Holiday Gift Guide

A millennial therapist says this is the No. 1 gift for young people—and it's not money

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Having been a millennial therapist for the past six years, I often hear people complain about how difficult it is to shop for a generation that seems to want — but already has — everything.

So for the past couple of months, I've been asking my 20- and 30-something-year-old patients about what's on their wish list this year. I've gotten a variety of responses — money, an Apple Watch, AirPods, gift cards, essential oils, a plane ticket to Bali.

But there's one surprising item that kept coming up: a planner.

Why it's the perfect millennial gift

I know, I know. A planner? Really?! Isn't that so ... cliche?

But hear me out: After countless conversations with millennials, I've found that what young people struggle with the most is having to choose from too many options: "I have too many choices. Which should I choose? Too many things to do. What should I prioritize? I'm worried I'll make all the wrong decisions."

Yes, decision fatigue is a real thing, especially in a world that overloads us with information and puts an immense pressure on us to succeed. Trying to do the right thing or attempting to do everything all at once can be stressful, overwhelming and often lead to burnout.

This is where the planner comes in — and I'm not talking about the type that only allows you to jot down birthday reminders and every single task you think you need to complete. A planner is most effective when it's used to create order, direction and clarity about your goals and what you really want to accomplish.

For millennials, it's the perfect tool to help untangle the complex mess of modern life.

Paper planners are still relevant

In the age of advanced technology, one might think that paper planners would have gone extinct by now. But industry research firm NPD reported that planner sales in the US increased by more than $50 million from 2016 to 2017, from $290.7 million to $344.1 million.

For millennials, [a planner] is the perfect tool to help untangle the complex mess of modern life.

Furthermore, studies have found that the act of writing things down can have a calming effect — the kind of relief you don't get when you're typing things in the notes section of your smartphone (while a text message notification rolls down from the top of the screen).

A millennial patient of mine acknowledged that, as a millennial, he might not seem like the "paper planner" type. But he's actually been using one since grade school. "It's not just about scheduling meetings and appointments. It's about self-improvement," he told me. "If I'm having a bad day, I can open it tomorrow and see it as a chance to start over."

One female in her early-30s uses her planner to practice self-care; she schedules in "me time" several times a month. The sections to write down her personal goals and weekly expenses "are also ways to keep track of my life," she said.

Picking the right planner

Thoughtfulness and personalization is key, especially if you want to emphasize the fact that you care about the giftee and want to see them succeed.

There are a variety of ways to do this. You can pencil in words of encouragement, like a quote from their favorite author or movie, for example. Last year, a friend of mine gifted planners to his team of millennial employees. In each planner, he scheduled a one-on-one coffee lunch to catch up with the person.

Here are some of my favorite 2020 planners to give to millennials this year:

1. My PA Planner ($39)

My PA Planner

I love this planner's daily health and wellness checker, which helps you stay on top of your health and fitness goals.

Favorite features:

  • Comes with a one-year subscription to MY PA's private Facebook community (for ongoing support, accountability, tips and networking)
  • Monthly gratitude journal
  • Idea and inspiration vault

2. kikki.K B6 Personal Planner ($45)


This stylish planner comes in a vegan-friendly, croc-textured design and has a secure zip closure with internal pockets to keep all your important documents safe.

Favorite features:

  • Ringed binding (so you can refill the pages and use it again next year)
  • Weekly tabs and dividers
  • Blank notepad for journaling

3. Daily Passion Planner ($35)

Passion Planner

This planner includes a Passion Roadmap section for you to define your short- and long-term goals and break them down into smaller, actionable steps.

Favorite features:

  • Lots of fun sections for journaling (Good Things That Happened, Space of Infinite Possibility, Monthly Reflections)
  • For each planner sold, $1 benefits American Forests, a non-profit that works to restore threatened forest ecosystems
  • Inspirational quotes

4. STARTplanner Hustle Weekly Planner ($62)


This one can double as a financial planner, thanks to a comprehensive section where you can break down your expenses (e.g., transportation, insurance, utilities, TV, Internet, food, phone, health, entertainment).

Favorite features:

  • Financial overview and goals section
  • Vacation planner (packing lists, attractions, restaurants, things to do and buy)
  • The whimsical design adds a nice touch

5. Workspacery Refresh Weekly Planner ($39.95)


To make your giftee feel extra special, you can customize this planner with a name, company name, short phrase or fun quote (up to 14 characters per line).

Favorite features:

  • Gratitude notes section
  • Strategic goal-planning framework
  • Intentional space highlighting weekly action steps

6. Dailygreatness Vagami Self-Leadership Planner ($99)


This planner is reusable and made of vegan leather, so you can save money and the planet.

Favorite features:

  • Self-leadership focused questions
  • Comprehensive goal-planning system
  • Weekly, quarterly and yearly growth check-ins

7. MochiThings Planner S ($22.95)


This compact planner comes in a variety of beautiful colors and includes yearly, monthly and weekly planning sections.

Favorite features:

  • Small and portable (fits anywhere)
  • Attached bookmarks, pockets and even a pen holder
  • 398 pages of dated daily note pages

8. 2020 Weekly Ponderlily Planner (£35.00)


This beautiful planner is made with sustainable, plastic-free materials and comes in a wide variety of colors.

Favorite features:

  • Space for intentions, to-do list, gratitude, and notes
  • Reminders to recharge
  • Pocket in the back cover for keepsakes

Tess Brigham is a San Francisco-based psychotherapist and certified life coach. She has more than 10 years of experience in the field and primarily works with millennials and millennial parents.

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