A guide to the best planners for smart, busy women

My review of the best planners for 2017



My name is Melissa McCreery, and I have a bit of a planner addiction. I love researching the best planners, calendars, and tools that help with productivity, focus, and staying on track. Like most smart, busy women, I have a lot of big ideas and some big goals. It’s easy to lose focus, or get distracted with all that goes on in my head (and in my life). I’ve learned the hard way (over and over), that if I don’t create a clear vision of what I want, create space for it, and carve out a clear path, it’s highly unlikely to happen. Planners, especially the resources I’ve reviewed below, are a great way to get clear on your goals and stay on the path you want to be on.

Like everything else, your best planner for 2017 is going to be the one (or the system of perfect planners) that fits you. I’ve tried everything from huge whiteboard calendars, to online project planning systems, to my online calendar (which is still my tried-and-true for appointments). Below is my review of what I’ve found to be the best and the pros and cons of each.

I hope you’ll find this planner review helpful in choosing your planning approach to a fantastic 2017!

Best planners and planning resources for 2017:

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Best planner for getting excited and organized for 2017, creating inspirational goals, and pulling the pieces together:


The Create Your Shining Year Workbook

Leonie Dawson’s Create Your Shining Year workbooks are awesome for inspiration, goal setting, and bringing playfulness, fun, and color back into the process. Her workbooks are like coloring books for goal setting. You’re encouraged to get out your magic markers and plot out your ideas for a year that will leave you happier, more successful, and more fulfilled. This is an awesome recipe in my book.

The Create Your Shining Year Series includes separate workbooks for creating your shining life, and one for business owners that is helpful for fleshing out your year-long plans for your business (I bought both).


What I like about the Create Your Shining Year workbooks:

Leonie makes the process light and fun. It’s truly a workbook. Just sit back, relax your mind, and fill in the blanks. The style of the books makes it easy to dream, relax self-judgment, and start identifying how you’re going to do big things.

How I use the Create Your Shining Year workbooks:

Sometime in the next few weeks, I’ll hunker down in a cozy spot with a cup of tea, my markers, and my workbooks. I’ll spend a few weekend afternoons filling these in – maybe skipping from section to section. Truly, this feels like the low-key “spa” version of planning. I have one friend who keeps hers by her bathtub and fills it out when she’s in the bath. I’ll revisit my planner every month or so (sometimes less), to remind myself what I want to be doing this year. I’m always amazed how much easier my dreams unfold when I take the time with these books. These workbooks get things flowing.

What the Create Your Shining Year workbook is not:

This is not a calendar for appointments or hourly tracking of your time (although a planner is available). I recommend this product for a big picture view, to amp up the juiciness of your goals, and to make sure you are paying attention to your dreams (both big and small).

You can check it out the Create Your Shining Year resources here.

Best planner for staying on track (and out of overwhelm) 
The Desire Map Planner Daily Edition

I’ve been in love with Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map Planners for several years now. You can select from a few different versions, but the daily planner is my favorite. I believe that smart, busy women spend too much time planning what they “need” to do, and devote very little time to identifying how they want to feel and what can be done to create these feelings in daily life.

It’s one thing to say I want to feel joy today. It’s another to be prompted to consider what I will do to make this happen. Too often, busy women forget to feed ourselves a life that feels good. Using the Desire Map Planner has broken this pattern for me – and it’s one of the best investments I make every year.

Daily prompts remind you to consider how you want to feel – and what needs to happen so you can create these feelings in your day. There’s a place for gratitude, and to identify your top three priorities. Yes, there’s a place for your to-do list, but there’s also a daily reminder to consider what you want to stop doing.

This planner is gorgeous, smart, incredibly well thought out, and makes me happy daily.

What I like about the Desire Map Planner:

I love that this planner puts key questions in front of me and reminds me – quickly and easily – how I want to run my day. I can spend a lot of time, or very little, each morning, and it’s the best daily tool I’ve found to start the day feeling energized, grounded, and in the driver’s seat. The Desire Map Planner has a built-in book mark and the months are tabbed, so you can easily find your place. Monthly check-ins and lots of little extras are tucked in the pages.

Here's a sample of one of the daily pages in the Desire Map Planner
Here’s a sample of one of the daily pages in the Desire Map Planner

How I use the Desire Map Planner:

I use my planner as a guided journal. I have a morning ritual that includes five minutes or so filling this out each day while I drink my coffee. I find it brings me back to my priorities, helps remind me what’s really important, and helps keep me on my priority list – especially during stressful or busy times. The simple practice of focusing on the feelings I want to generate each day is incredibly powerful. This planner reminds me to make space for the simple daily actions that help me function at my best.

What the Desire Map Planner is not:

This is not a planner that fits in your back pocket! I haven’t personally seen the weekly planners, but the daily planner is hefty. This makes it great for scribbling in (the big spiral style is especially wonderful for us left handers who have a hard time writing in bound books), but you’re not going to want to carry this around in your purse. That said, it’s the perfect size for a daily journal/planner that you keep on your desk or your bedside table.

Your can check out the Desire Map Planner Collection here.


Best wall calendar:

Paper Source Great Big Calendar 2016-2017 - 17 Months
The Paper Source Great Big Calendar

Paper Source has loads of beautiful (and useful) calendars. This is my hands-down favorite. I’ve relied on this calendar for big picture planning for years. You can post three months on a standard door. Each square (day) is big enough to fit a post-it note. This is the tool for visually mapping out big projects.


What I like about the Great Big Calendar:

Isn’t it self-explanatory? I’ll just add that the paper is substantial and the colors are vivid. And if you want a paper calendar but don’t have the wall space for this, it makes an awesome desk blotter.

How I use the Great Big Calendar:

In my office, I’m able to post six months at a time. The first thing that goes on the calendar – vacations. Then I use post-it notes to map out bigger projects.

What this calendar is not:

This is not a tool for recording details of your day like task lists or appointments, and if you don’t have a decent amount of wall space, you might prefer a smaller calendar that allows you to post multiple months.

You can get the Great Big Calendar here.

You can check out the full line of Paper Source calendars here.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this round up – I’ve enjoyed the research that went into it, and am looking forward to using these tools to enjoy my life more in 2017.

I’m always on looking for great resources! Leave a comment below and share your favorite planners and how you use them.

Take good care,


Full disclosure: I am in love with how these products have simplified things for me, and in some cases, for my clients and friends. So much so, that, in some cases, I have become an affiliate. This means that if you decide to purchase one of these products,using the links here, I may receive a small commission. This does not affect the price you’ll pay in any way, and it certainly does not affect my recommendation.

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