A new planner or journal is one of the best gifts you can give yourself (and others!). These tools can help you increase your productivity, set goals, make lists, arrange your thoughts, and even jot down ideas and stories for later. Journals and planners are must-haves for anyone trying to organize their life. Here we will break down the best journals and planners that will get you through the year and beyond.
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Diaries vs. Journals
Keeping a journal is just a grown-up way of saying having a diary. It’s a place to keep your thoughts, write your feelings, brain dump, and explore your emotions. Diaries and journals are personal spaces to organize yourself and set daily intentions.
What is the Difference Between a Journal and a Planner?
Although sometimes used interchangeably, planners and journals have a few key differences. In my opinion, a planner is a super-specialized type of journal. Rather than just being a place to list your thoughts and ideas, it’s focused on helping you manage dates, times, and appointments. A planner usually has a calendar and gives you space to write important tasks or events for each day.
Although you can use any regular journal for the same thing, it isn’t user-friendly. You’d have to be more intentional about using a plain journal to remember that you have a deadline in three weeks.
These tools might be different, but they each serve an essential function. I use both journals and planners in my daily life, and if you want to be more organized and productive, you should too.
What Are the Best Journals?
The best journals are the ones that do what you need them to do. They are the journals that call out to you and solve your problem. The journals you can’t wait to write in. Okay, I may have an unhealthy obsession with journals. But seriously, these things are amazing!
The best journal depends on your mood and what you hope to get out of it. Some people swear by Moleskine journals, which are plain but sturdy. Others want something a little more specialized that might offer prompts for specific purposes- like a gratitude journal or a grief journal. The great thing about journals is that there is probably a style to fit your particular needs!
Where is the Best Place to Buy Journals?
Just like the best journals, the best place to buy a journal is greatly dependent on your specific journaling needs. Here are the best places to get various types of journals.
If you are looking for a specialized journal, the best place to start is Promptly Journals. They have a variety of journal styles dedicated to several different life events. Their journals span from ways to help you capture beautiful memories, like love story journals and travel journals, to tools to help you deal with emotions, like infertility journals and remembrance journals. Promptly Journals even offers emotion journals for children to learn to understand and appropriately handle their emotions.
Soothi is the best place to get an authentic leather journal. They offer various styles, including travel journals, bullet journals, lined journals, and blank journals, all bound in high-quality leather. If you are looking for something that makes you want to write in it, Soothi should be your first stop.
One cool thing that Soothi offers is custom journals. You can get a gorgeous, leather-bound journal with custom engraving. These journals make fantastic gifts for a birthday, an anniversary, or any special occasion.
People use journals for far more than writing. Many people use journals for sketching, drawing, and mapping out their artworks. There are many places where you can get a decent art journal (Soothi has a gorgeous leather art journal if you want to be fancy), but one of the best options is Moleskine.
Moleskine journals are great for art because they contain multi-media paper built into an excellent base with pockets and a bookmark ribbon. The pages are thick enough to be covered with gesso and used for oil and acrylic painting but can also be used for basic drawing and sketching. The extra thickness allows the pages to take watercolor and gouache without tearing. Most Moleskine pages have a slight parchment tan, giving you a medium value for form studies. Moleskine is the best journal for art because it can handle so many different forms of media, and the professional finish gives you an easily portable portfolio.
A scrapbook is just a specialized memory journal. The best journals for scrapbooking have blank pages. These blank pages help me a lot because I get anxious about keeping pictures and text lined up if there are lines. Lineless journals help me arrange scrapbook materials at fun angles without worrying about where the lines might be. They should also have thick pages so that you can paste photos or scraps in without worrying about tearing the pages, creating a make-shift photo album.
Scrapbooking is all the rage now, so there are tons of resources to help you turn your journal into a legitimate scrapbook. The best place to get started is Michaels. Not only do they have journals, but they also have stickers, glue, tape, technical paper, and everything else you need to begin scrapbooking.
Staples is the place to go if you aren’t looking for a specialized journal and want a place to collect your thoughts. Staples offers a variety of blank journals, some of which have fun designs and slogans, while others are the traditional hard-cover journals. Their prices are very reasonable as well.
One problem with journals is that the traditional ones can get rather pricey. I think it’s worthwhile when you have precious memories to protect and preserve; or work through a healing process, but other things don’t necessarily need a high-end journal.
I keep a journal for my blogging journey, but it is not a fancy leather-bound keepsake. It’s a generic blank notebook from Staples. It gives me a place to jot down notes, keywords, and ideas for growth. I’ve been using it since 2018, and it only cost me a dollar.
The problem with it is that it’s not sturdy, and the pages aren’t protected. It doesn’t bring me joy to write in it; it’s more utilitarian. I have a separate journal for my goals and ideas that cost me way more (fifteen bucks is a lot compared to a dollar) that I bring with me everywhere, and I guard that one way more ferociously. It has my hopes and dreams and big picture ideas in it. But, if you don’t have a lot of money, notebooks can be an excellent substitute for journals in a pinch.
What is the Best Size for a Journal?
