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The 8 Best Physical Planners for Peak Productivity in 2020

by: John Coburn
The 8 Best Physical Planners for Peak Productivity in 2020

Image by Becca Clark from Pixabay

With 2020 upon us, there’s no better time than the present to invest in productivity practices that’ll set you up for success throughout the rest of the year. One of the best tools at your disposal? The physical planner.

Die-hard digital enthusiasts may cringe at the thought of old fashioned printed products, but today’s planners have grown leaps and bounds beyond their predecessors. Popular planners now include goal setting frameworks, bullet journal layouts, and more to suit different preferences and working styles.

Ready to start the hunt for your perfect planner? Here are eight to consider for peak productivity in 2020:

Moleskine Weekly Planner

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Moleskine notebook fans will find adopting the system’s weekly planner series to be an easy transition. While all editions in the line boast Moleskine’s renowned quality, individual users are able to choose:

When ordered directly from Moleskin, planner covers can be customized with an icon (out of 33 choices) and two lines of text (maximum of 12 characters each). The planners are dated, and one of users’ favorite features is a layout that places appointment scheduling opposite a blank page, which is handy for note taking or expanding on ideas.

Prices start at $8.98, making this an affordable option for maximizing productivity.

Ink+Volt 2020 Planner

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According to the Ink+Volt website, “the Ink+Volt Planner is the brainchild of Kate Matsudaira, a technology executive and startup founder who has been on the quest to create the perfect planning tool with sophistication and style in mind.”

Matsudaira’s planner – delivered in Signature Series, Brilliant Series, Pacific Series, and Limited Edition Series variations – incorporates weekly vertical planning pages with yearly, monthly, and weekly goal prompts intended to keep users on track.

The specs:

  • Size: 6 x 8.5 inches
  • Includes two ribbon bookmarks for quick reference
  • Dated, beginning in January 2020 (though undated and school year versions are available as well)
  • Cost: Starts at $42

Not sure Ink + Volt is the right fit for you? Matsudaira has kindly made the planner’s internal pages available to view online. Review the various page layouts before you buy to determine whether or not this planner suits your working style.  

Passion Planner

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The Passion Planner isn’t the most corporate-friendly planner on our list in terms of appearance, but those seeking to add an element of emotional development to their 2020 project and task planning initiatives will appreciate this book’s added features.

Specifically, the Passion Planner includes:

  • A “Passion Roadmap” exercise for identifying short- and long-term goals
  • Motivational quotes and challenges
  • Gratitude exercises intended to help cultivate a positive outlook

Dated versions of the Passion Planner come with blush, black, forest green, or yellow covers and are offered in three sizes (check out the site’s “Handwriting Test” intended to simulate what working within each size feels like). Notably, the planner also offers both Sunday and Monday start dates, starting at $30 for the basic black version.

Planner Pads

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If you need a planner that’ll help do the heavy lifting of getting you organized, check out the dated, spiral bound notebooks offered by Planner Pads. From the outside, Planner Pads may look like every other planner occupying the shelves at your local Staples store. But on the inside, you’ll immediately see the difference in the form of Planner Pads’ funnel system.

Planner Pads planners are divided horizontally into three sections: 

  • One that helps you capture all of the pending projects on your plate
  • One that enables you to prioritize all of the to-dos you inventoried
  • One where you put your prioritized tasks into your schedule

Planner Pads range in size from the 5.75 x 8.5 inch “compact” edition to the 8.5 x 11 inch “executive” size. Prices start around $31.49, and – although each planner encompasses 12 months of worksheets – you’ll have the choice of a start date in January, April, July, or October.

Full Focus Planner

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Another planner incorporating goal setting features is Michael Hyatt’s popular Full Focus Planner. Like Ink+Volt, the Full Focus Planner offers visibility into its interior layouts on its website, so that you can determine whether or not it’ll work for your workflow before buying.

