If you’re looking for the best ADHD planner you may do well to revisit a fairy tale:
Jack’s instructions were clear: “go to the market and get what money you can for the cow.” But Jack sold the cow for beans, literally.
I think there’s a good chance that Jack had ADHD. Thankfully, the neurodivergent brain that hijacked his errand also empowered him to climb a beanstalk and win a giant’s treasure.
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In spite of its name, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) isn’t all bad, but it does make for an unconventional life. Unfortunately, unconventional living doesn’t fit well in conventional planners!
In this post I’ll walk you through what to keep in mind as you shop for the best ADHD planner. I’ll also introduce you to the best ADHD planners and planner tools.
Notice: The following post relates to my personal experiences with childhood and adult ADHD and should not be considered as medical advice. Please consult a doctor if you suspect that you may have ADD/ADHD.
Affiliate disclaimer: “Best ADHD Planner, Reviewed by an ADHD Dad” is a list of planners and planning products that I have used or researched. I have owned and used many of these items, products, or brands and found them dependable. This post does include affiliate links and I will be paid a small commission for what purchases you make using these links. As always, my opinions are my own.
Finding the Best ADHD Planner
Finding the right daily planner can be a heroic undertaking, at least when the planner is for someone with ADHD. Challenges like executive disfunction and time blindness make basic planning a monumental undertaking.
@dinkumtribe Time blindness in ADHD looks like this. #adhdfamilies #adhdparenting #adhdproblems #adhdfamilylife #adhdfactoftheday #adhdemployee #adhdinfo #adhdingiftedkids #adhdstruggle #adhdinwomenandgirls #adhdinformation #adhdlearningaboutadhd #momsofadhdkids #adhdspouse #adhdmarriage #adhdmarriageandrelationships #adhdinboys #adhdtimeblindness #adhdtimemanagement #adhdtimeparadox @DinkumTribe ADHD family travel ♬ Run Away to Mars – TALK
Difficulty also arises from another factor. People with ADHD are incredibly creative and display an enhanced ability to think outside of the box. This blessing doesn’t alway mesh well with planning tools that ask them to conform to neurotypical methods.
How do you find a planner that helps them focus while giving them the freedom to be who they are?
My Best ADHD Planner Journey
As you might have suspected, I can speak to this challenge personally. I’ve lived with ADHD my entire life, although I wasn’t diagnosed until 2019. I’d always known that there was something different about how my mind operated although I couldn’t explain it.
As a student I could quickly pick up and articulate concepts before most of my fellow classmates. But I had no idea how to organize my school supplies or plan my projects.
My parents were baffled to find that it took me twenty minutes to put on my socks. My mother couldn’t understand the mayhem that she found in my backpack in spite of her constant lessons on organization.
@dinkumtribe Can a child with ADHD be good at school? #adhdfamilies #adhdparenting #adhdproblems #adhdfamilylife #adhdfactoftheday #adhdemployee #adhdinfo #adhdingiftedkids #adhdstruggle #adhdinwomenandgirls #adhdinformation #adhdlearningaboutadhd #momsofadhdkids #adhdinschool #adhdincollege #adhdstudent @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe ♬ original sound – DinkumTribe ADHD family travel
It was easy to conclude that I was disobedient and lazy. Now that I have children with ADHD, I can see much of my childhood played out from a different perspective. Three of my children have ADHD and, in spite of their earnest desires and utmost efforts, they struggle daily with organizing their spaces, schedules, projects.
But Isn’t That Everyone’s Problem?
Let me clarify, I don’t mean to say that planning and organization is a breeze to anyone who doesn’t have ADHD. Everyone feels their need for better work-life balance, stronger discipline, and efficient methods.
What I am saying is that ADHD multiplies and increases these challenges substantially. Everyone has trouble seeing things from time to time, but a person with poor eyesight requires consistent assistance and the right tools to see what others see with ease.
Finding the best ADHD planner and planning tools isn’t simply wise, its imperative for a person’s health and success.
The analogy carries over to ADHD: a person with an ADHD brain needs significant support to do what most people can do with minimal assistance. Finding the best ADHD planner and planning tools isn’t simply wise, its imperative for a person’s health and success.
A weekly planner, to-do lists, and sticky notes are start, but only a start when it comes to ADHD. The ADHD brain is a violent, unsupervised rugby pile of dreams, random facts, impressions, and ideas.
The best ADHD planners provide people with structured space to record and order their thoughts without adding mental noise, frustration, and unnecessary work. And when you think about it, that’s a pretty high order!
Success Requires More Than a Planner
That said, beware of regarding a new planner as a silver bullet. The best ADHD planners will be most successful when paired with supportive life coaching, increased self-awareness, and appropriate medication. Hear why medication is a game changer in the video below.
With all that in mind, here’s my experience with four popular paper planners.
Paper Planners: My Experience
Reviews help us see the strengths and limitations of a product. I’ve arranged the following four paper planner reviews to show what matters when it comes to ADHD and planners.
Academic Planner: A Brief Rant
In a Phrase: It’s better than nothing?
