Staying organized isn’t as simple as writing to-dos on a calendar. A great daily planner is easy to use, inspires you to be organized and maybe most importantly, matches your personal style. This post was originally published for 2017, and the planners we recommended last year are still great choices. However, with a new year comes a new blank page, so we’re updating you with planners to consider for 2018.
Just like last year, we tested with a team of selective marketing professionals who have strict deadlines to hit, so you can rest assured that these planners have truly been put to the test. Also like last year, we spent hours researching, testing and conducting a focus group, and this time we found that the Erin Condren – 2018 Hardbound LifePlanner is the best planner overall for 2018.
Top Pick: Erin Condren
The Erin Condren's quality construction makes it stand out from other cutesy planners on the market. It's packed with encouraging quotes that may be the pick-me-up you need during a busy work week.
The Me and My Big Ideas – Happy Planner was a close runner up, with large note-taking sections, a beautiful design and helpful prompts for setting goals. It’s got removable pages, tabbed months and a bevy of other features that help you stay inspired and organized.
Runner Up: Happy Planner
The Happy planner is perfect for those who want a planner to keep on their desks. Its large size translates to large and spacious writing areas. Extra features like a section for important dates will make this planner your new go-to.
Table of contents
- How we tested the planners
- The best overall planner
- The runner up
- The other planners we tested
- The bottom line
How we tested the planners
We had a group of professionals at our content marketing agency (that also runs Your Best Digs) pick a new weekly planner for the coming year.
Each tester used a planner individually for at least as week. Then, we held a focus group so participants could look at all of the planners and rank them. The group ranked the planners in order of best to worst, with 1 being best, and 11 being worst. We averaged the scores to create an average ranking. The lower the score, the better the planner rated. The results of that testing, and all the notes, data and etc, are available in a handy Google doc for your reference, here.
The team was firmly aware that there can’t be a true “best planner” universally — because in many ways, a planner is an extension of personal preference and style. However, with enough opinions, we definitely feel we can help push you towards a planner you’ll enjoy.
Update: For the 2018 planner testing, we followed a similar process. This time, we added a qualitative element to our focus group and individual testing. We gave each tester surveys with open-ended questions like “what do you like about this planner?” and “what is this planner not good for?” The result was a more in-depth understanding of what makes the best planners the best, and you’ll see that reflected in the analysis of this year’s winners.
The best planners for 2018
|1. Erin Condren - LifePlanner||$||12||10 x 8 x 0.8|
|2. Me & My Big Ideas - Happy Planner||$||18||11.5 x 10.1 x 1.3|
|3. The Simple Elephant||$||12||8.3 x 0.8 x 5.9|
|4. Tools4Wisdom||$$||12||11 x 8.5 x 0.8|
|5. Freedom Mastery - Deluxe Law of Attraction Planner||$$$||12||10.5 x 7.8 x 1.3|
Best overall planner: Erin Condren
The Erin Condren – 2018 Hardbound LifePlanner was created by a stay-at-home mom (Erin Condren) who had a passion for design. Her designs, and ultimately her LifePlanner, gained a cult following, and landed her big breaks on Rachel Ray and the Ellen Show. Today, the Erin Condren planner is one of the most blogged-about agendas out there, and it’s loved for more than just its pretty cover art.
Our selective testers were impressed by the amount of writing space it provided. In fact, all but one tester agreed that it has enough room to write down everything they want. It also scored well in overall size, with the majority of respondents noting that it was not too big and heavy, nor too small and light. Everyone who used it said that its fonts were easy to read, and “high quality” was one of the most commonly-used descriptors for this planner.
The Erin Condren planner is the visually-pleasing solution to organization, with large note sections and high-quality construction.
The primary tester who used this agenda found the paper and cover to be good quality, and said that it was easy to write in. They also loved the monthly overview, and were a big fan of the motivational quotes at the end of each week. On the other hand, they caution against using this planner if you’re an avid traveler; it’s a little too big to throw in a carry on.