Full Focus Planners are available in three series: Classic, Executive, and Bold. The major difference between each series are the color palettes and finishing details; all planners share the following core specs:

  • Size: 6.25 x 9.25 inches
  • Annual goal templates and daily productivity tools
  • Lay flat binding

What’s notable about the Full Focus Planner is that it’s built on a “90-day productivity cycle.” So although individual planners retail between $39.99-$49.99 each, you’ll need to purchase four for the entire year (subscription packages are available offering discounted rates for buying all four upfront).

Best Self Planner

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The final “combination planner and goal setting system” on our list is the Best Self Journal, which boasts a proprietary “benchmark tool that helps you own your success in each area of your life.” Whether the planner can truly deliver on its promise of helping users “achieve work-life harmony,” it’s a well-crafted planner that integrates productivity planning tools without overpowering the calendar features physical planner aficionados expect.

The planner is 7 x 10 inches in size, and it includes:

  • The “BestSelf Benchmark”
  • A 6-month bucket list
  • Quarterly reflection tools
  • Monthly habit trackers
  • Weekly time-blocking calendars
  • 6 “Project Plan” sheets

Like the Full Focus Planner, you’re going to need more than one Best Self Planner to make it through the year. The system currently offers 6-month undated versions only, which retail for $19.99 each ($17.99 if you sign up for a subscription).

AT-A-GLANCE Plan. Write. Remember. Planning Notebook

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Past AT-A-GLANCE planners were extremely functional – but they certainly weren’t taking home any style awards. The company’s “Plan. Write. Remember.” series changes this legacy with cover designs that are stylish, but still professional enough for corporate boardrooms and beyond.

The 8.5 x 11 inch, dated, spiral-bound version offers daily planning spaces with designated “Hot Spots” for highlighting your highest priority tasks. The addition of a handful of planning pages and special reference sections offers enhanced functionality while still keeping the focus on daily task and schedule planning.

“Plan. Write. Remember.” series notebooks can be found at Office Max, with prices ranging from $15.59 to $31.29 (as of this writing) for different sizes and color palettes.

Leuchtturm Bullet Journal

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A growing number of professionals are turning to the practice of bullet journaling to manage their to-do lists. Though the free-form practice won’t appeal to those who prefer the structure of traditional day planners, the flexibility inherent in bullet journaling can easily accommodate those who intend to integrate their business and personal planning into a single system.

One surprising group of bullet journal devotees? Project managers. In an article on BulletJournal.com, advertising agency exec Todd Foutz shared the results of a survey he conducted of 205 PMs on their bullet journal usage. Specifically, he found that:

“85% of PMs are using their Bullet Journal all the time or sometimes specifically for project management activities at work. And, further, 77% of PMs state that using a Bullet Journal on the job makes their work significantly easier or easier.”

If you’re going to go the bullet journaling route – whether you’re a project manager or not – the name you’ll want to know is Leuchtturm. Sold on the company’s website and on Amazon, Leuchtturm bullet journals have some of the highest paper quality out there, are available in various sizes, and start at just $9.95 for “mini” versions.

Need more convincing? Popular author Neil Gaiman is a fan.

What You Can Do Right Now

The rapid growth of modern technology means that no matter how you want to schedule your work or plan your tasks, there’s an app for that. 

However, a growing number of professionals are recognizing the advantages that come from combining digital project planning environments with physical planners that keep your highest priority tasks top of mind. You could, for instance, use a tool like Taskworld to break down complex projects across teams, and then transition your top to-dos to your paper planner.

Here’s how to choose the right planner to augment your digital systems:

  • Decide whether or not you’ll benefit from a paper planner that incorporates goal setting features.
  • Decide on horizontal vs vertical planning, as well as daily vs weekly or monthly layouts.
  • Establish the price point you’re comfortable with and the aesthetic you prefer.

Regardless of how exactly you move forward, pairing print and digital planning gives you all the benefits of flexible, intuitive online project management, along with the thrill of crossing completed items off your physical to-do list. That’s a winning combination.

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