For creatives and changemakers, our biggest gifts can be our biggest weaknesses. We see all the opportunities, all the ways to stand up for something, all of the times we want to share profound and impactful art, tell stories, and use our time to both share our passions and grow our souls. And those delightful impulses can become a little unwieldy if you're not organized in the way you're expressing them.
When you're a creative or a changemaker, you tend to see the world a little differently than most people...which means that you need a different way of moving through your days than most people.
For people with big dreams and big visions, a simple, systemized approach to taking daily, aligned actions toward your goals is golden. Which is why my business, household, and creative pursuits live and die by my catch all, dog-eared notebook and planner.
I loved using planners in school to keep track of deadlines and projects, but I had a lot of resistance to using a planner in my work and soul pursuits. Then I learned that it's possible to be organized and on top of things without stuffing your creativity in a box. The point of a good planner isn't to constrict your dreams into tight spaces, line items, appointments, and to-do lists. The point of a planner is to keep your vision at the forefront and take small, aligned actions toward that vision each day.
Plus, it's a sanity saver when you want to do ALL THE THINGS. I call my planner my "command center" because I know its the one place I can keep all the info. And if it's in my planner, it doesn't have to be in my brain, which means I can both focus on the things that matter and turn my brain off at the end of my day.
If you have creative aspirations or world-changing dreams to bring to life this year, picking the right planner for your year is the perfect place to start. I tested a whopping 18 planners to find my right fit. Here are a few of my faves.
The Live Well Planner by Inkwell Press
Lovable Features: This is the planner that I have personally used, daily, throughout the past few years, and it's excellent at providing a snapshot view of both your day-to-day and your overall vision. I love the monthly "mission boards" where you can set goals and the daily trackers where you can keep track of healthy habits. If you have wellness or spiritual goals in addition to work goals, this planner offers options for multiple areas of your life.
Downsides: Though there are note-taking pages at the end of each month, I found them somewhat limited. The planner is small enough to carry in an average sized bag, but I found myself wishing I had more room to write, draw, and doodle.
Really Shines At: Teaching you how to get the most out of your experience by using all the features. There's a 7-day start-up video series that takes you through each of the planner's big features so you can use it right away and customize.
Best For: The Creative who wants a holistic view of her life on paper, enjoys prioritizing, and carries her planner everywhere. Click here to learn more.
Moon Mna Diary-Journal
Lovable Features: I adore this nonconventional planner/journal hybrid! It contains daily sections where you can write whatever, be it a goal of the day or simply an intention to focus on. Instead of the traditional blank monthly squares, The Moon Mna Journal is broken down by months and seasons, and it contains traditional celtic women's knowledge and random coloring pages.
Downsides: If you plan to do any project management or long-range planning, this journal will drive you crazy. While it shines at being a daily sacred space for grounding, it has almost no space devoted to down-and-dirty goal setting and monthly planning.
Really Shines At: Going deep. Between the discussions of old school Celtic festivals and "how to" guides for hosting your own women's circle, there's ample space devoted to getting to the core.
Best For: The Creative who feels hemmed in by too much structure and instead seeks a daily journaling practice where she can connect with the earth and her feminine wisdom...as well as occasionally jot down a to-do or appointment. Click here to learn more.
The Passion Planner
Lovable Features: If you've ever wanted to check out what coaching is like, this planner is like a paper coach (sans the sparkling personality) in that it helps you really nail down what you want and leads you through creating plans to achieve it. In addition to the monthly layouts, there are weekly spreads with hourly timetables and space for personal and work to-do lists as well as monthly reflections and journaling prompts.
Downsides: I just wish it were prettier. The layout is okay, but it's best suited for raw functionality, not form. There's also a large focus on the time tables in the weekly spreads, which is great if you have tons of meetings, classes, and appointments, but fairly useless if you don't block your time in a structured way.
Really Shines At: Goal-setting guidance. If you have a passion you're trying to manifest, or even if you need some direction on what your direction should be, this daily planner gives you ample guidance for getting your ideas out and on paper.
Best For: The Changemaker or Academic who wants a coach on the go and isn't into frills or fuss. Click here to learn more.
Rituals for Living Dreambook + Planner
Lovable Features: This holistic, health-focused journal/planner is similar to The Passion Planner, but with a bit more feminine pizazz. I like the balance it strikes between naming your dreams and taking sustained actions toward them. The "Top 5" tool takes weekly planning away from a place of appointment focus to a place of "what actually needs to get done this week?" but it contains ample appointment space, too. Plus, the designers are a busy married couple with kids and multiple businesses, so you know you're learning from the get-shit-done masters.
