Welcome to the 3rd annual (who knew this would be a thing?!?) edition of my Best Planners for Small Business Owners round up. You wanted it, you got it!
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. The Next 12 Months: Weekly Planner is great for solopreneurs, small business owners and bloggers – particularly for 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. New for the latest version: income and expense tracking pages!
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 a 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. It made its debut on my 2016 list because this new line of planners is absolutely lovely.
Desire Map Planners are spiral-bound, which makes them 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 380 pages, the daily planner is surprising slim. The classic 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 2017 – December 2017, 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 worked 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 a few years ago. 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.
Epic Blog Planner
If you do most of you planning online or keeping up with content creation is a challenge for you, take a look at the Epic Blog Planner. Someone I know and trust recommended it, so I grabbed myself a copy back in 2015. If you're working to create a consistent content plan for your website, this handy planner helps you create a “mini blog business plan.” If you've never had a blog or just want to step up your efforts, the helpful features inside – like the ideal reader survey and monthly theme planner – are super helpful. And, the price is great. Grab one for you and gift one to someone you love. I have!
And the winner is…?
Like I said, the best system is the one that works for YOU.
If portability rules all, check out what Passion Planner has to offer. You may also like the weekly version of the Desire Map Planner, or the paperback or PDF version of my planner.
If you have a planner case/binder you like and want to find business friendly inserts you can use with it, my planner as a downloadable 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. And Epic Blog is ready whenever you are.
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 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.