used it several years ago, tried to go electronic and found myself right back with it. We are BFF’s!! I feel so lost and useless without it (like today when I was rushing out the door and forgot to bring it to work with me*sigh*). This year is the first year I have it as well as the wall mounted size. I transfer everything onto that big one that’s on the fridge. The grid format is perfect and keeps me from overlapping events. To the left of it I jot notes down and all my to do’s for the week. I’m not big on prioritizing my todo’s but if you have to you could with put numbers or letters by them or color code them (like a red dot for high priority items) etc…

  24. 25
    Enjoy Birth says

    I love my Planner Pad

    I love how it is divided up into 3 sections that feed into each other.
    The top I have divided into
    To Call, To Do, Errands, Blog, Business, Organizing
    You can divide it into whatever!

    Then it has a daily task section
    Then an appointments on the bottom.

    My main organizer is our giant calendar on the fridge which I get from Fly Lady

  25. 26
    Becky L says

    I have a small planner I bought in Jan. for use in my purse. I found it at Office Depot. Has a calendar then following pages of that month has more room to write out appts. I don’t have alot going on since my kids are grown but still have a life.
    I’ve not got blogging on an planner, do I need to? I just blog!

  26. 27
    Damsel says

    I finally gave up the paper planner… It’s hard to believe I’m even writing that.

    Hubby and I got Iphones last spring, and I was determined to find a way to link our calendars so that each can see what the other’s schedule is (and he can see the kids’ schedules, since they were always in my planner). Well, he figured it out!! We both have Google calendars (stored online, of course) and he synced them. I’ve never been happier with our scheduling situation… no more surprises. I even put our dinner menus on there so that he can budget his calories each day!

  27. 28
    Daniel says

    I have a cute planner I got from Starbucks and it looks very nice. It’s silver-metallic and the pages are filled with coffee. haha!

  28. 29
    Stephanie says

    I am in love with my MomAgenda planner. They are a little pricey, but if you shop around sometimes you can hit a sale. I only have 2 kids (and both are tiny, so have very few activities) so I use one of the “kid” sections for my meal planning and I use one for keeping track of information for work. LOVE it.

  29. 31
    Suzanne says

    I used to use a planner, actually was attached at the hip to one. My husband was trying to convince me for years to trade it for a smart phone. Finally I caved and got an iPhone. Besides holding all my information, which is safely backed up to my computer daily, it beeps at me, reminding me when I have to do things which my conventional organizer never did. I can set alarms to remind me when to return home during my run, I can track my distances, I set times for meetings and appointment, stores my shopping list for the supermarket which I update on the fly because I always have my phone on me, keep track of rewards for my daughter, balance my checkbook, and, which is not organization but rather a nice perk, I have games which has made me a much more patient person to everyone’s relief. It’s awesome and weighs a lot less in my bag.

  30. 32
    Deanne says

    I love the Blueline planner, family and business. weekly format and one side of the planner is for the office and the other side is for personal/family. Been using it for 2 years. Love it. Sat and sunday are half size which is a bit of a downside, there are pages for notes in the back and monthly pages in between ! Costs about 22 bucks in Canada. A few of my friends are now hooked on it as well. One is a self employed massage therapist and the other is my supervisor. I used to keep two organizers going (one only for business and one only for family.) I love being able to keep it all in one place.

  31. 33
    Jessica says

    I use the Mom’s Plan It engagement Planner. It starts in August and goes to December of the following year. I currently have the Aug 2011 to Dec 2012 one and even at full price it is $15. I love it because I don’t have to wait until January to switch, since it is much easier to switch when school starts. I also love it because of the tear our shopping list, that is a menu planner the week before. The weekends have the same space as the week days, so plenty of room to write events and activities for everyone. It also has a small space for TO DOs under the weekend days. You can find it at most book stores. I got mine at Barnes and Noble this year and at Borders in previous years.
    I compared this one to the Amy Knapp version 2 years ago. Although I think that some of the additional features at the back of the Amy Knapp are better, I like have the extra space for each day with the Mom’s Plan It. The lines in the Amy Knapp version also seem very small and this one is bigger for those of us who don’t write small. So I have turned some of the Notes pages in the back into the same as the ones in the Amy Knapp version so that way I can have the best of both worlds.

  32. 34
    Ginger says

    Hi. I love your blog. You mentioned a Polestar Weekly Planner for about 10 bucks. I tried to find it. I looked on amazon and checked with Polestar. They said the one with all those cool comumns (to buy, to call, dinner, so forth) is the “family calander.” Those run about 45 bucks off of amazon.
    I wonder if the person from Polestar that emailed me back knew what they were talking about. OR, mabye it is the weekly planner that is about 10 and the Family calander with all the cool division areas (meals, so forth, like in your image photo) is actually 45 bucks. Bummer. Do you know?

    I am trying to get organized. I’m very overwhelmed. Love your blog. I have so much to do. I thought I was organized then realized that my systems aren’t working well. It’s hard to know where to focus my time…. fixing up ugly house, craft and play with kids, the gym, organization, so forth! I’m sure you understand.

  33. 35
    Jaye says

    I use Planner Pad at It incorporates everything I need; my job, my kids, my home, my volunteering and MORE. It’s not the prettiest to look at compared to other planners, but it’s by far THE MOST functional and easiest to keep everything on track! I love it! It’s reasonably priced, starts at 4 different times during the year. I love it.

  34. 36
    Katie says

    As a college student planners are a very important for keeping track of the many assignments, projects etc. I have tried many different types and styles of planners, but none of them work very well for me. Instead, I’ve found that those grocery list notepads for the fridge work perfectly! I can put due dates in the margins space out assignments by subject and always have room for everything. at the end of the week just tear off the top page, transfer any unfinished assignments to the next page and your good to go!

  35. 37
    Laura B says

    Great things to think about! I’m a planner junkie and just found your blog. I am a huge fan of Blue Sky, so I’m glad you like them too :)

  36. 38
    Vicky says

    I really really wish someone would make med. Sized planners that have the VERTICAL weekly format. There’s a couple out there but usually just boring black. All the pretty and fun ones are large 8×11 or close. I searched online for over an hour and finally found a purple one 5×8. There are so many cool, useful and cute planners out there, but i just can’t look at my week with the days on top of each other and no space.

    • 38.1
      Laura Wittmann says

      Hi Vicky, did you see the Happy Planner? They have a larger one but also a smaller one that is vertical. Super cute too. Also available at Michaels.


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