Let’s face it — we all want to be more productive. But how do we get there? Through prioritization, organization, strategic scheduling, time and energy management, finding meaning in our work, and the list goes on. One way to push the pedal on all of these aspects of productivity? Finding, and then using, the right tools. Like a planner. And sure, there are a lot of options out there. But that’s what we’re here for. Today, we’re breaking down two of the best productivity planners on the market: Best Self Journal by Best Self Co and Panda Planner® Classic.
What Works Best For You? Best Self Journal or Panda Planner® Classic
Both planners are daily productivity tools backed by science and touted by entrepreneurs for their effectiveness. However, there are some major differences, which is why we’re going in-depth in our Panda Planner and Best Self Co Journal review — so you can choose wisely.
So get comfortable. This is a planner deep dive. Here’s what we’re covering:
2. What you get
3. Design and layout
5. Intended audience
6. Overall purpose and conclusion
If price is a huge factor for you, both these planners are great options. At only $24.97, the Panda Planner Classic comes in a few bucks cheaper than the Best Self Journal’s $31.99.
The Best Self Journal also charges a shipping fee, while Panda Planner is available on Amazon Prime. So if you’re a Prime member you can score a deal with free two-day shipping.
So the Panda Planner is about $10 cheaper after all is said and done.
What you get
While the Best Self Journal is a little more expensive, it comes across in the packaging. The box is beautiful and comes with a few extras the Panda Planner doesn’t.
With the Best Self Journal, you get a 13-week dry-erase wall calendar, a book telling you how to use the journal, and a card to plan your daily morning and evening routines. You also get access to their online community, which touts hundreds of thousands of users cheering you on to reach your goals.
The Panda Planner, however, is much simpler. It comes ready to use out of the box. There are instructions for using the planner to the fullest on the first page, as well as the science behind the layouts and processes. Other than that, the packaging is pretty streamlined.
Panda Planner also comes with a ton of online resources via mypandaplanner.com, which include eBooks, Quick Start Guide videos, and a robust online Facebook community to keep you motivated.
Design and layout
Both the Panda Planner Classic and the Best Self Journal are 13-week planners with undated Daily, Weekly, and Monthly sections for you to plan your time. That’s not where the similarities end though. Both focus on research, incorporate strategies based on science like gratitude and habit tracking, and encourage regular reflection to help you accomplish your goals.
However, there are some stark differences. Let’s take a look.
Best Self Journal
The Best Self Journal comes with a booklet that details how to use the planner to its fullest. There’s a quick-start guide at the beginning, but it’s best to read through the entire thing, to get the full gist of it.
Also, at the front of the Best Self Journal is a four-page, 13-week roadmap that helps you understand the meaning behind your big goal and break it into actionable steps. There’s space for three separate goals, so you can outline three important areas of your life you want to improve. For example, you might have a sales goal, a marketing goal, and a fitness goal.
The fourth page is your commitment. It’s where the Journal asks you to fully commit your life to these goals over the next 13-weeks by reminding you how your life will improve by achieving these particular goals.
The Panda Planner, on the other hand, keeps it simple with one page that details how to use the planner to be more productive and, ultimately, happier. It’s a step-by-step to-do list of sorts that you can refer back to when filling out the planner.
For more in-depth tutorials, you’ll want to watch the quick start videos, which include videos on the daily, weekly, and monthly sections of the planner. There, you’ll get walk-throughs from Panda Planner’s founder and CEO.
Both the Best Self Journal and the Panda Planner have an undated monthly section at the front of the book. You fill out the month as you go and use it to write in big-picture goals or upcoming events. But this section is where you’ll notice some big differences.
Best Self Journal
The Best Self Journal’s Monthly section is pretty basic, as this planner is really more of a daily journal for goal-setting. You have three-month spreads you can fill out (undated so you can start any time of year) along with a small area for notes and tasks.
The monthly section is where the Panda Planner Classic really starts to shine. In addition to the undated calendar layout, you have a place to write the month’s focus, a habit you’re trying to build, a notes section along the right side, and both a Plan and Review section on the bottom. These sections include space for you to set goals for the month, outline your why behind those goals, and list distractions to avoid so you stay on task (a huge one for many people). You can also refer back to this page at the end of the month to check on your goal progress, your wins for the month, and set improvements for the next month.