Downsides: If you're a white space lover like me, you may find this layout a bit crowded.
Really Shines At: Making sure you actually want to be doing the stuff that's on your to-do list. The "ritualize it" approach starts with the intention first and moves into the "how's it going to get done?" space 2nd, so it gives you plenty of mental room to reflect on whether your daily habits and routines are serving you.
Best For: The Creative or Changemaker who's drawn to the spiritual, ritualistic side of goal-setting and wants to focus on a holistic, wellness approach to daily, weekly, and long range planning. Click here to learn more.
The Life Planner by Erin Condren
Price: $55-$65 depending on options chosen
Lovable Features: I'm a sucker for choice and cover appeal, both of which The Life Planner has in spades; in fact, I think it may be the prettiest planner on this list, so if you're inspired by lovely things like I am, this one will delight you. The day-to-day use pages are functional and focused, and the spiral binding and smooth tabs make it easy to flip back and forth between sections and write, draw, and doodle to your heart's content.
Downsides: Compared to some of the other planners on this list, The Life Planner feels a little simple. It definitely has the basics covered, but if you find yourself in need of journaling and note-taking space, you may be disappointed with the simpler focus.
Really Shines At: Customization. Instead of slogging through a layout that's not quite right for your day-to-day, The Life Planner lets you pick your favorite cover, color scheme, and layout so you're getting something you'll actually like and use.
Best For: The Creative who enjoys colorful things and likes to do productivity and planning her way. Click here to learn more.
The Hustle Weekly Planner by Start Planner
Lovable Features: Literally everything in your life is in one place, from day job, to side hustles, budgeting, charitable donations, house cleaning and more, The Start Planner has a place for anything and everything you'd want to keep track of with a high level snapshot. The bronze-y spiral and metal corner protectors are perfect for bouncing around in a bag and for lying flat when writing.
Downsides: Depending on how you feel about daily planning and journaling, this high octane approach could be really overwhelming for the creative who prefers to flow through their day with simple intentions rather than detailed lists. Though the cover is beautiful, there's not much color going on inside.
Really Shines At: Serving as a command center for anything and everything you want to keep track of and organized to the hilt.
Best For: The hardcore planner nerd who enjoys the planning process as much as the doing process, if not more. Click here to learn more.
Lovable Features: On a first glance, this seems like one of the more "basic" options, but it's actually one of my favorite layouts. It easily contains separate columns for daily to-dos and appointments, plus daily priorities and gratitude reflections and even monthly calendar-at-a-glance space. It's also one of the prettiest and most affordable options out there.
Downsides: This is truly a productivity-focused planner, so you're not getting any coaching, journaling, or reflection space.
Really Shines At: Sheer ease of use. For relatively little investment, you can get an extremely functional, easy to slip in a bag and go, well-designed planner for everyday projects and tasks.
Best For: The busy changemaker who likes to keep things stylish, simple, focused, and affordable. Click here to learn more.
Daily Greatness Journal
Lovable Features: I'm kind of obsessed with this journal, and I have a feeling it's going to become my personal 2018 selection. While there are plenty of daily entry pages for appointment planning and to-do lists, the pages are undated, so you can exclude weekends and other days that you don't use it, so you can come and go and use the planner function only as needed. My favorite part is the "Blueprint for Greatness" section at the beginning of the book that breaks down your intentions into 8 different categories, so you're not just focusing on what to do with your days but how to be in your days as well. Plus, I'm a sucker for colorful pages, and there is color galore here.
Downsides: Why, oh, why is it not spiral bound? The journal is chock full of planner-y goodness, but the binding makes it awkward to write in for about half of the year. It lies fairly flat for its size, but its size is not inconsiderable. It's about the size of an iPad, so it fits in most bags, but its hefty weight makes you think twice about taking it on the road.
Really Shines At: The Weekly Check-in function. Each week, there's (what I would call) a "being" space for journaling, intentions, and reflections next to a more "doing" space of writing out tasks and to-do's. The balance of the two is impressive, but not as impressive as the fact that they got it all on two pages.
Best For: The Creative Changemaker who enjoys a reflective practice with her daily planning duties and wants a long-range view of how her day-to-day has the ability to consciously create her life. Click here to learn more and to get a 5% off coupon code.
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