I love this time of the year! I love fresh starts and stationery. I love the idea of a blank slate (and a blank calendar). Despite that, it's been several years since I've used a planner or journal for recording and record-keeping. This year, I decided to go ALL OUT. I'm trying multiple systems while my energy is high and we'll see what sticks.
When I have kept a planner in the past, I've mostly used a weekly set-up. I like the way you can see the whole week in one spread.
I picked up a very simple planner at Target for around $10 (for some reason, I can't find a link to it).
I spent a lot of time perusing planner options online and stumbled upon the (apparently immensely popular) Day Designer. I wasn't initially too interested because it seemed like overkill to me, but then I discovered that they offer a free printable and decided to give it a shot.
I LOVE IT.
Sometimes I have trouble staying focused at work (I'm still getting used to sitting at a desk for at least 9 hours a day!). I use a spreadsheet to track my daily to-do list (more about this here) and that helps to keep me productive, but I still struggle with staying on task.
It occurred to me that I might need some babysitting in the form of a detailed daily schedule--and this works really well for that.
I usually have several projects going on at once so I strategically break up my tasks to keep things interesting during the day. If I find my mind wandering, it's as simple as looking up at the clock and then looking down at my schedule to remind myself what I should be working on.
I know it seems kind of overkill but even the exercise of writing out my day helps!
Edit: The printout is a full-sized sheet. I plan to just keep a couple of weeks' worth of pages in a thin binder and file older pages. One happy accident--when I first printed out a batch of pages, I accidentally forgot to print double-sided. But the backside of each page is the perfect place to jot down notes at work, which are then automatically part of that day's record. I used to take notes during phone calls and interviews on scrap pieces of paper or random notebooks and then I'd have a hard time finding the right slips of paper afterward. This solves that problem.
When I was in college, I used to carry around a blank sketchbook that I used for EVERYTHING--journaling, note taking, doodling... I plan to use a pocket-sized daily Moleskine journal similarly.
I jot down a few lines every day about the things I did or stuff I'm thinking about. And it stays in my bag, so I can pull it out to write down notes or things like phone numbers. To be honest, the small size makes it less daunting because I simply can't fit too much on a page.