The Freelance Creative

The 5 Best Old-School Planners for Organized Freelancers

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I can’t live without my smartphone, tablet, laptop, and desktop. But when it comes to keeping a schedule, I kick it old-school—on paper.

Sometimes you just have to physically write it down. I’ve tried converting to a digital calendar but ended up with a paper to-do list by my side every morning. And I was smart for switching back. A recent study proved writing down words helps you remember things more than if you typed them. You’re less likely to have an “I totally forgot about that deadline” moment, which we’ve all probably had at least once.

A paper planner is also good for more than just getting organized. At the end of each month, I like flipping through mine to cross-check my invoicing and also to analyze just how productive I was over the past four weeks. Freelancers like Austin Kleon encourage keeping a work log (a.k.a. planner) to track trends related to your productivity. It’s all about finding a system that works for you and your business.

Here are five creative paper planners that can keep you organized, get you motivated, and hopefully make your a better freelancer.

1. The Passion Planner

At the end of 2014, the Passion Planner made a huge splash on Kickstarter by raising $658,000 for a $10,000 goal, and for good reason—it’s the perfect planner for creative types. Thanks to some cleverly designed worksheets at the front of the book, you’ll map long-term life goals and translate them into the monthly and weekly sheets to make it happen. Each month gets a personal and work-related focus, and each week gets a focus, personal to-do list, work to-do list, and daily schedules from 6 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

2. The Day Designer

I’m going to have to wait until next year to try out the Passion Planner because I’m relying on the Day Designer this year, a planner that also opens with a few worksheets about business and life goals. As a freelancer with a widely varying schedule, the daily pages keep me focused on today and don’t let me procrastinate until later in the week. Each day gets a “Today’s Top Three” list, and the two-column sheet helps you divide your work schedule from your personal to-do list. There’s even room to write what’s due, what’s for dinner, and what not to forget. It’s no wonder this planner has a cult following and often sells out of certain styles.

3. BestSelf Self Journal

BestSelf is all about maximizing productivity by aligning your day-to-day activity with your long-term goals. It promises scientifically-proven methods to boost your drive and enthusiasm, with an optimized thirteen-week goal-setting period that you can start anytime. BestSelf is a great start for freelancers who start projects with strong intentions, but have trouble keeping their motivation up. Its clean lines and minimalist design makes it perfect for the organized go-getter who’s serious about seeing results.

4. The Happiness Planner

I love happiness. Happiness is awesome. Who doesn’t want to prioritize happiness? The folks at Happiness Planner are here to help you reach peak happiness while also being productive. The Happiness Planner gears its user toward mindfulness and positive thinking by encouraging self-reflection and gratitude. It comes with its fair share of inspirational quotes and even a happiness roadmap to steer you in the right direction.

5. Weekly Keyboard Memopad

If you’re a constant list maker, you’ll never lose sight of this one: It’s a weekly to-do list that goes in front of your keyboard so it’s right under your wrists as you type. The layout consists of a horizontal weekly setup with six perforations so you can remove individual days while still scoping out what you have to do for the rest of the week. For those who don’t like carrying around bulky planners and would prefer to throw each day in the trash once it’s done, this memo pad is a refreshing take on getting organized.

Know of any other clever and artistic paper planners worthy of being on the list? Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter with suggestions @aubreandrus.

Updated 5/9/18

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