The Erin Condren comes with a “color-coordinated” place-holder ribbon and finished pages with a splash of color, which means it’ll always look good sitting out on your desk or tabletop. We also like that it comes with a few dot grid pages for those who dabble in bullet journaling.
Other things our testers liked about this planner: it lies almost entirely flat like a book when you open it, which makes writing in it easy. One tester also noted that “the space for each day is just enough” to write their multitude of daily tasks in. If we had to pick something we didn’t like about the Erin Condren, we would say that there isn’t a ton of room for making lists. Some testers also wanted to see more interactive prompts about goals and objectives.
The runner up: Me & My Big Ideas
The Happy Planner from Me & My Big Ideas is the brainchild of a Mother-Daughter duo who started their business together creating stickers for scrapbooking. This background is evident in their highly-customizable Me & My Big Ideas – Happy Planner, which is replete with personalizable accessories, and yes, stickers. That being said, it still has all of the features required of a serious (and seriously helpful) planner. In fact, it was a close contender for first place in our tests.
Me & My Big Ideas
The Me & My Big Ideas - Happy Planner is great for those who are goal-oriented, with sections for setting objectives.
Our testers all thought that it had attractive, easy to read fonts and a great layout. The majority of our our picky team of testers said that they would definitely commit to using this as their yearly planner. All but one person also said that there’s plenty of room to write in it. Testers loved the fun colors and colorfully-illustrated quotes sprinkled throughout the Happy Planner. They also loved that there was a dedicated birthdays section, enough room to take notes and tabbed sections that make accessing each month easier. Notably, this one is also an 18-month planner, making it perfect for long term and/or academic use, and planning long term project initiatives.
Of course, there are factors that stopped the Happy Planner from being number one, and they almost exclusively have to do with the planner’s construction. The majority of our testers found this planner too heavy for everyday use, and found that the large binding rings made it difficult to write near the center of the planner. This planner is also designed to have removable pages that you tear towards you to remove. So long as you tear them in the right direction, you can also put them back in the binding. However, it’s easy to accidentally tear them out from the side, which makes them impossible to put back in the binding.
Other great planners we tested
Last year’s best overall planner
The Get to Work Book won the day/was our preferred pick for best planner overall. Our group liked the Get to Work Book’s big, clean areas to write and overall inspirational design. It features large note taking areas, as well as helpful tabs that make flipping through or getting to the right page a breeze. It also includes great monthly reflection sections, as well as a “action items this week” area that makes prioritizing your most important tasks a breeze.
On the negative side, some people had concerns with the Get to Work Book’s size: it’s pretty bulky and will take up significant room on your desk. It’s also slightly masculine looking, which likely accounted for its slightly lower scores from the women in the group. The group also didn’t rate for price: the Get to Work Book is the most expensive planner we tested, at $50+. Notably, it was also the top-rated planner by men.
Long term testing notes: After using this planner for a year, our long-term tester found that it was simply too bulky for his every day use. Despite that, he thought the layout was “amazing” and could be an invaluable resource if you don’t mind lugging it around, or plan to have it stay on your desk.
Another highly-rated planner by men
It didn’t fare quite as well with women, however, coming in at 9.5 out of 11. The team liked its monthly reflection areas, built in bookmark and significant note taking sections. The Passion Planner was also unique in having hourly breakdowns by day, which was a bit polarizing: some loved it, some hated it. If this makes sense for your planning style, the Passion Planner could be a great pick.However, if it doesn’t, the hourly breakdowns might feel like detail for the sake of it, and actually get in the way of your daily planning. Overall, the Passion Planner is a solid choice if it fits your scheduling style. The 2018 version is available, here.
The top pick by women
The Rifle Paper 17 month agenda received the highest ranking from women, with an average rank of 2. It didn’t fare as well with the men, at a 6.5 average score, but that’s to be expected given its feminine aesthetic. The ban.do wasn’t too far behind, but on average, it far outpaced the field. The planner was lauded for more than its design inside and out: it also includes motivational quotes on each weekly page, tabs for quick reference, and is nicely sized for toting around or not taking up much space on your desk. Some reviewers noted they didn’t love the thinnish pages and felt like they could rip them out, but that was the only real negative for this planner.
