A new year, a new diary. Or perhaps the computerised version, a "personal information manager". The computer alternative can take on many roles - appointment recorder, time allocator, priority manager, contact tracker, archivist, even alarm clock. I have been using Lotus Organizer instead of a diary for more than three years and it works well for me in all these capacities.
Organizer looks like a leather-bound Filofax, its pages secured on six pull-apart rings on a metal spine - the pages even "turn". It has seven components: diary, year-planner, anniversary recorder, to-do list, address book, note pad and phone-call log. Its advantage over the paper-based object is that the sections interact, so information entered in one section is displayed in other sections or is readily available to them. So if you use the planner to schedule holidays, conferences and meetings, these can be shown in the diary; if you link an appointment to a name in your address list, you can quickly find all the contact details you need.
For me, the to-do list is the central component. Organizer then sorts my tasks into future, current and overdue, and lists them by three levels of priority. When I have finished a task I can either drag it to the waste bin (where it bursts satisfyingly into flames) or mark it as completed - in which case a line is drawn through it and it is stored for posterity. I find this useful for making sure I invoice for submitted work. The kids, who use Organizer to keep track of homework, find it encouraging as the completed list quickly outstrips the pending ones. I normally opt for tasks on the to-do list to show in the diary just to help me to keep organised. But as with all the choices to do with layout, this is a feature that's easy to turn off. So, when I want to, I can see the pattern of my social life unencumbered by work.
Organizer lets me enter a whole series of recurring appointments or tasks, at daily, …