Like anything, the best journal size depends on your journaling needs. My travel journal is a pocket notebook – it’s small and easy to carry with me anywhere I go. This way, I can jot down my travel memories and anything else I might want to write about later without being burdened with a heavy book.
A scrapbook journal should be much bigger. You don’t need to carry it with you wherever you go; it’s something that you can take out and create at home.
A sketchbook or writing journal should be big enough to fit your needs. You might want to take it with you, and if that’s the case, it should be small enough that it’s easy to carry, but large enough that you can draw or write whatever you need in it.
Using an App for Journaling
With everything switching to online now, some folks may not want the hassle of a pen and paper journal (though nothing beats that, in my opinion!). But for those of you who want a digital journal, there’s an app for that.
Diarium is an excellent choice for digital journals. It’s available on the Windows app store and allows you to dictate your journal entries. There’s a free version and a pro-version. The free version gives all the basic journaling functionality, but the pro version allows you to upload your journal to the cloud or export it to Microsoft Word. These digital uploads let you access and update your online journal anywhere!
If you want the best of both worlds, then you want Livescribe. It’s a special pen and paper that will transfer your writing to text so that you can store and organize it digitally. This technology allows you to write your thoughts the traditional way but keep them and edit them digitally.
What are the Best Planners?
Planners are similar to journals but specialized with dates and times to keep you on track in your life. There are a plethora of planners available, but my favorite ones are from small, independent companies.
Ivory Paper Co All-in-One Planner
A fantastic planning option is the all-in-one planner from Ivory Paper Co. It offers everything you could need in a planner and more.
The all-in-one planner has a daily, weekly, and monthly layout section (hence the name) that helps you plan and organize all aspects of your life. The daily area has room for you to write out both a schedule and a to-do list and is a perfect way to help you keep your day organized. Their weekly section is in more of a calendar format but offers you a ton of space to write out your big picture goals for every day of the week. The monthly section has a traditional calendar layout, allowing you to write down important events like birthdays or bill due dates.
This planner offers more than just planning tools. It also gives you a few other tools to help you keep your year organized, like an address book, a password keeper, and even a reading wish list. The all-in-one Planner is the ultimate tool to keep you productive.
The Best Planner Ever
The Best Planner Ever is a productivity company specializing in journals, planners, and helping its clients achieve their goals. They offer a variety of planners, which they dub “the Best Planner Ever,” but they offer so much more. Each planner comes with access to an online course called Planning for Success which helps users identify time wasters and develop processes to help them achieve their goals. The Best Planner Ever also offers a goal-setting workshop and a yearly retreat, a 4-day workshop dedicated to helping people achieve their goals. This is a planner company that’s truly focused on the whole person.
The yearly planner has space for goals, to-do lists, nutrition trackers, and most other things you might need, while their journal seeks to rewrite the rules of journaling. The Best Planner Ever also offers a premium membership, which gives users access to a productivity BootCamp, courses, coaching sessions, and access to a private Facebook group.
If forty dollars is a little too much for you to spend on a planner, you can opt for cheaper, less functional options. Staples offers a yearly calendar for seventeen dollars -I get one every year to plan out my bills and expenses. It’s a great option if you only need a small amount of space to remember important dates.
Staples has a variety of other planners for between fifteen and twenty dollars. You will find something there to meet all of your planning needs.
Silk & Sonder has reimagined planning and journaling. They offer a subscription planner package that helps you stay organized all year long. The monthly cost is $19.95 per month to get a new planner delivered at the beginning of each month, but you can save money if you opt to subscribe quarterly or annually.
Silk & Sonder’s planners come with everything you need to organize your month. They include daily, weekly, and monthly calendar spreads, various trackers, and even themed journaling prompts. Each month’s journal also comes with quotes, recipes, and other goodies as well.
A significant advantage to opting for the subscription service is that it will keep you motivated on your journaling journey. Getting a new journal filled with goodies delivered each month without even having to think about it is a big win for those of us who aren’t as organized.
Are Planners Worth It?
If you want to stay organized and be as productive as possible, a planner is worthwhile. It can keep you on track and help you meet any deadline that you might have. They also allow you to remember important dates and plan out the big things you need to do. I recommend getting a planner to make your life easier.
What Else Do I Need for Planning and Journaling?
The only other thing you need for planning and journaling is a pen. I prefer to use colorful pens because they help me keep track of different thoughts. You might also want to use post-it notes, stickers, and divider tabs to help you keep track of the most important things.
A great place to get accessories for your planner or journal is Cherry on Top. They have various stickers, inserts, and pens that will help you give your journal notebook some personal flair. Cherry on Top also has a wide selection of art supplies for scrapbooking and art journaling.
Start Planning and Journaling!
Now that you know where to get the best journals and planners for 2021, what are you waiting for? Start keeping a journal and getting your life organized today!
Melanie launched Partners in Fire in 2017 to document her quest for financial independence with a mix of finance, fun, and solving the world’s problems. She’s self educated in personal finance and passionate about fighting systematic problems that prevent others from achieving their own financial goals. She also loves travel, anthropology, gaming and her cats.