Best Planners for Small Business Owners: 2018 Edition
Ah, it’s my favorite time of year again – Planner Season. I know it's not a real thing, but I made it one. As someone who has used planners for what feels like forever, I never thought planners would be trendy! But, it's definitely a trend I can get behind – I want to see more people writing down their goals and going after what they want. And, since the rise is the popularity of newfangled planners over the last few years, I’ve dubbed this time – August (!!) through December – Planner Season!
This post is one of my favorites to write, precisely because I am such a planner nerd. But enough back story – you came for the planners! In this year’s edition there are a few returning favorites as well as some new (or new to me) planners that break into the list.
Note: Some links are affiliate links. Others are not. Aside from two planners provided for the purpose of review, I’ve purchased the rest and I highly recommend them all. There are dozens of planners on the market, but I think these are the best bets for business owners in 2018.
These reviews are my honest detailed take. For the TL;DR (or watch) version, skip down to the end!
The Next 12 Months: Weekly, Monthly and Quarterly Planners
These planners, designed by yours truly, were created with business owners in mind. I launched the Weekly Planner in 2015 when I realized I needed one place to track my goals, marketing, opportunities and growth. In 2016, I was working on keeping better tabs on my finances. Even though I have tools that help me track my money, there’s something about writing down what I’ve made and what I’ve spent that makes me stop and think about how I’m using my money and how I can make the most of it. The undated Weekly Planner is still available as a digital download, paperback and spiral/wire bound book.
Halfway through this year, because of all the internal projects I’m working on, I turned this into a dedicated marketing and growth tracking planner. It’s become my little marketing/campaign bible. I love it because after swimming in my client’s projects and plans, I open my book and zoom right in on what I need to focus on for my projects.
New for 2017! A custom request turned into a new offering. Someone in my community requested a planner where she could zero in on monthly goals and have lots of space for notes. Makes sense if you do most of your planning in an online calendar. The Next 12 Months: Monthly Planner is a simplified version of the Weekly. Inside, you’ll find monthly planning, review and stats pages, the financial trackers, and tons of note pages. Available as a digital download, paperback and spiral/coil.
I’m super excited about the all new Quarterly planner. Currently available in digital download and paperback, this full-color 90 day planner was designed to help you make the most of each day. I often talk about how I wake up and plan every day – a habit I started back in 2011. The fact that it took me this long to produce this daily version is definitely a face palm. But it's here now and I’m loving it! Track your day, log your tasks, keep your focus in sight. There are also monthly planning pages and goal setting and review pages for your 90 day goals. This is my new favorite.
Desire Map Planner by Danielle LaPorte
Danielle’s planner is back on my list for the third year in a row – mainly because it hasn’t changed much. The paper has changed (it used to be a smooth, slick paper, and its now on the more traditional side). The quality is still top notch, the design is beautiful – I love the colorful tabs, perforated corners and inspirational messages.
This planner, while not designed specifically for business owners, is great for anyone who wants their goals served up with a little soul. This planner helps you hone in on your ideas and intentions, what you’re grateful for, and how you want to feel. In terms of cover style, there’s Charcoal (always my choice) and the Signature designs. Then, you can choose from a weekly version or daily version. The weekly is a little thinner and the measurements are a little smaller as well. I would recommend the weekly for people who live in their online calendar, but want a place to write down weekly plans and milestones and use the “feel good” parts of the planner to tap into their deeper goals, dreams and desires.
People in some of my planner groups (yes, we have groups…) have buzzed about Inkwell Press, so I had to pick up a planner and see what the fuss was about myself. Inkwell planners come with a variety of cover designs and sizes. The flagship planner, which is available on their website and at Office Depot, reminded me of the Day Designer in terms of size and weight. It's a little bulky for me to take on the go every day, but if you mostly work in one place, it's not a big deal. The design, inside and out, is beautiful. I like that the months are tabbed. There are many opportunities to lay out your life goals in writing. There are places to track your daily habits and create monthly “mission maps.” There’s a fun Extras section with things like a bill tracker and travel planners.
Ultimately, I passed on this one because the weekly spread wasn’t my favorite – probably my least favorite out this list. And for its size, I’d expect more space for my daily plans. It’s too bulky as a weekly planner. BUT if you like the layout – or one of the other layouts they offer, you too may buzz about Inkwell. I can see why people love it – it looks great and is definitely well made.
The daily Panda Planner I purchased is a hardback book style undated planner. If you use it consistently every day, you’ll get about three months use out of it. The planner has three sets of planning pages – monthly, weekly and daily. The monthly spread note space is a little small for my taste, but most of my note taking doesn’t happen there, so it isn't a dealbreaker. The weekly planning pages give you the opportunity to review the previous week, set priorities for the week ahead and take notes on the projects you’ll be focused on.
The daily spread is across two pages. If you’re a quick and dirty planner, this could amount to wasted space. If you enjoy spending time planning intentionally each day, the two page spread is probably right up your alley. I’m somewhere in between. I plan my day in 30 seconds or less (because I keep an online calendar), but sometimes I like to devote a little more time to thinking about what I want to create for the day ahead.
Similar to the Panda Planner, the Cossac Planner is a hardback book style undated planner. Where the Panda Planner as white paper, the Cossac has a cream colored paper, that’s slightly thinner. If you use it regularly, you can get about six months of use. This planner also has monthly, weekly and daily planning pages in their own sections. Each set of planning pages is fairly straight forward without extra sections you might in the Desire Map or Panda Planner.
There are a couple of handy pockets for keeping notes or receipts and two ribbons to help you mark your place in the book (not sure why there aren’t three, but ribbons are not a make or break feature for me.).
Do it All Planner
I am IN LOVE with this little gem. I’ve seen them for years on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble. The Do it All Planners are bold, affordable and portable. The least expensive on the list (aside from The Next 12 Months in digital or paperback), this is a great option for those who are looking for something cost effective.
This weekly planner features a front pocket (I’m not sure what you’d keep in there that wouldn’t fall out) and inside back pocket. There are monthly calendar pages for 2018 – too small to do any major planning, but definitely enough room to jot down birthdays, doctor’s appointments, etc. The weekly pages are probably intended to track different people in your household (these planners are mostly targeted to moms…) but I use them to track internal projects as well as deliverables for each of my retainer clients. Great for plotting out what needs to be worked on each day.
This planner has lots of cool features – just not enough of them. As I mentioned, the monthly calendar is a little small for any real planning. So is the weekly planning space – depending on how busy you are and how big you write. There’s a checklist for 2018 – but it’s really just a brain dump check list without any organization. There are a few sheets of stickers for things like doctor’s appointments and holidays. There are a couple of note pages in the back – literally, about 3 lined pages and 3 dot grid pages. I was presently surprised at all the little features they tucked inside. Like the weekly Desire Map planner, I’d say this is best suited for someone who puts most of their stuff in an online calendar, but likes paper as a back up.
I was pleased enough with the quality, portability and price and definitely thought this deserved a spot on this year’s list.
So, which one is for you?
For affordability and portability: The Do-it All Planner
For goals with soul, infused with intentions: Desire Map Planner
If you want to keep track of your marketing and business stats along with your plans and goals: The Next 12 Months
Honorable mentions for a few other planners worth checking out
- Day Designer – These planners come in a variety of styles and sizes – the interior pages, cover styles, sizes and formats vary, so your best bet is to visit their site and see which one may be what you’re looking for.
- Productivity Planner – This planner is essentially just a task manager. If you need more from your planner, this is probably not the one for you. If all you want to do is drill in on and prioritize your tasks, check it out.