For stationery nerds and the hyper-organised, a new year means the chance to start a brand new planner. It is also a time the perpetually shambolic pledge that “this year it will be different”.

They – and by “they” we mean numerous studies – say that if you write something down you’ll remember it, which is why paper planners are still popular in a world that is increasingly and often overwhelmingly digital.

A planner goes further than a diary – it is, as the name suggests, an aid to optimum organisation. 

There are specific planning methods with dedicated followers – bullet numbering, stickers, tabs or various boxes to fill out. 

Some planners manage to look after an entire family in one fell swoop, while others might focus on academic life and still others invite users to embrace more than the nuts and bolts of the everyday and think about more abstract matters such as mindfulness. 

Some are designed never to leave one’s desk and some must go everywhere with you. But all of those in our round up will make you more organised and focused. 

All will sharpen your memory. All will provide a guide when life feels as if it could turn into a complicated, chaotic mess. All will help you plan. Properly.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Ponderlily weekly planner: £35, Ponderlily

This is one of those products whose quality must be seen to be believed: the photographs, although lovely, don’t do it justice. It’s heavier and deeper – there’s much more to it than meets the eye.

We are mad about the cover – the texture and muted shade are both so sophisticated. But, as with most things, it’s what’s inside that really counts. Each month kicks off with an encouraging quote and there’s a page dedicated to a “monthly road map” where you can loosely plan out the next four weeks in your mind. What are your intentions? How can you achieve them? This space is for inspirations, hopes and ideas – and this directive, to think about what is coming next, feels like a really positive thing to do. 

Lastly, it’s good for your eco credentials as its pages are made of recycled paper.

Buy now

Dodo-Pad original: £15.50, Dodo-Pad

Invented by writer and illustrator Sir John Verney, the Dodo-Pad has been going since 1966 and is known as the original family planner.

It is a ring-bound book with five people’s schedules available on each week to view page. The opposite page, that is the left-hand page, is almost blank for your own notes, but each features a sketch, joke, aphorism, brain teaser or quote for you to mull over – and sharpen your wits.

We love the humorous but offbeat voice that comes through in the jottings spread throughout the Dodo-Pad, not to mention the colours and doodles. There are also perforated corners to pull off for those who like a visual representation of the passing of time. It all seems like a lot of silly fun, but after a week or so, it’ll dawn on you that the Dodo-Pad is an indispensable piece of kit.

Buy now

Moleskine smart planner: £25.99, Moleskine

Wouldn’t it be great if you could write longhand in a planner and that information could be transported into your electronic devices? This might seem like some kind of magical thinking, but the team at Moleskine have made it happen.

The smart planner is essentially comprised of all the features that have made Moleskine such a popular choice for diaries and planners for more than 20 years. It looks much the same, except for the paper, which kind of sticks out from the main cover.

The writing – done with a Moleskine pen+, which you need to buy separately and, admittedly, makes the whole thing much more expensive – will sync to your Google calendar, as well as various other apps of your choosing. You can write longhand and it will almost instantly appear on your phone or computer via Bluetooth. 

We won’t go too deep into the science, but essentially there is special paper that allows the pen to recognise specific dates within the diary, as well as written entries. 

It’s pitched as the best of both worlds – with good reason. You get the screen-free contemplative writing time, but the quick ease of digital planning. 

As with any new technology, we were a little bit daunted at the beginning. We had to download the Moleskine app and then there was assembling the pen (it needs to be charged with both a battery and an ink cartridge). All of this was easy but we were apprehensive. How exactly was this going to work? But we took our time with the instructions and before long the magic happened. 

Buy now

Clever fox premium weekly planner: £39.36, Amazon

This isn’t so much a planner as a toolkit (it even comes in its own smart, sturdy box) for a better life. 

There’s a manual to read before you’ve even opened the planner – ours is “wine red” and very smart it is too. The manual starts by outlining what users can expect to achieve when using the Clever Fox, which is done by setting out goals in writing and returning to them regularly, so you stand more of a chance of reaching them.

Instead of just notes, lists and dates, the Clever Fox advocates promoting mindfulness and creating a vision of how you want life to be. It asks users to sort their goals into different areas from career to health.

We especially loved the stickers, which were more than just dots and shapes: many were like tangible gifs or emojis and plenty showcased motivational messages: “YOU’RE WORTH MORE THAN SECOND THOUGHTS AND MAYBES”.

Our first impression might have been that this was quite a lot of prep and admin for something that is supposed to help clarify one’s life, but after making time to sit down properly with it – write longhand and apply stickers while homing in on what is actually important in the next 12 months – it felt like a means of intention setting. We can see this getting addictive and we don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Buy now

No 1 Daily Planner: £35, The Completist

Achingly stylish, this planner doesn’t dictate the year, so if you are not a religious planner but need help for particularly busy spells this might be the one for you.

It’s a daily planner for all 52 weeks of the year – one page per day for weekdays, with weekends sharing a page. The pages themselves are made from music sheet paper, thanks to being designed by a company who create music books.

We love the abstract design on the cover – and were thrilled upon opening the super stylish paper wrapping to discover there was a matching bookmark inside. Another boon, especially for left-handed folk, is that the book has special binding that means it will lie flat on a table rather than flopping to one side or the other. Good-looking, unusual and fun – what a catch!

Buy now

Busy B perfect planner: £11.99, Busy B 

Where to start? This planner packs in an awful lot for such a low price and relatively small (A6) size.

Aside from both monthly and weekly views, there is a removable notepad that slots into the back. There are stickers to help with organisation and pockets for storing tickets, receipts or other important papers. We love the expenses columns for each month – a good shout for anyone who wants to be better with money this year. 

It’s also really pretty, with soft pastel shading on the inside and a soft faux leather and gold embossed cover. 

Buy now

Sadler Jones weekly desk planner: £8, Sadler Jones

A simple but attractive desk planner, this black-and-white offering is so useful to have to hand. It doesn’t have a cover and once the week is over you simply rip it off, recycle, and start the next. We love the lack of sentimentality – this planner truly feels like a simple but useful desk tool.

Buy now

Filofax saffiano personal organiser: £29.90, Pen Heaven 

Back in the Eighties or Nineties anyone who was anyone had a battered Filofax, which they would freak out about losing at least once a week. 

The good news is, the Filofax is still going strong. Stationery nerds will absolutely get a thrill opening a fresh Filofax. The neatness! The tabs! The integrated ruler! The weightiness of it all!

We love this version, which comes in five colours from aqua to raspberry, in tactile cross-grain leatherette. There’s still the central ring binding, which can be manually opened and closed to add refills year on year. We love that this could act as a wallet and help you streamline your hand luggage – there are card slots and pockets.

Forget spoiling your mum – this one’s for you!

Buy now

Leuchtturm1917 weekly planner and notebook: £18.95, Leuchtturm1917

Available in 13 brilliant colours – we love the fresh green – we think the medium-size version is the best , although if you like something smaller there is the pocket size. The week is laid out on the left while the right-hand page is for notes.

There’s plenty more to recommend it: bookmarks, stickers for labelling and even a project planner section. The address booklet was a lovely touch – especially when such things are all but extinct these days.

Buy now

The verdict: 2020 planners

We can’t get enough of the Ponderlily planner – it’s so pretty and inspires thought and intention every day. For those who might want something a little less evocative the Leuchtturm1917 planner is straightforward and at a brilliant price.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.