Long term testing notes:
Our long term tester for this planner noted that she thought the size of this planner was ideal, with enough room to write everything she wanted to. She liked the weekly and monthly views, and the functional tabs and pockets and durable cover.
Over the course of the year, she found that she didn’t like the way the monthly sections were separated from the monthly calendar, and she also disliked the daily sections being split into columns. Overall though, she plans to use a Rifle paper agenda again in 2018.
Another highly rated planner by women
The ban.do marble blonde planner is also a great choice for those who want a feminine look. It’s bursting with personality, and has a huge amount of note taking space. It also comes with two sheets of stickers, making this by far the most “fun” of any the planners we looked at. Overall, the ban.do ranked 3.75 on average with the women, and only slightly lower with the men, at 4 overall. On the negative side, the ban.do is a heavy, bulky planner compared to the rest of the models we tested, and that was a turnoff for some people. However, if you have a big desk and don’t plan on lugging it around, the ban.do can excel at the job asked of it.
Long term testing notes:
Our long term tester for this planner noted that she liked using the fun stickers over the course of the year, and she appreciated the way monthly and weekly calendars were right next to each other. She also liked all the fun and quirky holidays pre-printed on the calendar pages.
She disliked the planner’s overall bulkiness, and found it could be improved with a note section in the weekly calendars and a bookmark. The 2018 version is available here.
The Action Day planner is a no frills, no personality planner that confused most of our group. It has 16 pages at the beginning telling you how to use it, which people either loved or hated, and it has no real note taking section besides in the very back of the planner.
The WTF planner is another fun option, but it feels more like a book than a planner, with pages that are hard to hold open. This makes it functionally difficult to use and was the main deterrent keeping it from a higher ranking than the 6 average it got from our group.
The team liked the horizontal, undated weekly planner, but came to the conclusion that it’s more of a supportive device than a standalone. For people who like the quick, constant visual reference, it can be a great desk add-on: but it’s not something with enough flexibility to be your primary planner.
The Sugar Paper planner was the highest rated option in our “other” group. The team liked its big note taking areas, intuitive layouts, and nice design end-to-end. Some didn’t love the legibility of its gold font or that the weekly views are condensed into one page, when they could have been two.
The Medium Monthly Planner is as minimalist as it comes: essentially paper in a brown shell. That was a turnoff for most looking for better functionality than a simple looking planner like this can offer.
The Simple Elephant was well loved by our testers, with a high quality, professional design. Importantly, this was the only planner in which our testers unanimously agreed that there was enough room to write everything. It’s packed with inspiring prompts for goal setting and objective tracking, and it doubles as a gratitude journal too.
The Freedom Mastery – Deluxe Law of Attraction Planner was another highly-rated agenda in our tests. It comes chock-full of stickers, prompts and inspiration, acting as part agenda and part vision board. If you like all of the inspiration, the Freedom Mastery may be perfect for you. However, testers looking for something simple wanted to steer clear of this one.
If you are looking for something simple, the Tools4Wisdom planner may be the best choice for you. This one had an academic feel to it, and our testers liked that it had plenty of room in which to write. It’s got all of the basic facets, like daily, weekly and monthly views. At the end of the day, it’s just generic, which may be exactly what some people want.
The bottom line
Long story short, if a planner works for you, it’s the best planner. But some planners are better than others, and a really great planner does more than work: it inspires you to use it and be more organized.
For 2018, we found that the Erin Condren – 2018 Hardbound LifePlanner is the best planner for achieving that goal. It’s efficient, attractive and inspiring, all inside a well-constructed binding that’ll easily last you through the year. The Me and My Big Ideas – Happy Planner is another great option, with removable and re-insertable pages and tabbed months that make staying organized a breeze.
Top Pick: Erin Condren
The Erin Condren is high quality and highly-useful, with a fun and colorful twist. It'll last you throughout the entire year with its strong binding.