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Most people want to be more productive, but even the most fastidious of us can get sidetracked when using productivity apps, thanks to never-ending smartphone notifications (you’ve got mail! Likes! Tweets!) That’s why some of the best productivity planners come in paper form: they can help us manage our time, check off our to-do lists, and reflect on our wins (and mistakes) so that we can be more effective in the future.
Sure, your screen is probably still within arm’s reach, but it’s much harder to get distracted by the pings and pop-ups when you’re busy putting pen to paper. And science backs the benefits of analog journals, as Harvard Business Review notes that keeping a work diary can help foster focus and patience, among other desired virtues.
How Do Productivity Planners and Journals Work?
Whether you’re scatter-brained or a meticulous organizer, the key to getting things done with a planner is by finding one that suits your needs. Here’s what to consider as you’re shopping for the best productivity journals and organizers.
Calendar format: Are you looking for a top-level view of your life, or do you need to plan hour-by-hour? Some planners include daily, weekly, and quarterly sections, while others might be more focused on project management and monthly planning.
Business vs. personal: Some planners are geared towards entrepreneurs who might want to track quarterly goals and revenue, while personal journals can help you focus on self-growth. There are also notebooks that fuse both approaches by offering designs that encourage you to take stock of what you’re grateful for and where you have room for improvement.
Size: Productivity planners come in all sizes, from the standard letter size (8.5 inches by 11 inches) to A5 (5.5 inches by 8.3 inches). The former is great for those who want plenty of writing space, while the latter is a great travel-friendly option.
1. Clever Fox Planner Pro
This undated 12-month planner will help you identify and accomplish your short and long-term goals. Measuring 8.5 inches by 11 inches (or standard letter size), it’s comprised of nine sections that cover everything from self-discovery and big-picture vision boarding to quarterly and annual goal setting and beyond. We like that its productivity-boosting layouts encourage you to track your habits and priorities, maintain work-life balance, and take time for reflection and gratitude.
It also comes with six sheets of colorful stickers to help you plan visually, and three helpful ribbon markers to easily flip between the weekly, monthly, and quarterly sections. This life journal also has 50 dot grid pages in the back for taking notes and is finished with a faux leather cover and an inner pocket. Choose from a rainbow of colors.
2. Panda Planner Venture
We’re fans of Panda Planner’s Venture edition, which is great for entrepreneurs who need to nail down their company’s vision and the steps they need to take to make it a success. In addition to helping business owners identify their core values, target audience, priorities, and short and long-term goals, this organizer features sections for daily schedules, weekly calendars, and quarterly planning.
There’s also a quarter-in-review for logging key performance indicators, top issues, and potential opportunities. The daily agenda helps you plan from morning to night, while encouraging you to take mental and physical breaks (think meditation, workouts, and the like), and the end-of-day review helps you get into the habit of celebrating your successes. We also like the easy-to-carry size (5.25 inches by 8.25 inches) and the convenient inner pocket, and the helpful ribbon bookmarks.
3. Legend Planner
Similar to the options above, this faux leather-bound productivity planner offers 12 months of goal setting, but in a compact A5 size of 5.5 inches by 8.3 inches. Keep track of your weekly, quarterly, and yearly goals with easy-to-use daily schedules and calendar layouts, and outline all of your strategies and rituals to help you accomplish them.
This life planner offers prompts to help you nail down your vision, and comes with colorful stickers to organize your thoughts and provide inspiration. It contains an interior pocket for storing notes and receipts, three bookmarking ribbons, and plenty of extra pages for jotting down notes. Last but not least, the cover boasts an eye-catching embossed design, which helps it stand out from your desk’s sea of stationery.
4. The Five-Minute Journal
Even if you’re pressed for time, spending just five minutes of your day filling out a gratitude journal can help boost your happiness (and thus, your productivity). That’s the thinking behind this daily notebook, which begins each page with an inspiring quote (from everyone from Oprah to Socrates). It also includes writing prompts for sharing daily affirmations, the most positive parts of the day, and how you could have done better. This linen hardcover book measures just 8.3 inches by 5.3 inches, so it’s easy to throw into your work or travel bag.