The Best Planners for Beginners (Updated for 2021)

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Are you obsessed with planning yet?

If you consider yourself a beginner planner or are just starting to get interested in planning, this post is for you. If you are thinking about purchasing a paper planner or a new type of planner, this post is also for you.

Fancy planners are a thing now.

There are so many choices it can make your head spin . . . so I thought I’d share the results of my many hours of research to maybe help you cut down some on your own research time and find your next planner sooner.

I was really never a planner person. Every few years, I’d spend my hard-earned cash on a cute planner I found at Target or a Tony Robbins spendy leather-bound planner system but I would never really use them.

Then on Black Friday 2017 that all changed. I purchased the first planner I was every truly excited about – – – The Happy Planner.

The Happy Planner is my top pick, for sure. But I decided to share some of my other planner picks in this blog post as well because to each her own. You’ll find mini-reviews for four other planners below The Happy Planner review.

NOTE: I still rely heavily on digital. I could not live with Google Calendar, OneNote 2016 and a little bit of Trello, but there’s nothing like taking pen to paper, right?

May Planner Spread
Happy Planner Spread

After narrowing down my search to about five planners, I chose The Happy Planner (HP) . . . and I’ve never looked back. 

I consider myself a combination functional planner (traditional planning) and creative planner (stickers, markers and washi tape included) – – –  as you can see in the image of my before-the-pen my spread above.

I created that spread in one of my favorite Happy Planners, which is the Beautiful Life / Life is a Party planner. It’ a Classic size Happy Planner, which is a medium size, 7” x 9.75. Happy Planners are also available in three other sizes: Big size, 8.5″x11″ and a little mini size, 5.125” x 7.5 and skinny mini, 2.643″ x 7″.

The paper is about a 28 lb. weight, which is a bit thicker stock and it takes to the pen and markers well, with little to no bleeding. Happy Planner makes planners in a good variety of design styles: cute, colorful or neutral, whimsical, pretty, themed, professional …. there’s a style for everyone. 

The Secret to The Happy Planner is:
Customization

Ask any Happy Planner fan what makes The Happy Planner special and they’ll likely tell you its the ability to easily create a planner that’s perfect for YOU.

It’s customizable. I mean really customizable.

Most Happy Planners are designed with a theme and come with dated monthly and weekly pages and some other extra pages such as note pages, dashboards and monthly reflection or planning pages.

You’ll also find student planners, teacher planners, homebody planners, crafter’s planners, mom planners, fitness planners, budget planners … it’s practically endless. Horizonal layouts? Yes. Vertical layouts. Yes.

Accessories? Galore!


You can purchase tons of cute accessories: stickers, stencils and stamps, pouches, white boards, metallic planner crossbodies, I mean it’s a lot … and it’s addicting in a heart-melting way.

However, what’s most exciting is you can personalize your planner by adding any type of planner page you dream up to your Happy Planner with just a punch.

You can search for free planner pages, buy pre-made planner planners and/or planner pages or make your own and just punch and insert – – – and that’s it.

The same goes for covers. So now you have pretty much your own 100 percent customizable planner without purchasing the spendy upgrade options of some other planners.

You can also punch any paper such as a flyer, school event notice, meeting handout, card, note, grocery list, someone’s scribbled phone number, whatever and just pop it into your planner where ever you want.

How is this accomplished?

DISC LOVE, baby!
Happy Planner pages are bound with cute discs with a decorated heart in the middle – and that’s the secret tool that gives these planners the customize option.

Price: A Big/Classic Happy Planner is about $39.99 now, without coupons, sale or clearance price but I don’t think I’ve ever paid full price for a Happy Planner.

I posted below two more beautiful examples of Happy Planner planners so you can get an idea of the different types of designs.

These both happen to be teacher planners but as I mentioned, HP’s are all customizable, so it would be easy to transform this type of planner into a regular planner if you so desired.

Most of the time, if you love a cover, you might want to grab the planner before poof!, it’s gone.

Ok, Erin Condren (EC) planners are beautiful. IMO, they are very similar to The Happy Planner planners but a bit more minimilistic and also a bit more pricey. The EC life planner size is close to Happy Planner Classic size, 7″x9″ as compared to 7″ x 9.25″ for Happy Planner.

