Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
Ever noticed a train whooshing through a tunnel?
That’s what our panicky brain feels like when it goes up against an overpowering list of things to do.
There is a hyper-drive option in the old head but it needs to set up some scaffoldings to handle the headlong rush into the day. Productivity planners are the little struts that help frame our goals.
Even with the glut of productivity apps out there, the feel of paper hasn’t lost its place yet. Today, with the monkey of productivity on our backs, printable productivity planners are making a comeback. Or, as these free printable productivity planners prove – they never should have gone away!
Why Printable Planners Work?
Three short reasons with long benefits:
- They are flexible.
- There is no learning involved.
- There is no download, no irritating notifications, and no annoying updates.
I made my own customized PDF templates for planning learning goals. After a few months into it, I learned a lot, not only about the kind of productivity system that worked for me, but it also brought my hunt for the next great productivity tool to a halt.
Trust me, there is no perfect app.
But there are perfect productivity systems that can be tailor-made for each of us. Printable planners help because you can download and tweak their design to make them your own. If they don’t work, discard them and start a new one that just might.
So, let’s dive into the web and find the best and free printable productivity planner templates out there.
1. Journal Life [No Longer Available]
We used to call them “Diarists”. Journaling is the term that is in vogue now. From John Adams to Virginia Wolf, everyone kept a notebook to record their thoughts. Journal Life is a physical notebook which you can purchase. Before that, as a journaling beginner, you can subscribe to their free six-week course and a little 16-page guide to start off.
The free ebook does not have a template, but it is a useful primer to make one of your own. Journaling is one of most uncomplicated habits you can start to improve your productivity and it needs nothing more than a pen and paper or a digital journaling tool like Day One.
My friend Rob Nightingale makes an excellent point in his article on the productivity benefits of journaling.
By developing the habit of regular journaling, you’re cultivating a self-discipline that can be extended to many other areas of life and work.
When writing a diary or a journal scratches your itch, make your journaling templates. I would especially recommend the 5-minute journal for those who might hate to take the plunge when dipping a tiny toe would do. Intelligent Change promoted the 5-minute journal.
For a deeper sense of accomplishment, you can buy their Productivity Planner. Or put together one of your own by following the concept as laid down in their template.
Subscribe on their site to download the guide and template. The Productivity Planner combines the idea of MITs (Most Important Tasks) of the day with the Pomodoro Method. Estimate or set the number of Pomodoro’s for each task by filling in the target boxes for each task.
At the end of the day, calculate your productivity score and see if you managed to overcome procrastination. There’s also enough space to write down your thoughts and review your performance for the day.
Take a time tracker and the Productivity Heat Map (PDF Download) to find out the periods of time when you are in the flow. The quick visualization exercise that should help you slot your most important tasks in the zones of maximum productivity.
After all, many brain studies have found out the usefulness of managing energy rather than time for peak productivity. The Productivity Heat Map also helps you understand the quality of your work.
Take a look at the other free planner templates available on this site. The Productivity Jumpstarter and Individual Project Planner deserve a click if you are working alone. The Handoff Holder is when you are working on a project with a team.
4. Daily Planit
Rosemary Rice loves Superman and wordplay. She loves productivity and personal growth even more. Her focus is on using systems that combine the best of digital tools with offline paper systems that stick to the Keep It Super Simple (K.I.S.S.) system for productivity. In short – flexible list making systems that you can use for any situation.
To complement her paid tools, she offers a whole page of free tools.
Browse and choose one to fit your need. Maybe, you are trying to set up a morning routine and need a simple system to jot everything down. The Daily Routine List can help to start the day like an athlete. Try the Monthly Repeating Tasks template to take your life goals across a month and turn them into good habits.
You’ll find a bunch of planning printables for carrying out a self-review or set smart goals for a bigger project. Look into those. Keep scrolling down because Rosemary includes printable templates from many other sources. If you have a fondness for paper planners, this single page is worth a large red bookmark.
This is in French. But it is cute enough to easily duplicate in any language of your choice with Microsoft Word.
The three-faced template (PDF Download) covers the key elements of the day and the week. There’s space for the key objectives and the people to contact. And then there’s a side for some positive musings for that push you need on a drowsy Monday.
Print this on a slightly thicker A4 paper, fold on the dotted lines and prop it on your desk.
Chrissy Halton offers a fantastic timesaving (and tree-saving) tip that you can use for almost all planners.
I printed mine out and then laminated it – so I can simply keep it in my diary and write on it each day (with a dry erase marker) and then reuse the following day – saves paper and ink!
Her Daily Productivity Chart is a useful insert for any diary. It helps to take a quick overview of the day without getting bogged down in the details. You might like the idea of tracking five critical areas of your life with the S.M.I.L.E (Social / Manage the Home / Income / Leisure and Energy) boxes.
Browse through her site for a host of other free printable templates.
Entrepreneurs need all the systems they can handle. But then, aren’t we all “entrepreneurs” of our own lives? If you believe that, you will go far with this neat and well-designed collection of 23 free printable planner templates. You can download them in one go, or pick them off one by one. Seriously, there are some cool ones to be had.
Start your morning with the Brain Dump template. Then, bite down with the Project Planner. Or, how about a longer view of your life with the template that says Bucket List for This Decade.
In the right spirit for “do no break the chain”, I went for the Resolution Streak Log as below.
The minimal templates were designed by Jeannie Ombania, the creator of the site that’s next on our list.
8. The List Lab
Jeannie has a thing for paper and lists. So much so, that she uses her graphic designing sorcery to create some wonderful templates. This is an online shop, but I discovered some freebies on offer. Not many, but hitting this link with the freebies tag should take you to all of them.
My favorite pick? The Daily Routine template, which is thoughtfully divided into morning, day, and night.
I am also partial to this Streak Challenge printable that can rescue you from dropping off the wagon. Don’t forget to include the winner’s reward.
9. Life by Mom [No Longer Available]
Trust me, you are not going to run short of free printables for planning every area of your life. Especially when you have bloggers like Alicia to help you out. There are printable planners you can buy and then there are the freebies. A whole page of them!
My ultimate like goes to the Reflections [No Longer Available] template which is a whole list of prompts you can use to note down your thoughts.
Also, it might be too late for the 2016 Yearly Calendar planner, but it’s not too late for the Holiday Sales Tracker [No Longer Available] printable. And it’s definitely not too late to download this free template for a micro-journaling habit.
10. DIY Planner.com
If your analog fixation is strong, then you will love the tons of resources here. The site feels a bit dated, but don’t let that detract you away from the collection, which is still golden. The community contributions remain alive and strong.
Check the article topics in the left sidebar. You can find planner templates as well as specific GTD (Getting Things Done) and other time management tools to organize your life.
One of my best finds has been the “Unschedule” template. Here’s how it is described:
If you have an important project that you’ve been procrastinating, schedule in *everything but* that project first, including breaks, meals, and so on. This will give you a realistic idea of how much time you actually have available. Once you’ve done the above, you can use the available time to work.
Check the design of the templates in thumbnail mode and then download the files by clicking on the link that says “Attachment”. The templates are commonly in PDF or ODF (Open Document Format). All are licensed under Creative Commons.
Do You Set Goals with a Planner?
Still looking? Here’s another handy list to find more free printable planners.
Shake the productivity tree and DIY printable planners will drop like ripe fruits. But the trick is not in the planner. The secret is YOU.
Planners are organizational systems. The actual work starts after you dump your brain on the sheet…create a bulleted list…or dream your vision. Every paper system will test your zeal to accomplish the goals you have put down. Keep trying both.