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A new planner or journal is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. These versatile tools are must-have items for anyone trying to organize their life.
Journals and planners have a myriad of benefits. They help us increase productivity, set goals, clarify our thoughts, and even improve our mental health.
Choosing the right journal or planner can be a challenge. We’ll help you decide by breaking down the differences between journals and planners and highlighting the best options for your needs.
Table of Contents
Diaries vs. Journals
A diary is a specific type of journal that allows you to record your thoughts, write your feelings, brain dump, and explore your emotions. Diaries and journals are personal spaces to organize yourself and set daily intentions.
Journals are far more versatile than diaries. There are many different types of journals to choose from, so it’s essential to pick the style that meets your needs.
What is the Difference Between a Journal and a Planner?
Although sometimes used interchangeably, planners and journals have a few key differences.
A simple planner is just a calendar with extra room to write important notes. Often they are in book form, with a calendar and notes for each month.
More complex planners are specialized journals. Rather than just being a place to list your thoughts and ideas, it’s focused on helping you manage dates, times, and appointments. The planner usually includes a calendar allowing you to quickly see important dates for the month at a glance, along with special pages 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 approaching in three weeks.
Bullet journals seek to bridge the gap between planners and journals but can be much more if you want them to be.
These tools might be different, but they each serve an essential function. You may want to use both for peak productivity.
What Are the Best Journals?
The best journals are the ones that do what you need them to do. They call out to you and solve your problem.
The best journal is the one you can’t wait to write in.
The best journal depends on your mood and what you hope to get out of it. Some swear by Moleskine journals, a sturdy brand that offers well-built blank journals.
Others want a little more specialized, like a gratitude journal or grief journal. These journals come pre-loaded with inspiration, prompts, and images meant to assist you along your journey.
There’s no wrong type of journal. You should choose the one that fits your needs.
Where is the Best Place to Buy Journals?
Like the best journals, the best place to buy a journal depends on your specific journaling needs. You can pick up a regular lined journal in most bookstores, but you should shop online for the best specialized journals.
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 different life events.
Promptly Journals allows you to capture beautiful memories with love story journals and travel journals or provides tools to help you deal with complex emotions through 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, lined journals, and blank journals, all bound in high-quality leather. If you are looking for something that provides a rustic journaling feel, 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 a special occasion.
Bullet journals offer pages filled with tiny laser dots rather than lines or blank spaces. The dots serve as grid lines, allowing you to draw charts, calendars, and various other block shapes for your journaling needs.
The great thing about bullet journals is their versatility. Some use their journals as weekly planners, creating spreads allowing them to monitor essential tasks and goals. Others use them to track something particular, like meal plans or school assignments. There are tons of options for how to use your bullet journal.
Another great thing about bullet journals is that they are easy to find. You can pick up a plain bullet journal at an office supply store like Staples or a bookstore like Barnes and Noble.
People use journals for far more than writing. Many people use journals to sketch, draw, and map their artworks. There are many places where you can get a decent art journal, but one of the best options is Moleskine.
Moleskine journals are great for art because they contain multi-media paper built into a sturdy 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 they 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 many 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, allowing you to create unique pages without worrying about the pesky lines.
A great scrapbook journal should also have thick pages to paste photos or scraps without worrying about tearing the pages.
Scrapbooking is all the rage now, so there are many 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 traditional hard-cover journals. Their prices are very reasonable as well.
One problem with journals is that the traditional ones can get rather pricey. The price is 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 that cost about a dollar.
This notebook gives me a place to jot down notes, keywords, and ideas for growth. It’s not very sturdy, and the pages aren’t protected. Writing in it doesn’t bring me joy; it’s more utilitarian.
Despite the issues, it gets the job done and lasts about two years. 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?
The best journal size depends on your journaling needs. A travel journal should be a pocket notebook. The small size makes it lightweight and easy to carry around while still offering the ability to jot down travel memories and essential notes.
A scrapbook journal should be much bigger. You don’t need to carry it wherever you go; it’s something 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.
Using an App for Journaling
With advances in technology and online options, some folks may want to avoid the hassle of a pen-and-paper journal. But for those who prefer 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.
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!
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. Many planners are 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 allows you to write a schedule and a to-do list and is a perfect way to help you keep your day organized.
The weekly section is 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 area has a traditional calendar layout, allowing you to write 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 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, 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. Best Planner Ever is a planning company that focuses 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 a private Facebook group.
If forty dollars is 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. 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 have 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 comes with quotes, recipes, and other goodies.
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 thinking about it is a big win for those who aren’t as organized.
Are Planners Worth It?
If you want to stay organized and productive, a planner is worthwhile. It can keep you on track and help you meet deadlines. They also allow you to remember important dates.
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. 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.