Buying a new planner gives me an endorphin rush like no other, whether it’s for a new school semester, work year, or a much-needed fresh start. A good one should help you stay on track without overwhelming you. Some folks on WIRED’s Gear team prefer paper planners over digital tools. Plus, writing things down has the added benefit of improving retention.
There’s no such thing as the best paper planner, but I’ve grilled WIRED staff for their favorites and have tested a ton on my own. Once you find something that works for you, read our guides on work-from-home gear, the best digital notebooks, and the best laptop backpacks for more.
Updated January 2024: We’ve added more planners we like, including options from My PA Planner, Brass Monkey, Miquelrius, and Levenger.
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Weekly planners are some of the most popular types of paper planners. They’re great for students, professionals, and parents who need to plan each day but also see the entire week.
No matter how many perfectly adorable planners I try and love, I’ve been repurchasing Happy Planners since 2017—though I’ve switched from a vertical layout to a large dashboard (there is also a horizontal style). These planners have room for organizing work and to-do lists with enough extras for other planning and notes without feeling overwhelmed. The divider pages are cute and sometimes include phrases and quotes, but they aren’t unbearably corny (usually).
The Happy Planner is almost infinitely customizable. Stock and themes fluctuate throughout the year, but in addition to the layouts already mentioned, you can choose between Classic, Skinny Classic, Mini, or Big sizes, and dated or undated pages. There are daily planners, ones tailored to teachers and students, among many others. You can get extension packs to add a few more months or to keep track of things like your budget and fitness goals. If you need it, the Happy Planner probably has it.
If the Happy Planner isn’t for you, you might lean more toward the Erin Condren LifePlanner (ECLP for short). WIRED reviewer Louryn Strampe says it’s the Rolex of paper planners. It’s one of the most popular for weekly-spread enthusiasts, with gorgeous layouts and room for notes or doodles. It’s customizable and there are extra touches, like a storage pocket and snap-in ruler. Together, these features aren’t cheap (or lightweight), but Strampe has used an ECLP for the past three years, and it’s her favorite system of them all (and makes a great gift).
Once you find the size and cover you like, finish designing it with your desired layout—hourly, horizontal, or our favorite, vertical—choose a coil color and internal color scheme, plus add your name or quote to the cover. The minimal Focused Planner can’t be personalized as much, but you can add a monogram and choose the coil. A cheaper version is available from Target, but you lose the customization options.
I still have nightmares of being in school and having no idea what or when my next class is. If that’s you, Class Tracker’s first three pages are designated for outlining your semester schedule from Monday to Sunday, 6 am to midnight.
Like most planners, there are monthly calendars, but the weekly pages shine. Each day gets a section for things to remember, tests, papers, or projects due that day, and larger spots for assignments and a daily plan. There’s a Self-Care Corner for non-school things you should focus on and a countdown box for something you’re looking forward to. The only thing I want is tabs to easily sift through months. The planner pictured here is the college version, but there are middle school and high school options.
Great for Business Owners
This planner is hefty, but it’s full of pages for business owners to organize their thoughts and plans along with their weekly tasks (the PA stands for personal assistant). The first section is for filling out your mission and goals, marketing plans, and finances. Each month, you get spaces for goals, projects, and a social media content planner for the next 30 or so days. Then there are weekly overviews like the other planners here, broken down by hours with spots for that day’s goals, and weekly notes and expenses.
There are also little illustrations for tracking water intake and minutes of meditation and exercise. At the end of each week, a weekly review section gives you space for achievements or misses, sales, and subscribers, plus a brainstorming space for the following week.
There are a lot of quirky planners, but Ban.do might be my favorite. It’s the cool aunt of the planner world. The art and included stickers are incredible—cowboy boots and opossums? Yes, please. Plus the calendars list important dates like Dolly Parton’s birthday (January 19). The weekly layout has enough room for daily planning, and you’ll get fun extras like note pages and a paper fortune teller template. I like the soft-cover 12-month, which includes to-do lists, goals, and notes next to its weekly layout. There are also undated versions, weekly pages without those extras, and 17-month academic planners.