Both planners comes in 12-month and 18-month versions.

Stickers come with EC planners, which is a good thing.

The Happy Planner planners are disc-bound, of course. EC is coiled.

EC planners also come in a variety of sizes, including 5″x8″, 7″x9″, 8″x10″ and 8.5″x11″ and A5 are two new sizes being added this year.

Paper quality: I love Happy Planner paper. It’s high quality, thick and it’s easy to write on. In all of the reviews I read/watched, the reviewers agreed that both companies feature high-quality paper but that Erin Condren’s was maybe a little lighter and their pens glided on the paper more but there was more of a tendency for the ink to bleed.

Again, I love Happy Planner paper. It’s got the perfect amount of glide for me. And my pens never bleed.

If you make your own planner pages, most recommend using 28# to 32# weight paper.

There are countless YouTube comparison reviews and “Why I Switched” videos from either side, if you’re interested in learning more.

Price: starts at $59

You can choose upgrade options such as a different kind of cover or binding or layout, some of which are an additional cost. To give you some idea:

The Life Planner that I looked at also offered
– three start date options, which included two 12-month and one 18-month, four interior design options.

–  a choice of three weekly options: horizontal, vertical or hourly and you can choose a color version or a neutral version or more.

– four coil colors to choose from: platinum, gold, rose gold, or
black ($10 to upgrade).

– Interchangeable covers & fits snap-in accessories ($8 to $13 per cover and accessories listed/priced separately)

You can see EC cost more than The Happy Planner, especially if you enjoy any of the upgrades.

All in all, they are both amazing, high-quality planners. 

You can get a $10 coupon by signing up to their email list.

Bloom Daily Planners recently caught my eye and if I were going to think about purchasing a coiled planner, I would definitely consider this fresh brand. 

This bright and colorful “Choose Joy” planner comes with premium features such as 188+ full color pages printed on 100gsm bright white paper. 

Packed into this book is a monthly and weekly undated calendar planner, notebook, sketch book, grid pages and coloring book to name a few pages.

I love this brand and will keep checking out their offerings.

Price: $29.95

This simple but stunning student planner in marble with stickers is everything, isn’t it? Enough said.

Price: $13.95

The Full Focus Executive Planner – Michael Hyatt 

A Popular Daily Planner to Set Annual Goals, Increase Focus, Eliminate Overwhelm, and Achieve Your Biggest Goals – Hardcover

Several successful bloggers swear by Michael Hyatt’s The Full Focus Planner, which is broken into 90-day segments. Designed to wipe out overwhelm and boost productivity,  this book basically takes you step by step through the process of establishing your plan for the year and helps you clearly break down your goal-setting tasks and actions into daily, weekly and monthly plans, all the while reinforcing your commitment to live by your highest principles.

Price: $52.99

This planner correlates with Michael Hyatt’s popular courses and/or books, for example: 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever® and Free to Focus®. While I like what I’ve read about his programs very much, I think the planner is a little too boring for me to look at (love the philosophy, though.) If you are not someone like me who loves creativity and still counts her lucky stars for every day of freedom from corporate, this might be your cup of tea. I might even give it a try at a later time. 

I do have on my reading list Michael Hyatt’s book, “Your Best Year Ever: A 5-Step Plan for Achieving Your Most Important Goals .” I love one of the sub-headings in this book: The Art of the Start. If you want to get a taste of Michael’s goal-setting system, check this book out.

 Your Best Year Ever by Michael Hyatt

To Wrap Up ...

So those are my top picks for planner beginners. They offer beautiful and clean designs, quality materials and best of all, they do some of the work to get you organized and work toward your desired future.

Whatever you’re looking for: keeping track of all your appointments and deadlines, structure for goal-setting, tracking tasks or progress, creating a vision for good things to come, getting your academic schedule and activities laid out or organizing your business or family, a good planner can help you start and end the day in a more peaceful, happy state.

There’s a planner for everyone.

Add some stickers, washi tape and your favorite pens and you’re on your creative way to your best life ever.

p.s. If you need some ideas on how to use a planner to crush your goals, check out my sweet freebie planning guide: 5 Ways to a Planner Crush Your Goals.

 

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