My first planner was a school-issued academic planner. These planners provide a fair start for school-age children because they are age-appropriate and easy to use. Academic Planners also include sections on safety, study-habits, and academic subjects.
(Adult Not Included)
The main drawback of an academic planner is that it lacks an adult. Ok, don’t wince. But, really, I had no idea how to use one of these things for the first few years of owning one.
I followed the teacher’s instructions to write down the day’s homework assignment in the appropriate box, but that was about it. The colorful, informative reference sections made for great distraction when class got boring, LOL!
What I’m trying to stress here is that children require significant, consistent coaching on how to use any planner. Planners are not a natural phenomena that children will just figure out on their own. In fact, they’re rather foreign to a child’s thinking.
Teachers assume that parents will train their child how to use the planner, and the parents assume that the teacher will train their student. As a result, the student only knows how to plan their daily tasks. That’s a start, but far from ideal.
Get a Life
The second biggest drawback to this planner is that it is only academic. That may sound fussy, but the fact is that there’s a lot more to growth and health than the three R’s.
The typical academic planner is almost exclusively structured for classes and school activities. The table is ordered according to school classes, not hours of the day, which leads to a compartmentalized view of the day and of life in general.
I suspect that students will benefit most from a planner that invites them into a more wholistic perspective of their lives.
No space is provided in the academic planner for feeling, reflecting, or dreaming. That’s not simply impractical but it’s also unproductive, because students know that there’s way more to life than due dates and algebra.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t use an academic planner. Our children use them for school, but we also invest our time, energy, and resources into open communication, life coaching, and professional therapy. Life skills such as journaling, are just as important as project planning.
Franklin Covey’s Franklin Planner
In a Phrase: Plan everything, really, everything.
The Franklin Covey Planner system took paper planners to a whole new level. I was gifted a Franklin Planner when I was a college student, and I immediately came to appreciate how much of my life could be organized in this remarkable system.
My Favorite Feature
For one, the Franklin Covey planner system encourages a wider scope than the typical day planer. One of my favorite features was the Weekly Compass, a weekly planning tool that helps you stay focused on what counts.
The Weekly Compass asks you to identify all of your personal and professional roles. The Compass then asks you to list the “Big Rocks” or key things that need to be addressed in each role for that week.
The topmost section demands that you plan for self care. This section, known as Sharpen the Saw, reminds you to plan in time for physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual renewal.
The Weekly Compass serves as both a planning tool and a reminder throughout the week. The insert sits in a transparent tab that marks the current day or week. This great tool puts “the first things” of the week right in front of you as you’re planning out or revisiting your schedule.
Franklin Planner: Pros & Cons
Franklin Planners are excellent. The planners are wholistic and demand real thinking and reflection. An enormous array of tools and forms are available to build a comprehensive planning system.
Franklin Planners are also expensive. A basic, daily planner will cost a minimum of $40 for the pages alone. The additional tools and accessories can quickly run the tab up to $150 to $200.
Plan, plan, plan, plan, plan . . .
Ironically, the plethora of options is a drawback for people with ADHD. Too many choices can be a problem for us. The Franklin Planner can easily become a seemingly “productive” rabbit hole.
My daily planner came with planning forms for just about everything including mileage, meal plan, budgets, quarterly revenue, and more. This was too much for a young man who was just starting out in life.
The host of forms proved no more helpful after years of using the system. People with ADHD don’t need 12 different forms and charts to keep updated, archived, and adequately stocked. For me, my Franklin Covey planner was often a pile of unfinished paperwork that I carried to every appointment.
In a Phrase: Yes! A planner for real people!
Franklin Planners became even more untenable when kids arrived, but somehow I loped along until the day I heard about the Panda Planner. Like most parents of young children, it happened at our hip hang-out pad, the pediatric clinic.
We were meeting with the clinical counselor to learn how to help our daughter manage her ADHD well. Like me, the counselor had recently learned of her own adult ADHD and she shared about her experience with the Panda Planner.
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The Panda Planner is one of the healthiest planners I’ve ever encountered. Monthly, weekly, and daily pages include structured areas for consideration, reflection, and accountability.
For example, the daily page layout begins with a morning review with two important columns. One column prompts “I’m Grateful for”, while the other prompts “I’m Excited about”. These might seem silly, but it turned out to be a godsend for me.
Emotions are hard, but they can be especially tough for people who have ADHD. We tend to be more prone to dramatic mood swings and anxiety. The Panda Planner was the first planner I’d ever encountered that gave real dedicated space for emotional reflection.
The morning review served as a powerful litmus test of my personal well being. The prompts were especially helpful during bouts of depression.
There were days when I was not excited about anything. But the prompts repeatedly brought that fact to my attention, which allowed me to focus on what was most important: restoring my mental health.
Ease of use is another big plus for the Panda Planner. The thoughtfully designed planner incorporates just about everything you would need to brainstorm and pre-plan, schedule and revisit, or follow up and reflect. The entry fields are easy to use and all located in one modest, little book.