Former WIRED senior writer Maryn McKenna prefers the Moleskine Pro Weekly Vertical, which is a notebook planner hybrid. The left page has blank lines, and the right is divided into sections for projects, status, and a classic to-do list. Weekly pages break down days by the hour, and blank check box pages let you plan elaborate arrangements of daily and category to-dos. McKenna says she feels like she has accomplished something before she even starts ticking off tasks.
Several members of our team like Blue Sky. Its affordable planners give you space to jot down tasks without cluttering up the page. They’re also a good size—much easier to tote around than some on this list. As with the Happy Planner, you can find different layouts, sizes, and formats to suit you, and there’s a collaboration with Day Designer, another favorite of ours. One thing I like about this collab with One Tree Planted is that the planner is sustainably made and recyclable. The cover is durable and has a nice texture to it, plus there’s no plastic coating (not even on the month tabs!).
Brass Monkey makes fun tchotchkes like games and office goods, and its planners are as snarky as the rest of its lineup. Each week includes dates, so you have to fill in the year and check off which day of the week it is. I like that better than having to fill out everything myself. It offers fun facts like two pop culture birthdays and an “on this day” note, and it keeps you on top of what national day you should be celebrating—like how October 8 is National Pierogi Day. You’ll either like or dislike how compact the pages are, and while the text and lines could stand to be darker, the fun and quirky extras make up for it.
If your schedule is particularly busy and you need to plan each day rather than weeks as a whole, daily planners might be a better fit. They often give each day its own page, organized by hours.
If you need a detailed checklist for each day, get the Day Designer. Each page is divided into a schedule from 5 am to 9 pm to outline meetings or appointments and a to-do list, making it easier to keep track of assignments and other tasks. The top of each day page has a box for planning dinner and keeping track of bills due that day, plus your top three tasks of the day. There’s a notes area at the bottom too.
It’s big—something I prefer in a planner so I never have to cram stuff in the corners—so you might not want to lug it around, but if you can keep it at your desk, you’ll benefit from its organization. Also, it arrives in a nice box, making the entire thing feel like a fancy little ritual.
I tried to switch to daily checklists to keep myself more organized. Ultimately, my brain needed a weekly overview. If I wanted to plan each day though, I’d use the undated Hot Minute Planner. It’s pink and cheeky, with hearts instead of dots for the to-do list, which makes me feel like Cher Horowitz from Clueless. There are spots for your skin-care routine, intentions, workouts, books, music, and weekly goals. Its cover also just speaks to me. Sometimes you just need a minute. Like the Brass Monkey planner, the pink could be a little darker. If the room isn’t bright, you have to squint.
Even second-graders need (or want) to remember things! WIRED senior associate reviews editor Adrienne So wanted something cheap for her kids and didn’t just want a notebook they’d fill with drawings. This Daily Checklist fits the bill. There are included to-dos like brushing teeth and making the bed, with extra lines for items to be written in. There are a few other prompts for them too. It’s sturdy and has held up under aggressively rough treatment in her kids’ backpacks.
Several WIRED staffers recommend the Hobonichi Techo (Japanese for “planner”). Senior associate reviews editor Adrienne So says it’s the perfect size—small enough to fit in a bag and hold information but also able to lie flat on a desk. There is a monthly overview and then a page for each day, along with a quote that manages to be thought-provoking without being too trite. The cover is a distinctive black, stamped with gold foil. The paper perfectly absorbs ink from her Baron Fig Squire fountain pen and doesn’t bleed through. It comes with a wide variety of cute accessories.
Papier has incredible cover design options to match nearly any style or mood. For layouts, I like the undated Daily Productivity planner best. Each week has a box per day, lines for notes, areas for three priorities, a long to-do list, and a habit tracker. Plus, there’s a meal planner and shopping list for every week. There are also a few pages dedicated to outlining each day’s schedule. I didn’t need these pages as much during my usual week, but people with rotating weekly schedules might appreciate it.
I don’t like the layout of Papier’s yearly planners which feature all the month calendars first, then an overview for each month with goals and to-do lists, and then the weeks. This kind of scramble doesn’t work for my brain. But Papier is the only brand I found that lets you scroll through every single page before you buy. I’m so specific about what I like and need, this should be standard.
Not everyone needs or wants a rigid planner. If you just need daily to-do lists or are a fan of bullet journals, consider getting a great notebook instead.
