photo courtesy of guilia bertelli via unsplash

I wasn’t really a planner person until post-college life when I realized I wasn’t exactly the chill, spontaneous person I’d been trying to convince myself I was for the past several years. Realizing that my life felt like it was constantly on fire drove me to Target in a fit of panic where I found myself facing down the aisle dedicated to those ever elusive and organized “planner people.” After nearly forty minutes of deliberation (I consider all of my choices very thoroughly), I selected my first planner, and my initiation into the planner world began.

Six years later, and I can now say with certainty that I am one of those (probably not-so-elusive, but mostly semi-organized) planner people. While I’ve found my way mostly on my own, what I sort of wish I’d had before getting my first planner was a way to figure out what type of planner would be great for me personally. Not all planners are made the same, and it would have saved me a lot of frustration, along with a lot of money, if I’d been able to figure this out sooner rather than later. Of course, there is bound to be a lot of trial and error in these things anyway, but it’s always better to have at least some sort of direction than to go flailing into the wind (or wandering the aisles of your local Target).

So I decided to create just that. I’ve created list of questions you can ask yourself to walk you through the wonderful world of planners and to hopefully lead you to finding the one that will work best for you. Afterwards, I’ll talk a little bit about my planner, why it works for me and how I chose it out of many others by using the questions below.

What do you need your planner for?

Be specific here! Don’t just say you need it to be more organized. Organized with what? Do you need it to note appointments and daily meetings? To keep track of progress on projects or long-term goals? Do you need it to prompt you to reflect and add more self-care into your day? There’s something driving you to seek out a planner – what is it? Once you figure out your reasons and know exactly how you want your planer to serve you, you’ll have a much clearer idea of the direction you should go when you begin your search.

How much “work” do you want to put into it?

Some planners require more set-up and maintenance than others. For example, if you’re someone who wants to create a personalized system, something like a bullet journal might appeal to you. Bullet journals can be simplistic, but depending on how many trackers, detailed planning, and the aesthetics you want, they can also require a certain amount of upkeep that may not be for everyone. On the other end of the spectrum, there are planners that already have everything set up and that you just have to show up and fill out, which may not offer the flexibility some might crave. And then, as with everything, there are some that fall in between. There is no right or wrong answer for this one – it all really depends on your needs and your time.

How much do you want to spend?

You can certainly find a basic planner in the $10-$15 range at Target when you’re starting out. This is exactly what I did when I was new to planners, and that one served me well for that first year. That said, if you want something a little more “specialized” and want you explore your options, you might expand your search online where you’ll typically find pricier planners. Another thing to consider is whether you want a yearly vs a quarterly planner. With a yearly planner, you’ll pay once and be set for the year. With a quarterly planner, you’ll make several payments throughout the year as you fill them out. Again, there’s no right or wrong answer here, but deciding ahead of time what your price point is can definitely help you save time and coin in the long run.

What size do you want it?

It’s important to know what your preferred planner size is. Are you going to carry it around with you every day? Do you want it to be lightweight, something you can easily stow in your bag when you’re on the go? Or do you not care because you plan to leave it at home on your desk? Does a wall sized calendar as a planner make more sense to you? Portability is perhaps an underrated aspect of planner selection, but one that can certainly affect your experience which makes it worth considering.

Daily vs. Weekly vs. Monthly

Ask yourself how you like to plan things. Is a monthly overview all you need? Do you prefer to organize and keep track of tasks by week? By day? By the hour? Determining how down to the nitty gritty you want to get with these things is key because while there are a variety of planners that break things down in all three ways, most of them lean more toward one or the other, so you’ll want to decide which layout you vibe most with so you can make a choice based on that.

What “extras” are important for you?

In addition to having a place to plan your days, do you want your planner to provide room for notes or lists? A space to write down daily or weekly to-dos, jot down meal plans and grocery lists, or create a habit tracker? Do you like the idea of a planner that includes stickers for you to mark certain days or simply make it look a little cuter (totally valid if the answer is yes). Do you care about the thickness of the pages, especially if you plan on using markers or pens that might bleed through? Think of what little extras will add more value to the planner for you, ease the selection process and whether or not any of these so-called “extras” are actually more of a necessity.

My Favorite Planner

I’m including this not to try to convince you to get the same planner I have because again, I believe planners are very personal and not one-size-fits all. That said, if you answer these questions in a similar fashion, it may be worth it to check out my planner. The current one I use is the Savor Life Planner. It’s taken me a while to find one that fits as closely to my needs as I want it to, and answering all of these questions is what led me to it. Here’s what I answered, and why I was able to determine this planner fits the bill.

What do you need your planner for?: I need my planner to keep track of not only the important daily activities, like what time I’m working or when I have a writing session planned, but also as a way to help me track my goals and keep up with my various to-dos, so that I have somewhere to put them that isn’t just inside my head. I’ve also recently started trying to track daily habits as a way to ensure that I am putting time toward things that matter to me most. This planner has room for all of that and more.

How much “work” do you want to put in it?
: Minimal. While I do appreciate an aesthetically pleasing planner, I’ve realized one that’s more minimalistic works better for my brain, and I don’t care to take time to color-code or doodle. I like that this planner has everything set up for me and that I don’t need to worry about making separate sections all the time. I also like that none of the dates are filled in so if I do happen to fall off track for a bit, it’s easy enough to get back on when I’m ready.

How much do you want to spend?: Because I prefer the style of quarterly planners rather than yearly ones, I expect to spend more on them. This one can be a little pricey at about $35 after tax and shipping, and since I refresh it about every 3 months, it comes out $140 a year. That may be pricey for some, but it feels worth it to me for me for my current peace of mind, and it’s an investment I’m okay with making until I decide otherwise.

What size do you want it?: Ideally, I would like a bit of a smaller planner that I could fit into my smaller purses and carry around with me easily. This planner is a little on the large side for me, but it works well-enough. This is one thing I chose to compromise on when choosing my planner.

Daily vs. Weekly vs. Monthly: I want it all! I like to have a planner that breaks things down to the individual day, but I tend to plan out my tasks weekly so a balance between the two is perfect for me. I don’t really use monthly planning all that much, but it’s good to keep track of for when I have trips and vacations and things to go on. This planner has the perfect mix of it all.

What “extras” are important to you?: I like to have lots of extra room in my planner for random things to jot down (meal plans, grocery lists, random ideas, etc) as well as lots of room to add in to-dos and gratitude. Another thing I’ve learned to love having a planner with thick pages so my pens don’t “ghost” through. Or markers or highlighters when/if I use them. Triple bonus, I love to have a place to add reflections and to write down my quarterly goals to keep me focused as I plan out my days and weeks and months, and this planner has all of that and more.

So there you have it! These are what I think are some of the best ways to determine what kind of planner will be right for you, and using these questions helped me finally find the planner that has served me and my lifestyle well for the past couple years. Eventually, I plan on creating a follow-up post with suggestions for planners that might not work for me, but that may work for others with a variety of needs. I will link it when it’s available. 🙂

Have you got a planner you like? Beginning to search for one? Or do you have any other suggestions for questions to ask to find the one that’s *just* right? Let me know in the comments!