The Panda Planner also has pages for 12 months, while the Best Self Journal only has three.
Now that we know how the monthly sections work, let’s dig into the weekly ones.
Best Self Journal
The Best Self Journal’s Weekly section gives you one spread per week on your 13-week journey. On these pages, you can list the three things you must get done this week to achieve your goal. Then, it breaks down the week into tiny day boxes, which would be a good place to list your daily to-do lists. There’s also a habit tracker and a few prompts for weekly reflection. The goal is to fill out a page a week during each of the 13 weeks so you’re more aware of the daily things you do to reach your big goals.
Panda Planner’s weekly section is set up very differently. While there’s still one spread per week, this planner gives you extra spreads, so you have additional weeks to fill out if you skip one or two. And hey, we all do that sometimes.
Additionally, Panda Planner starts with a reflection on the previous week and areas for you to improve. It’s great to have this in front of you as you plan your current week, instead of flipping back to the previous page to see how you did.
The weekly section in the Panda Planner also has a place for you to note what you’ll do to make the week great in your personal, professional, and social lives. It seems the Panda Planner understands that there’s more to planning your day than just your professional goals.
On the opposite page of Panda Planner’s weekly spread is a place for planning the week’s projects and listing your goals for the week.
The Daily sections are where the magic happens. If you’re buying either of these, it’s because you want more organization in your day-to-day life, which they both offer in spades.
Best Self Journal
The Best Self Journal’s daily section has one spread for each day — undated. On the left side is an hourly planner (6 a.m. – 9 p.m.), which you’re encouraged to fill completely. In their eyes, idle time is unproductive, so fill the space. Next to your hourly planner is a small space for notes, and under both is a place for morning reflection.
On the opposite page is space for you to announce your goal and list your targets for the day. (I.e., what will make the day a win for you?). Then you’ll see a motivational quote. It changes every day, so you can be inspired by other goal-getters.
Finally, the daily spread concludes with reflection: lessons learned, wins, and the things you’re most grateful for.
Panda Planner’s daily section is similar in philosophy, just laid out differently. Each day is assigned an undated spread that starts with a morning review to allow you to note what you’re grateful for, what you’re excited about, your daily affirmation, your focus, and the daily exercise you’re planning on doing. Under that is a place for you to list your five priorities for the day.
On the right side is your hourly schedule (6 a.m. – 9 p.m.), a place for you to list your tasks or to-do list, and an end of day review, where you list your wins from the day and how you’ll improve tomorrow.
Both the Best Self Journal and Panda Planner encourage you to bookend your day with reflection.
Both the Panda Planner and the Best Self Journal are heavily based on research. In fact, it seems the planners are designed on similar research that encourages writing down your goals, planning out your day, and reflecting on a daily basis.
However, Panda Planner’s morning review, end of day review, weekly, and monthly sections are modeled on behavioral science and positive psychology interventions. Translation: The exercises, down to the number of spaces in each one, are specifically designed to increase productivity and happiness, according to science. These are proven ways to get you feeling better and on the path to your most productive self. They worked in the lab, and they can work for you too.
In addition to research, it seems the intended audience of both planners is very similar. Both would be extremely attractive to the entrepreneur set.
However, Panda Planner seems like it could have a much broader audience. While The Best Self Journal gets down into the nitty-gritty of specific goals, the Panda Planner is more well-rounded in that it helps you be more productive in all aspects of your life — not just business. It could be useful to those who work in an office, people with a side hustle, or even stay-at-home moms.
Both planners are great tools for organizing your schedule and helping you hit your goals. The Best Self Journal is more goal-oriented whereas Panda Planner is really a tool to help you build a better and more balanced life overall. Ultimately, the choice is about what works best for you, your life, and your purpose for using it. So pick one that’s best suited to your needs and get going.
Your turn: What tool are you most likely to use: Best Self Journal or Panda Planner? Tell us what would work best for you in the comments.
*Positive Routines is affiliated with the team at Panda Planner. All opinions are the writer’s own, based on her experience using and reviewing the products.
Author: Kelly Heitz
Kelly Heitz is a freelance writer and social media guru. When she’s not scrolling through her Instagram feed, you can find her outside—usually hiking, painting, or patio drinking.