It's Sidonie here. I'm the founder of Papersmiths (so a big thanks for being here!) and I'm obsessed with stationery. I’ve used many tools for planning over the years. I’ve tried and tested. I’ve rejected and adored. I’ve critiqued them, pined for them and sent away to Japan for them. I’ve written panicked messages, while on the verge of tears, begging for more stock for Papersmiths when we've sold out too soon.
Samples land on my desk at odd times of year, so I flit between formats and am enticed by new designs. I discover new favourites or, inevitably, find myself pulled back by old friends.
I pay close attention to the questions you’re asking in the shops, via email and in our Instagram DMs. Choosing a diary is a matter of great personal importance. With so much choice, a diary section of a website or shop can feel a little overwhelming. And I'm writing this as we hear the news that our Brighton shop will have to close on Boxing Day. I'm thinking of all of you who would come out and see us over the next week, to choose your diary for 2021. We'd show you the inside and point out the special features. The experience is going to be quite different this year. So I’ve put together this purpose driven guide of my top choices for those very specific needs.
I’ll take you through the best of the bunch. Tools for the wall or the desktop, for tackling the mammoth to-do list or for throwing in your bag.
Look out for the numbered titles of each section. You'll find the purpose typed in bold so you can scroll on until you find the one for you. I hope to leave you knowing who'll be by your side for 2021, and feeling as prepared as possible.
1. For scheduling
Colors Diary is my top companion for scheduling my week and, usually, for its benefits when it comes to international travel. It features a vertical layout which, in diary lingo, means the hours of the day are laid out on the page from top to bottom so you can
Choose from A5 or A6 in size. 25% of the double page spread is dedicated to a dot grid notes section and 25x22mm thumbnails show you the current and previous month's calendars. The diary is fully dated and includes week numbers, too. There’s a spread for annual planning (great for tracking holidays – fingers crossed) or repurposing as your own habit tracker.
You’ll find notes pages in the back, tabbed monthly sections (A5 only) for easy flipping and a bookmark ribbon to mark your current week. International holidays are printed throughout and there’s an overview of international currencies and telephone codes, average temperatures, subway maps, airport information and the world time chart.
My favourite feature is the PVC zippy cover which not only protects your diary from splashes of coffee, but doubles as a wallet for keeping receipts, business cards and your pen to hand. A resilient option.
Colors Diary, £18.95
Prefer a daily schedule? Then check out the Edit Daily Diary by the same designers.
2. For planning those projects
My choice? It's got to be the 2021 Year Task Planner by Appointed. I spent plenty of time writing marketing material about it and, before I knew it, had almost sold out - but I hadn’t purchased mine! So I opted for the only colour we had left, a colour that I wouldn’t usually pick. Very safe and classic. Natural linen. I’m still not sure it’s right for me (I adore colour and pattern) but I needed the functionality so I compromised.
This planner has oodles of space. The size is large. Add about an inch to the width and height of an A5 notebook. This is ideal for me because I often feel like I’m cramping my notes and schedule into too-thinly spaced lines or too-small boxes. And my handwriting becomes scruffy as a result.
The planner starts with a 2021 and 2022 calendar, a conversion chart and is then made up of tabbed monthly sections for easy navigation. Each monthly section begins with a space for setting your goals for the month and noting important dates. Did anyone else delete Facebook and now regrets losing the birthday reminders? There’s also a double page spread with a month schedule of roomy 30x38mm boxes for each day.
My favourite feature of this planner, the feature that I need for feeling organised and on top of my workload, is the double page spread dedicated to each week. One side has your week schedule with large boxes for each day (smaller for weekends) and the other side is laid out with four 'priorities' boxes for your top tasks, followed by a task section for 24 other tasks, and a generous notes section.
I wouldn’t recommend this planner if your typical day is packed full of meetings (more than five) but if, like me, your day is about ticking off tasks and working on longterm projects, then this is my recommendation.
The 2021 Year Task Planner, £32 - now sold out. I recommend you nab the Notebook in your favourite colour and accompany it with the Monthly Planner.
3. For meaningful productivity
Writing this section, I realised I haven’t reflected on 2020 yet. The whole year felt like one never-ending list of things to do, and it’s been easy to lose track of the bigger picture, and my purpose.
But you can learn from my mistake! Enter the Goal Digger. Every year, MiGoals diaries top our bestsellers list. The Goal Digger usually steals the crown, and this year is no different. Goal Digger is all about finding intention and purpose in your day. Adam Jelic started the brand to help us move out of our comfort zone and make progress with purpose, ultimately turning those seemingly distant dreams into reality.
The first section of Goal Digger is dedicated to reflection on the previous year, setting your values, defining your purpose and goal setting. Bring your willpower and give yourself the time and space to work through this section. In return, you'll benefit from an experience as effective as sitting down with a coach. You may even find you’re more honest and realistic because you’re the only person there to witness what you write.
Moving into the diary pages, you’ll find a double page spread for each week with space for recognising your focus, setting a goal and recording your weekly wins. There’s a weekly habit tracker – it’s a star chart for grownups. You get a tick each time you practice a good habit and you can track up to five each week. I’ve never felt so motivated to schlep around the block in the rain. Other winning features include monthly reviews, note pages and a budget section. You’ll be set up for success with this one.
Goal Digger 2021, £28 - now sold out but check out MiGoals' other planning options here.