In a Phrase: WOW
The Legend planner takes the best aspects of the Panda Planner to a whole new level. The first eighteen pages are entirely dedicated to self-discovery, vision, and long term goals. One page asks you to “write down 50 dreams in all areas of your life.”
@dinkumtribe The Legend planner is my favorite planner I’ve used so far! @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe #dreamsandgoals #goalsettinghacks #bestplanner2022 #bestplanner2023 #legendplanner #dayplanner #amazonreviews #visionboardcheck #getyourgoals #dreamagain ♬ Creative – Smile
Don’t run for the hills. The process is scary, but it’s also achievable. Jennifer and I both gave ourselves a week or two to thoughtfully put together our own personal lists. We didn’t rush it, but just built it up gradually as part of our daily planning sessions.
The long range planning section asks you to list three goals for eight different areas of your life (health & fitness, personal development, family & friends, etc.). You end up with a total of twelve goals to guide you through the year.
The pages that follow prompt you to identify the skills, habits, and rituals that you’ll need to put in place to accomplish the year’s goals. Even better it asks you to identify “positive people to spend time with” and “negative people to avoid”!
A quarterly goals section helps you to identify the benchmarks necessary to accomplish your yearly goals.
The Legend Planner includes all of this while also providing structured fields for planning, execution, and reflection. In many ways, it’s like someone took a Franklin Planner, cut out the fluff, and boiled it down to its essence. The handsome planner easily fits in any backpack or suitcase.
The Legend Planner is the best daily planner that I’ve found so far. I can revisit my daily schedule, review year and quarterly goals, review my dreams, and reflect over my choices all in one place.
More Candidates for Best ADHD Planners
There’s additional considerations to keep in mind when choosing a planner. Personality, stage of life, and mental bandwidth all play a role is what will work best. Here’s a quick rundown of planners that are also known for helping with ADHD:
Digital Planner Candidates:
Electronic devices can be a great aid when it comes to ADHD, time management, and meeting important deadlines. Here’s one that our family has found useful:
Google calendars and similar digital calendars are a boon for people with ADHD. I appreciate the reminders that I can set to help me stay on-track and on-time.
I often use Google calendars as a place to archive notes and thoughts related to a specific project or meeting. The digital appointment provides a holding spot for attachments, thoughts, and agenda items that would otherwise get lost in the shuffle.
Paper Planner Candidates:
Premium Productivity Pro Planner
This is a high-quality, undated planner that focuses on achieving your goals and improving work life balance. It starts with goal planning for the year, then asks you to decide on what you’ll need to achieve those goals.
Each day on the weekly calendar has space to prioritize your top three goals, as well as a separate to-do list. There’s also a spot for daily gratitude, and reflecting on how to do better. Then at the end of each week there’s a page for review and notes.
This would be a great planner for someone who’s driven and motivated by achieving goals.
Disclosure: we received a Premium Productivity Pro Planner in exchange for our review. All opinions are our own.
@dinkumtribe Here’s our review of the best 2023 planner weekly and monthly 5 x 8” Premium Planner Pro from the Productivity Store. @DinkumTribe ADHD family travel @DinkumTribe ADHD family travel @DinkumTribe ADHD family travel #affiliate #productivity #plannerreview #goalsetting #amazonmusthaves #undatedplanner2023 ♬ original sound – DinkumTribe ADHD family travel
Simple Elephant Planner
A simple elephant planner is a straightforward, bare-bones planner. The planner begins with a generic vision and goals section. Simple Elephant planners also have a substantial number of blank pages for note-taking. This planner would be an improvement on a typical academic planner.
Passion Planners strike me as a blend between a Panda Planner and a Legend Planner. Their weekly planner begins with a Passion Roadmap that prompts you brainstorm your goals and identify which of these goals will have the biggest impact right now.
Clever Fox Planner
The Clever Fox Planner Brand offers a line of paper planners for all kinds of tasks. Their premium and pro weekly planners share similarities with the Legend Planner. However, it doesn’t appear to demand the kind of depth that you find in the Legend Planner.
@dinkumtribe In our family we’re always looking for a planner that does what we want more efficiently, and my oldest daughter wanted to try the Clever Fox planner. So here’s our walk-through. @DinkumTribe ADHD family travel @DinkumTribe ADHD family travel @DinkumTribe ADHD family travel #dailyplanner #dailyplanning #dayplanner #cleverfox #adhdplanner #adhdplanning #adhdstudent ♬ original sound – DinkumTribe ADHD family travel
Clever Fox offers little book planners for a wide range of topics including a Wellness Planner, Budget Planner, Food Journal, Bill Organizer, and Password Book.
The Happy Planner
Happy Planners are fun, wire-bound planners that often come in bright colors. These weekly planners are fairly basic, being composed of the standard elements that you’d expect to find in a day planner.
Did You Find What You Were Looking For?
Planners have come a long way from when I penciled in my first appointment. What planners and planning tools do you appreciate? Do you have a question or comment?
© Copyright Brian A. Warren 2022. Updated August 16, 2023.