Why paper planners are the best way to stay organized in 2021

One of the best organization tools for 2021 is not on your computer or phone.

Why paper planners are the best way to stay organized in 2021
[Photos: courtesy Daily Greatness; Leuchttrum1917; Golden Coil, The Completist]

Now more than ever, my phone and laptop are inundated with Slacks, emails, and meeting reminders. Most of my 2020 social life now resides on my phone, in constantly chiming group chats and texts, which stack up under “Take some time to breathe” reminders from wellness apps (lol, okay), and increasingly ridiculous and alarming news headlines. Every time I open my phone to do one thing, I fall down a rabbit hole—checking Instagram, replying to texts, wait, what did I need to do again? If you’re experiencing the same, I can’t recommend a paper planner enough.


I’ve bought a Moleskine XL soft cover every December for the past six years. It’s such a known entity in my life, my oldest brother bought me a custom embossed one for Christmas last year. Each left-side page is a weekly calendar with space to mark meetings, while the right is a blank, lined sheet of paper to fill up with notes and tasks. In an ever-changing world, it’s so dependable: No matter what meeting I’m in, call I’m on, or project I’m tackling, I know that everything I need to know is located in one analog place that won’t freeze up, shut down, or ever require a call to IT to access.

And in the very weird year where all the days, weeks, and months seemed to blend together, the paper record has helped me keep track of life. When was the last time I took a day off? Check the planner. When did we last have a meeting? Check the planner. It’s all there. Alongside scribbled phone numbers and meeting times, there are doodles and interview quotes: From May, “It really gives you perspective.” From June, “There’s a hopefulness to this project that there’s life after this.” From September, “We said we were running a marathon, not a race. Now we’re in an iron man.”

I don’t know what 2021 will hold, but I know that like 2020, I’ll do the best I can under the circumstances. And while I’m doing it, I’ll keep track of it in my planner. If you’d like to join me, here are some great options.

[Photo: courtesy The Completist]
The Completist Daily Planner
Associate editor Yasmin Gagne fell down a rabbit hole looking for the perfect planner this December and ultimately landed on the beautiful Daily Planner from Completist. She writes: “This planner has two things going for it: It’s undated, so I don’t feel bad if I stop filling it out for a while, and each weekday has its own page. There is a section to write out my to-do list, another to fill in appointments and meeting times, and a box for random notes. The planner is made by a family-run music printing business (the pages are printed on thick music paper) and is bound so that it lays flat. It comes in a selection of artistic prints including various terrazzo styles—I like Bookends No.1.”

[Photo: courtesy Poketo]
Poketo Concept Melon Planner
For daily to-do list types, Poketo’s sunny Concept Planner is the perfect way to keep tasks straight. In addition to year-long and month-long calendars to write in appointments, work phases, and other important dates, the majority of the pages are set up as weekly spreads, with space to list goals, random ideas, and individual checklists for each day of the week. This planner is undated, which means you can pull it out for busy bursts and leave it aside during slower time periods (if they ever come) without wasting any pages. We love it in the tropical melon color.


At-A-Glance Monthly Planner
Fast Company managing editor April Mokwa (aka the woman that keeps us all on schedule) is another paper-planner enthusiast, and she recommends the At-A-Glance Monthly Planner for anyone who needs to keep their dates (and deadlines) straight. “I don’t keep track of weekly items or need a bunch of extra notes pages, so I like that it serves my need without any excess paper that I won’t use,” she says. “I also love that it’s spiral bound and will lay flat for easy writing.”

[Photo: courtesy Papier]
Papier Planners
Papier’s gorgeous planners come in such a wide variety of prints and shades, you’re bound to find one (or three) that suit your style. Start by choosing which format you prefer: The 2021 Planner includes monthly calendars as well as weekly spreads, with places to fill out tasks for each day; the Daily Planner is undated, and contains sixteen weeks of space for writing out weekly schedules, tracking habits, and even planning meals and shopping lists. With a hard cover, and beautiful covers from a variety of trendy design partners, Papier’s planners bring a luxe feel to your daily tasks.

[Photo: courtesy Daily Greatness]
Daily Greatness Planners
If you’re a goal-oriented type, Daily Greatness has a planner with you. With both personal and business-focused planners, Daily Greatness uses positive psychology and goal tracking to keep you moving toward your desired result. The planners feature “weekly check-ins” to measure your progress and find snags in your productivity, while helpful additions (such as budget worksheets in the Business Planner and goal trackers in the Success at Work planner) home in on topic-specific needs.

[Photo: courtesy Golden Coil]
Golden Coil Customized Planners
Golden Coil claims to be “the most customizable planner in the world,” which is . . . debatable. But the ability to pick your own daily-weekly-monthly layouts is key. As their name implies, a gold coil spine hinges hardback covers and thick 80# Mohawk paper. When building your planner, you have the choice of single-, double-, and daily-page layouts with the option to incorporate productivity trackers, meal planning, self-care goals, and more. Additionally, Golden Coil will print quotes and reminders—ranging from literary to motivational—at the bottom of each page at your behest.


[Photo: courtesy Leuchttrum1917]
Don’t let the name scare you—the Leuchttrum1917 is as easy a planner as it gets. Take it from FC photo editor Samir Abady: “For me, the Leuchtturm1917 Weekly Planner & Notebook is the best planner around. A section at the start for important, fixed dates goes right into a simple, weekly layout with lots of room for scheduling on the left side of the page and notes on the right. A pocket folder on the back cover allows me to keep track of odds and ends And for those that demand more structure to their weeks, the Academic Week Planner allows for an hour-by-hour breakdown of the day. Not as much room to write, but perfect for those that just need to know what’s happening at a glance.”

Smythson Soho Agenda
For the ultra-ambitious (or those of us that *really love* being organized), the ultra-luxe Soho Agenda from Smythson is something of a holy grail. Associate editor Yasmin Gagne writes: “The legendary Smythson Soho Agenda is so good that it has even been endorsed by the Queen of England. The lined notepaper comes in the brand’s signature light blue, and while the pages are thin, they do not bleed. The glamorous planner, which comes in several colors (my favorite is coral), will make every task, no matter how mundane, feel a little more chic. You can make it even more special by getting it monogrammed.” If you won’t take our word for it, maybe take Queen Elizabeth’s.

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