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Paper Planner Renaissance

Which One Is Right for You?

Conner Newbold Jan 9, 2019

No matter how hard environmentalists and tech companies push, consumers say good ol’ fashioned paper is here to stay — at least when it comes to planners and stationery.

In 2015, the appointment book and planner industry billed a healthy $312.5 million, with a 10 percent increase in 2016 and continued growth since.

How could that be, when three-quarters of the U.S. population have dozens of free calendar apps accessible on their smartphones? People are realizing that paper planners simply work better.

Why? Writing entries by hand in a paper planner engages the brain on a deeper level than tapping a digital keyboard, creating stronger memories and greater recall, according to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology. Even better, recent research says physically writing down goals and plans makes them more likely to happen.

Not only that, paper planners are more satisfying — nothing compares to the gratification of dragging a big squeaky black permanent marker across the final item on your to-do list. Paper gives you the liberty to draw outside the lines, doodle, sketch, scribble and make notes anywhere you please — a feature you’ll never get on iCal or Google Calendar.

There’s variety and freedom in the thousands upon thousands of planners available. Because it can be overwhelming to pick the right one, we’ve broken the countless varieties into four groups to help you find one to match your personality.

The No-nonsense, Goal-oriented, Progress-driven Planner

There’s no extra information here — no pretty pictures, no guidance. These planners are for confident, busy professionals with well-managed lives. They are spartan, black and white booklets designed to communicate complex schedules in a glance.

A few to try:

Muji Craft Note Book Monthly, Brepols Back to Paper Diary Notebook, Leuchtturm1917 18-Month Weekly Planner, Smythson Soho

Our recommendation: The Planner Pad

The 40-year-old Planner Pad is all about efficiency and achieving long-term goals. Its “funnel system” encourages users to categorize, prioritize and schedule. Planner Pad promises a full refund if you don’t feel you’ve gained an additional hour every day. 

The Life Coach Planner

The 40-year-old Planner Pad is all about efficiency and achieving long-term goals. Its “funnel system” encourages users to categorize, prioritize and schedule. Planner Pad promises a full refund if you don’t feel you’ve gained an additional hour every day. 

A few to try:

Erin Condren LifePlanner, The Desire Map Planner by Danielle Laporte, Emma Kate Co. Write Your Own Adventure Planner, Day Designer by Whitney English

Our recommendation: The Full Focus Planner

Created by Michael Hyatt, an entrepreneur, author and blogger, the Full Focus Planner is a life coach in hardback. It guides you through every detail of every day with a highly structured system of checkboxes, guided goal setting and daily rituals. 

The Customizable and Refillable Planner

If you long to add character to your planner with an array of charms, dividers, custom pages, patterns, inspiring quotes and paper clips shaped like your spirit animals, this is your category. The only disadvantage is the steep initial investment in the binder and the ongoing cost of whatever customizations you add along the way.

A few to try:

Simple Stories Carpe Diem Planner, DayTimer, FranklinPlanner, At-A-Glance Day Runner

Our recommendation: Filofax Plus Etsy

From pink crocodile skin to floral linen, Filofax planners come in nearly every shape, size and pattern imaginable. Filofax.com stocks a few stylish extras, but the real treasure trove of personalization is hosted on Etsy.com, where you’ll find a multitude of independent craft shops selling Filofax-specific accessories. 

The Creative, Less-structured Planner

If filling in a structured planner feels too much like filling out a tax form, never fear. There are other options that can be as relaxed or structured as you choose. For some of you in this camp, the most satisfying option might be creating your own planner, whether drawn by hand or designed on a computer.

A few to try:

Hobonichi Techo, Traveler’s Company Traveler’s Notebook, MochiThings Ardium Planner, or your own

Our recommendation: Bullet journaling

Created by Ryder Carroll in 2012, bullet journaling is a flexibly structured planning and journaling system that turns a blank notebook into a life record — all it takes is an index and a series of logs to note and track daily tasks and activities, monthly outlines and long-term plans. Learn how at BulletJournal.com.

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