My solution? A chalkboard surface applied directly to my workbench. This allows me to keep all my notes, etc. in one place while retaining the original desk real estate.
Step 1: Materials/Tools
* Chalkboard Paint - I used Krylon black chalkboard spray and it works really well.
* Chalk - White, colored, both, whatever floats your boat, just not clay based.
* Eraser - Felt ones work the best.
* Newspaper - For blocking over-spray.
* Masking Tape - For masking of course.
* Sand Paper - For prepping the surface, finer grits such as 200 probably work best. I used 100 and it was alright but I wouldn't go much courser as it could give you an uneven surface.
Step 2: Prep the Surface for Paint
After sanding, wipe the surface clean of any dust.
Next, mask off the intended area using the newspaper to keep over-spray from getting on the rest of your workbench.
Caution: Be careful when deciding where to place your chalkboard. Electronics tend have a weakness for high amounts of dust which a chalkboard potentially could generate. If you want to reduce dust, erase the board using a damp cloth instead of the standard eraser.
Thanks to member jteppen for reminding me of this.
Step 3: Paint
When painting try to work in only the one direction (horizontal or vertical) and then come back in the other direction. Avoid painting in 'spots' or only one area at a time as much as possible. You are not only worried about the appearance of your paint job but the surface as well so if you apply the paint unevenly it will have a negative effect on how easily you can write on the surface.
Standard painting rules apply: Let the first coat dry before applying the second, don't paint in high humidity, ventilate, don't mess with the surface for at least 24 hours after the final coat is applied (or longer depending on conditions).