4. For desktop planning and families
There’s nowhere to hide with a desktop planner by your side. Desktop planners are lacking in a cover, so you don’t need to open them to see your to-do list glaring back at you. There’s really no excuse not to get things done. Unless your desk is so cluttered that your keyboard ends up stacked on top of it. In which case, tear off the sheet and pin it to your fridge or wall.
This Weekly Planner is A4 size and has nineteen lines per day plus a section for notes at the bottom. Tear the sheet off when you’re done and begin again. It’s undated so you can stop and start as you wish. Planning for more than one human? Check out the family version.
Weekly Desktop Planner, £12
5. For getting things done
When I know what needs to be done, I’ll write a list and motor through it. The Get Shit Done notebook is a never-ending to-do list. Well, it does eventually end, after 48 pages times by however many lines are on each page (too many for me to count). All this, housed in a neat little book. Each line has a tick box which makes the process of doing all the more satisfying. Choose from A5 or A6.
Get Shit Done Pocket Book, from £4.50
6. For a big picture overview
A tried and tested favourite, this Wall Planner a great one for households and workspaces. Are you lucky enough to have a permanent space to work? Perhaps a study in your own home or, the stuff of myth and legend, an office outside of your usual four walls? Let this take pride of place on your wall.
Designed by Anna and Roger, aka Crispin Finn, it’s printed in the duo’s signature red and blue colour palette. It’s big, measuring a whopping 980x680mm but it’s available in portrait or landscape so you can pick the format that works for your wall. The calendar includes all the essential information you need, like Bank Holidays, daylight savings and a lunar calendar. My top choice for viewing your entire year at a glance. Ever popular, we always sell out.
Wall Planner, £20
7. For portability without compromising on space
My 2020 diary of choice was Alva. I chose it for the combination of portability, with zero compromise on space for notes. It’s A6 and has a double page spread for each week. Half of the space is for your weekly schedule and the other side is for note taking.
The covers are designed in single colour patterns which change each year. For 2020 I picked a periwinkle blue check and for 2021 you can choose from stripes in ochre, rose or electric blue. They remind me of our summer dresses at primary school. The cover is lightly coated so you can keep it clean and the special detached binding means it opens with an effortless flop. No forcing of the spine here.
Alva 2021, £18
8. For flexibility
Looking back over the pages of my 2020 diary (Alva, above), I shifted away from scheduled meetings and leant more towards to-do lists. Weeks went by where I didn’t meet other people. The scheduling part of my diary looks empty for big chunks of time, but the notes pages were always overbrimming. At times, I could have (almost, but never would) hit pause on using a diary completely.
If you reckon 2021 is going to be similar, then opt for an undated planner. True flexibility is found in a layout that lets you stop and start as you wish. Maybe you'd like to skip weekends and holidays, only use the pages when you need them and save some trees - and cash!
I’m a fan of the Undated Daily Planner by The Completist, complete with a vertical schedule for commitments from 7am to 8pm, a to-do list, box for priorities and a notes and sketches area. Jana and Marko design their patterns in Peckham, London and the planners are printed and bound in the UK using vegetable inks. I revert to this planner when I'm in a period with lots of meetings and lots of things to do.
Daily Undated Planner, £35
9. For form and function
Klasyk ticks the boxes of function and form with its flexible layout and considered design. Like a good waterproof jacket - you don't want to get wet but you sure as heck still want to look the part - this diary looks good and does its job. And it does both very well indeed.
Each week has a double page spread which is laid out vertically so you can note down appointments in chronological order. But, because the times aren’t printed in, you can opt to use it as a daily to-do list instead. There’s plenty of space for notes on each page and in the back. Pleasingly, the diary lays completely flat thanks to the sewn binding and fabric spine. The aesthetic wins my vote, with a board cover stamped with foil accents and held together with a matching wraparound fabric spine. Thoughtful design details include the thumbnail month calendar on each page and a bookmark ribbon for holding your place. Put simply, a thing of beauty.
Klasyk Dated Diary, £24
10. For space for notes
This one is a step beyond the simplicity of the classic “schedule on the left, page for notes on the right”. Weekly Notes comes from MiGoals, the creators of the Goal Digger, and you get many of the goal setting and reflective tools found in the original, plus a full page for notes each week.
A5 in size, it comes in five colours of hardback cover and is a snip at £20.
Weekly Notes Diary, £20
11. For a month overview that fits in your pocket
I’ve chosen the Pocket Scheduler for my everyday 2021 diary. I wanted something that I can throw in my handbag to keep track of social events, birthdays and holidays (fingers crossed), while leaving my Year Task Planner on my desk at home for work purposes.
Each spread has a monthly overview with a small box for the key events. With its protective cover and dinky 126x106mm measurements, it’s the ideal pocket or handbag companion. I’ve opted for pink but there are other colours available, too.
Pocket Scheduler, £10
12. For staying focused
I feel you. You tick something off and five new tasks pop into your head - or the inbox. It can feel overwhelming. The Focus Pad sits on your desktop, ready for you to categorise that new thought into one of four sections. Choose from ‘Do First’, ‘Schedule’, ‘Delegate’ or ‘Don’t Do’.
This thoughtful layout helps you stay focused on your priorities, while recognising what will have to wait until later. It’s empowering and the handy tick boxes are oh-so-satisfying. This is my pick for value for money. The feelings of accomplishment and calm are well worth the investment.
And, breathe! That's my round-up. I hope it's helpful and that 2021 brings you opportunities to keep moving forward. If you have questions or suggestions for our 2022 diary collection, please do let me know. Sidonie x