The world has a experienced a year of unexpected, unplanned events. We’ve all struggled to find our ground amidst all the change. 2021 is my first year owning and using a planner as I try to navigate the new normal. This year, I want to factor in a global pandemic while making my plans. I want to get work done, read great books, take care of my mental and physical health, and actively make time for things that make me happy. One way to figure out the best use of my planner for 2021 was to ask other Book Riot contributors about their favorite planners and how they use theirs.
Scroll on to dig into their insights about bullet journaling, digital planners, cute Disney-themed planners, and more!
Find Your Balance by The Journal Lab
I started using this planner this year and I like it so much! Like the name suggests, the design focuses not on maximizing productivity but on finding our balance. It reminds me of the importance of social connections and self-care even on days I’m swamped with work. It’s an undated planner and I find my way to it on days I’m looking for direction. The mood trackers, habit trackers, gratitude, journaling and doodling spaces help me navigate my mind. It’s a really cute planner with a pretty pastel colour aesthetic that’s to die for!
LEUCHTTURM1917 Medium A5 Dotted Hardcover Notebook by LEUCHTTURM1917
I give the bullet journaling method credit for finally helping me break down daunting tasks into achievable goals. I don’t know that I could have completed a full manuscript without it!
Every year I buy a fresh A5 dotted notebook in a fun color and follow the layout I’ve been developing over time to track my progress toward my goals. This notebook is the one for me because of its Goldilocks-perfect size, the built-in index and numbered pages, and the dotted pages for writing or drawing lines. The paper withstands fountain pen ink well, if you too are in the society of ink-stained fingers. The two built-in ribbon bookmarks are handy for flipping between the month and the week, or the week and the day if you’re more granular. What I like most is the freedom to make sections tailored to my interests. Lists of ideas to write about, lists of cool things I’ve heard about on podcasts and want to check out, lists of recipes I want to try. Goal tracking works great in these notebooks. The grids make charts simple, to track daily activities like incorporating some movement or conquering that crossword puzzle. Make a dedicated section devoted to a big goal, like getting 500 words written on that novel every day. I could go on.
I don’t personally use hand lettering, washi tape, or stickers in my planner (OK, some stickers). Don’t be daunted by the people who’ve adopted bullet journaling as an aesthetic if that’s not what you’re into. Bullet journaling can be bare bones and functional or a crafty hobby in itself. In the end, it’s endlessly adaptable to your own purposes.
2020/2021 Teachers Lesson Planner by Erin Condren
As a busy writer, professor, and teacher, I was in need of a planner that could not only plan my days, but also my weekly lesson plans. I stumbled upon the Erin Condren planners on social media; a co-worker recommended them, and I fell in love when I saw that you could personalize them and that the planners also come with some amazing add-ons such as gel pens and stickers. So far, my weeks are filled with upcoming lessons for January 2021 and book club dates and safe socially-distant outdoor brunch plans in South Florida. I highly recommend this planner for the busy teachers all-around. As a writer, professor and educator, I feel more organized already!
Peanuts 2020-2021 Monthly/Weekly Planning Calendar by Peanuts Worldwide LLC, Charles M. Schulz
I stumbled upon this planner online. While purchasing my Peanuts 2021 desk calendar, I came across this beauty! Not only does it share a monthly grid (July 2020–December 2021), it also features planning spreads for the whole of 2021. I instantly fell in love! So far I’ve filled in the weeks with virtual book club sessions, but that’s okay. Hopefully the year will unfold with exciting (and safe!) group opportunities!
July 2020-June 2021 Daily Digital Planner by Laurel Studio
I have been on a mission for years to find the right planner style for me. Do I want the weekly with notes on the opposite page? The vertical one with a to do list every week? How do I find a daily planner that isn’t going to weigh me down mentally and physically? I thought I had found the perfect one in the Hobonichi daily planner (which is awesome, and so tiny!), but in my usual way, fell off from using it properly in the year of years that was 2020. Blank page with no guidance? It was asking to be ignored.
And then my husband got an iPad and I thought…I could get one and (among other things, obviously) use a digital planner. I could mess around with as many different kinds of planners as I wanted. And I settled on the Laurel daily planner, which has lots of extras that I don’t use, but which also has hyperlinks from the monthly to the weekly to the daily view. (And I know there are other things that have this type of setup that might not cost as much as a digital planner, and I have tried them, but I’ve discovered that dated planners are very important to me LOL.) I can plot out my week and then go to the daily view, which has three top priorities, a space for all the tasks you want to do, a timeline, and space to write (or import other widgets but I leave it blank for notes). So I can do a bit of big picture recording of my day (when I remember) while also plotting out what I need to do that day. It’s helpful when I have a lot of tasks that I might have been putting off, and I don’t feel as bad about moving tasks forward in a digital format as I did when I tried bullet journaling that one time. Having that giant, very expensive object staring at me all the time makes me more inclined to use it—guilt is a heady motivator.
The High Performance Planner by Brendon Buchard
I’ll be a little vulnerable for a second and say that 2020 has been terrible for my mental health. Usually I have a bullet journal, but I haven’t been able to maintain one this year—and the guilt complex of not getting enough done was starting to eat at me. In that way, this planner really saved me. Its format is based on research in what makes someone feel productive and fulfilled, with questions for reflection in the morning and the evening. I really appreciate the productivity boost it’s helped me maintain, and it seems to be getting me out of my slump in a meaningful way. If someone else out there is struggling with COVID-related depression or productivity-related guilt, I’d highly recommend it.
Mickey and Minnie Grateful Heart Classic Vertical Happy Planner – 12 Months by The Happy Planner
So, I’ve never used a planner but this Mickey and Minnie one was just too cute to ignore. I love that the rings of the planner have a sparkle to them. I plan to make the most of my planner in 2021 and I’m excited to use it. I have some matching Disney stickers to go with it but I also found this shop on Etsy named ShopxoBliss and I love the Dream Girl planner stickers. The stickers feature a diverse range of Black women. With some Disney magic and Black girl magic, I am optimistic about the new year.
Hobonichi Techo 2021 Day-Free Planner by Hobonichi Techo and LEUCHTTURM1917 Monthly Planner with Notebook by LEUCHTTURM1917
I have been using planners for only a couple of years now but keep finding that I don’t utilize the daily planner sections for more than a few months at the beginning of the year. I just sort of forget that I can do that because monthly planners provide everything I need as my life is…let’s go with uncomplicated. Enter the Hobonichi Tech 2021 Day-Free Planner and the LEUCHTTURM1917 Monthly Planner with Notebook. Both of these options are 16-month calendars but with slightly different spans. This is not necessarily a feature I need, but it’s always nice to have just in case I forget to order a new one in a timely fashion. Following the two-page spread monthly planner portions, there is also a very good sized notebook in each planner; the Hobonichi Techo is graph paper throughout and the LEUCHTTURM1917 is a dot grid. I have both of these because the Hobonichi Techo is to carry with me (A6 size) and the LEUCHTTURM1917 is to use at home (B5 size). I am particularly enjoying the Hobonichi Techo because, even if it is in Japanese and I do not speak Japanese, it includes a whimsical flip comic by Aki Kondo (which requires no translation), a section on posture with pictures, a gift log, a favorites log, and so much more! We’ll see if I use the notebook portions of each planner but, for now, I’m excited about the possibilities!
—Jen Zink, Book Riot Podcast Editor