I don't believe in one-size-fits-all solutions – and planners are no exception. If you're going to invest in a planner (and they are investments these days!) you'll want to pick one that gives you everything you need – or as close to it as possible. There are many planners on the market that you can choose from. Here, you'll find my picks for the best planners I've found for business owners and freelancers and what I think makes them stand out. I own a couple of the planners below (and created one of them), so I've also included my notes about what worked for me.
I go into detail, because the details matter to planner geeks like me – but you can also hop straight to the bottom for a tl;dr summary.
The Best Planners for Small Business Owners
The Next 12 Months: Weekly Planner
This is my planner – you can buy it right here on my website. This brand new planner is great for solopreneurs, small business owners and bloggers – particularly those who do their own marketing. It has space for everything you need to get down to business – and no fluff. It helps you focus on your priorities and outreach.
The planner is undated so you can pick it up any time and start using it. There's space for monthly and weekly planning. You can also track your marketing efforts and log your stats – this will give you fantastic insights into what's working, not working and how you've grown. There's a marketing tracker for each week and stats tracking at the end of each month.There are lined pages at the back that you can use for notes, blog post ideas, keeping track of prospects or whatever else you want to log.
I use a Google calendar for all my appointments, since it syncs with my devices, but I use this planner for notes, to-do's and that human element that GCal just doesn't give me.
The planner is available in done-for-you printed version. If you want it NOW, prefer to print it yourself, or want to customize it to suit your needs, you can purchase the PDF version instead.
Have you ever had a Danielle LaPorte product? The quality is top notch. Her book covers are lovely. Her Truthbomb cards feel so good in your hands. I love giving them out to clients and at events. Danielle's previous planner looked and felt good, but wouldn't have made this particular “for business owners” list before. Her new line of planners is absolutely lovely and I've been excited about them since I got a sneak peek of the new design a few months ago.
The new planners are spiral-bound, which makes them much more friendly for every day use. The covers are gorgeous – choose from the Signature gray (my choice) or the very pretty Limited Edition. On the inside, you have your choice of a daily or weekly layout and there's space for your schedule and priorities. What makes this planner stand out is the space DLP has made for journal-like features. There's space to write about your core desired feelings, intentions, gratitude and more.
At 352 pages, the daily planner is surprising slim. The Day Designer below is much heftier. Without question this line is the most beautiful of all the planners on this list and it can be pretty awesome to look back at your good memories of the year that's passed.
Oh – and I love the tear off corners so you can keep track of what page you're on! This planner is dated and runs January 2016 – December 2016, so order up if you want it for the new year! Danielle's website also has more pics and details.
Day Designer by Whitney English
I used this fabulous planner from August of 2014 until August 2015 (that's when it ended and I was motivated to design my own planner). I'd heard a little bit of buzz about Day Designer on Facebook and found out about the planner in time to get the edition that started in August.
What worked for me – the daily view. If you like to break your days down into details, or like to plan hour by hour, you'll appreciate this view. On the same page, across from the daily view is a to-do list. This is where I kept track of all the emergent tasks of the day. Up top, you'll find spots to list your three priorities of the day along with other things (that I didn't use) like money tracking, dinner plans, etc. There are also monthly calendars so you can do a little long term planning too.
What didn't work for me? The size. Fortunately, I work at home, so the planner stayed put most of the time. But when I did travel or co-work outside my home, I had to carry a bigger bag than usual just to keep the planner close at hand (especially if my laptop was coming along too). Some people remove chunks of pages to make the book smaller. Fearing I wouldn't be able to put it back together, I chose not to do that. There's now a mini version of the planner, so that may suit your needs if you like the design, but want something smaller.
Note: In 2015, Day Designer collaborated with Blue Sky to create a line of planners that's available at Target. I bought all the available sizes to check them out and promptly returned them all. To me, there was nothing setting them apart from any generic planner you'd find at a big box retailer. BUT, if you like the DD design aesthetic and want something less expensive and more portable, it might be an option for you.