“Planners should transform according to the shape of your life,” WIRED senior web producer Pia Ceres says. For her, that means using a dotted notebook. This single notebook can be used for class schedules, daily planners, to-do lists, and angsty diaries. She says dots are the perfect medium between the limitations of lines and the void of blank paper. It’s just structured enough to let you draw the calendars and lists you need—then remake them when life, inevitably, upends itself again. Muji’s notebook has a durable cover to withstand book bags and coffee spills. If you have a Muji store near you, you may be able to find one for cheaper.
WIRED reviewer Jaina Grey opts for a plain lined notebook. After trying dozens, her favorite is the Midori MD Notebook with paper made from cotton pulp (just like money!). Grey says there’s just something meditative about turning over a blank page at the beginning of each week and carefully jotting down her schedule, plans, and workload. No missed days to make you feel guilty. Midori’s notebooks are designed to fit inside notebook or journal covers (which you can find all over Etsy). The pages are a subtle off-white and have a weight and texture that draws you in. The soft cotton paper makes drawing, sketching, and plain old writing an absolute joy.
Miquelrius notebooks are my all-time favorite. The paper feels like velvet. I want to make bedsheets out of it and sleep between them all day. Writing on it is smooth and satisfying. These notebooks are also divided using different color strips down the edge if you want to break up each color by use (be it classes, projects, or kid schedules). They used to be available in stores like Target in tons of different sizes, but it’s become harder to find. However, Miquelriusshop.com is usually reliable (Miquelrius.com, on the other hand, doesn’t have anything for sale). Amazon typically has a few options too, though sometimes only available through third-party sellers at a higher price. If you can find them, they’re the best I’ve ever used.
- Laurel Denise Horizontal Weekly Edition for $59: I’ve never seen a planner designed like this. It’s wider than a traditional planner, and the left side is for laying out the month—it’s undated—while the right has a spot for the month’s to-dos and a dotted area for whatever else. In the middle are five half-pages for organizing each specific week. You turn the week page and still get to see everything else you already wrote for the month.
- Blue Sky Monthly Planner for $13: This is the only monthly planner we tried, though many of our favorite brands have monthly versions. They work for folks who want a broad overview of tracking tasks or appointments. Blue Sky’s planners are affordable and unburdened by extra junk—we recommend a weekly version above. Each day of the month has a few lines for jotting down multiple bullet points, and there’s a notes section for anything that would require more writing room. The yearly overview lets you track from an eagle-eyed perspective.
- Levenger Circa smartPlanner Weekly Agenda for $41: This is another solid weekly planner with little frills. If you just need lines and days, this is your match. The brand also sells a leather folio for the planner, which looks very professional but it’s pricey.
WIRED senior writer and reviewer Scott Gilbertson says he doesn’t use a planner, but each day he writes down the handful of things he’s going to do on a single 3-by-5 index card. The index card with this to-do list lives in his pocket, along with a small notebook in which he jots down notes throughout the day—often the source of the following day’s to-do list. The notebook and index cards fit inside this very cool waxed canvas notebook cover. Gilbertson says he copied this system from one of the most successful people he has known, and after nearly 20 years, it’s still better for him than any other system he’s tried. It’s cheap, lightweight, and easy to manage.
If You Can’t Give Up Digital
If you’re reading this guide, you probably are a pen-and-paper person, but sometimes going digital is more convenient. A good digital planner can complement your analog one instead of replacing it. Notion is a multipurpose productivity tool with tons of powerful and customizable features. WIRED reviewer Louryn Strampe uses it as an endless to-do list, with tasks separated into categories like Work and Long-Term Goals, but it can be used as a team database, a budget spreadsheet, a habit tracker, and more. There are tons of templates to choose from, including planners that range from monthly at-a-glance views to granular hour-by-hour days. It even syncs across devices. The best part? It’s free.
Maybe all you need is paper and a good pen and you’re good to go. But we like to get creative. Stickers are a popular accessory, and they’re a delightful slippery slope. Once you make your first “spread” (a collection of themed stickers on a planner page, similar to a scrapbook), you will never go back. Etsy is the central hub of planner stickers. You can order printed stickers or buy digital files and print and cut them yourself. You can also opt for a full kit (an entire spread’s worth of stickers) or just the individual components you like the most.