This little book is definitely caused a sensation when it launched. Like many people, I first heard about the Passion Planner because of their wildly popular Kickstarter campaign. I enjoyed the founder's story and though I already had my Day Designer, I was open to something new (and more portable!) and supporting a young female entrepreneur, so I supported the campaign.
What worked for me? Little, as it turns out. What I ended up loving most was the way this planner feels. It seems like great quality. And it is definitely portable. The book-style binding concerned me, but I didn't have the planner long enough to see how it held up.
What didn't work? The size of the planner pages. The spaces for scheduling were too small for me and I needed more space for to-do's. Unfortunately, as soon as it arrived, I knew it wasn't for me.
Though this planner isn't my cup of tea, I think its a great planner that clearly had a lot of thought put into it. Like the Day Designer, up front, you'll find some pages that help you plan your goals. There also plain and grid paper pages for notes.
This planner felt great in my hands – the cover was so soft! I hated giving it up, but knew it would be happier in someone else's hands. I have friends who swear by this planner, so if size isn't a huge issue for you, check it out. The new covers for 2016 look gorgeous!
Note: I got my 2015 planner late after supporting the Kickstarter campaign. They've run the campaign again for the 2016, but have had so much success in the previous years, hopefully they've ironed out most production issues and can get planners out promptly this time around!
Essential Daily Planner
This planner hit the market for 2015 and is back for round two in 2016. The Essential Daily Planner was crafted by Charlie Gilkey of Productive Flourishing. I've been a fan of Charlie's for years and I remember way back in 2009 when I first noticed his PDF planning sheets. I reached out to him, we chatted by phone and I've used his planners pretty regularly since then. Charlie offers these great PDFs each month (or you can buy the entire year at once at a great price). He offers a few daily and weekly views along with project planners, productivity heat maps and blog post planners.
Being more familiar with Charlie's work than anyone else on this list, even though I haven't gotten my hands on his planner, I know it rocks, based on his similar work that I have purchased. He's got it set up to focus on the essentials without any fluff and the planner comes in a portable 5 x 8 size. I had to let him know that I was bummed this came out the day after I put my DIY planner together last year! Here are some shots from 2015:
In this planner, you'll find an annual view, quarterly, monthly and weekly views and a mini version of his project planner. Definitely one to consider if you're really focused on your objectives for the year and like a week view when you're planning. Check out his website for more shots and a video.
The Spark Notebook and Planner
Like Passion Planner before it, The Spark Notebook was also born on Kickstarter. This planner is definitely designed for the goal getters among us.
I have NOT had my hands on a physical copy of this planner, but the digital sample I was sent for review features a simple clean design. There's space for monthly and weekly planning and, like the Essential Daily Planner, has project planning pages as well.
One drawback I see is the book-style design. But I can't speak to how it holds up throughout the year, since I only have the PDF. This style does look great though – I love the clean design.
The Notebook version features weekly journaling prompts and, to keep it a reasonable size, is designed for six months of use. Whether that's a pro or con is up to you. The Planner features 52 weeks of dated planning pages, but stays similar in size to the Notebook by trimming the journaling and note pages. Having the choice is a great option, especially if you like The Spark Planner design!
If you want portable and project focused, Charlie's planner might be your cup of tea. It will travel well no matter what you're carrying.
If you have a planner case/binder you like and want to find business friendly inserts you can use with it, my planner or Passion Planner‘s PDF may be what you need.
If you want to track your marketing and growth in one place, give my planner another look. You can also just purchase the marketing tracker on its own and use with your existing planner or marketing routine.
If you're getting your planner after January 1 (or use your planner sporadically), my undated planner could be just the ticket. Or, you'll have your Spark Notebook in time for spring.
In the end, if you can't find a planner that works for you, you can always make one! In the past, I actually used to print out Charlie Gilkey's planner pages and make my own little book. I've also raided the aisles at Staples and “planner hacked” my way to something that worked for a while. Considering your own hack? Check out my DIY planner post.