How do I document my days?
July 11, 2016 3:37 PM   Subscribe

For YEARS I have wanted to keep a short diary of just a few things that happened to me that day. Not deep thoughts and feelings: just the facts. But for some reason I can never keep it up. Do you have any ideas on how to do this? Paper? An online system? A blog? A picture journal? Or even better, a strategy (in the morning, while brushing teeth, etc.?)
posted by heavenknows to Grab Bag (22 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
What have you tried?
My suggestion would be a paper journal by the bedside at night. Something like this that gives you just a little room, so it isn't intimidating. (you can words instead of doodles if you want) If you skip a day, just fill in both square the next time. You just need to make it firm rule that you can't go to sleep until you have done it. It only takes a minute or two so no matter how late it is or how tired you are there are no excuses. (The "no excuse" thinking is big part of the success for me.)
posted by metahawk at 4:03 PM on July 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

What about those 5 year one line at a time journals? Like this?
posted by Ms Vegetable at 4:09 PM on July 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Ooh, that five year one looks great! I've tried and tried right before bed and I've just given up because I always just pass out . . .
posted by heavenknows at 4:13 PM on July 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Join the Hobonichi Techo crowd! Not just an ordinary journal, there's something about how well-designed (that Tomoe River paper) and cute they are (the covers!) that makes people carry them around everywhere and get creative/expressive every day.
posted by naju at 4:16 PM on July 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Commute by bus. Write on the ride home.
posted by jon1270 at 4:19 PM on July 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I use one of those five year journals, and the best luck I've had with filling it out consistently is keeping it at my office right next to my keyboard. On Mondays, I fill in the info for the weekend and during the workweek I fill in the info for the day before. This somehow works better for me that keeping it by my bedside. I'm on year 3 now, and it's a lot of fun to look back over the same day for the last 2 years.
posted by megancita at 4:19 PM on July 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Do it on a calendar.
posted by ficbot at 4:25 PM on July 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I buy a paper calendar similar to the Hobonichi and write in birthdays, special events, and daily notes. I also add stickers, tape-in things like ticket stubs or other ephemera, and doodle. It ends up being a great tool for keeping my current to-do list and winds up being a diary/scrapbook keepsake when I'm done. I have about 15 years of used calendars now and they're a charming way to look back and remember. Transferring information from the old calendar to the new one is one of my favorite end-of-year activities.
posted by quince at 4:31 PM on July 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

idonethis is free, and sends you an email at any time of the day you want (I use 11:00 PM, right around bedtime). You "write in your journal" by replying to said email with a 1-2 sentence summary of what happened that day. You can organize your entries with hashtags. You can even fill it out a few days delayed by replying to the email whenever you want.
posted by gemutlichkeit at 5:09 PM on July 11, 2016 [8 favorites]

The closest I've come is finding a day planner that works for me. Sometimes I go back and make edits after the fact, since I'm looking at it already anyway.
posted by aniola at 5:13 PM on July 11, 2016

I made a variant of this index card journal back in December 2013, and I love it. I used a ceramic berry basket as the container. I write a single line about each day (and sometimes I fall behind, but even if I get a few days to a week behind I can usually remember *something* about the day to write down). What I particularly love about it now that I've been doing it for 2.5 years is being reminded every day of what I was doing one, two, or three years before - even the boring days.
posted by amelioration at 5:25 PM on July 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

Oh, and the other thing I love about the index card journal is that I wind up filing things like ticket stubs, and postcards from places I visit, and restaurant business cards in amongst the diary cards, so there's other forms of memories filtering in as well, scrapbook-style.

And since it's not about emotions, it just sits on my coffee table rather than needing to be put away somewhere private, and I do it while I watch tv or talk on the phone.
posted by amelioration at 5:27 PM on July 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

I use a bullet journal as both rapid logging, to do list, notes for work/home/everything, and as a 'what I did today' thing. The free space and mutability of it works for me (I just changed my weekly layout for instance).
posted by geek anachronism at 5:31 PM on July 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

I have the Simplenote app on my phone (that I love) and one of my tags is Dailynotes. I start a new note at the beginning of each month and type a few lines when I have a few minutes. If it was a busy weekend, for example, I can type on my computer since the app syncs with the website.

Having it on my phone was key to my actually doing it - paper journals were always in the wrong place at the wrong time.
posted by unlapsing at 5:37 PM on July 11, 2016

It's a bit non-traditional but I've been using Keel's Simple Diary (you can get it on Amazon as well). In Volume One each page gives you a multiple choice to answer "Your day was:" For example my page for today gives the options: crucial | open-minded | immature. Then you get 2 lines to explain why and this is usually where I put my quick run down of the big events in my day. Then you get a "quote" to think about and more multiple choice questions or fill-in-the-blanks or lists, etc.

This is definitely not the journal for you if you really want to write about your day but it's perfect for me because it's easy and quick. On uneventful days the questions prompt me to review my day and find something worth writing about and on lazy days or days when I'm too exhausted to journal I can fill out a page in less than a minute.

I keep it next to my keyboard on my desk. I always stop at my computer for a bit before bed so I'm always reminded to use it.
posted by simplethings at 11:38 PM on July 11, 2016

I have a 10-year journal similar to the 5-years mentioned above. I have also started using the Day One app, which is expensive, but I love it*. You can set multiple daily reminders (even a "picture of the day" reminder) to prompt you to update. Here's what I like about it vs the handwrittern 10-year journal:

- has "this day in history" feature
- reminders
- photos
- tags
- is searchable
- is printable and exportable to pdf
- available on all my devices
- can have multiple diaries, so you can use one for, say "vacation," or one for "workouts" or health tracking or whatever. You can slo use tags to do this.

I also like that at 9PM, when I get the reminder to update my entry for the day, the barrier to do so is low. I can do it laying in bed, or even if I'm out for drinks with friends. The barrier is higher with a physical journal that I might not carry on my person at all times. And If I think of something earlier in the day, it's as east as pulling my phone out to make a note of it.

I have 1.5 years left in my 10-year journal and after that I'll probably switch exclusively to Day One. I have an idea to print out each year at the end of the year and have it bound so I can look at it when I want.

Here are some more ideas. for how people use Day One.

You might also find the answers to this question from yesterday helpful.

*Saw many, many mentions of this app on MeFi before finally deciding to try it out. So thanks Mefi!
posted by Brittanie at 12:21 AM on July 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I use Facebook with myself as the only audience if necessary. I can do it anywhere (my phone is always with me) snd it's easy to include photos if i like. Then Facebook shows me every year what happened on that day for all the years I've been online.
posted by b33j at 1:39 AM on July 12, 2016

I use a second install of Notational Velocity (that I replaced the icon of--it looks like a Moleskine now) for just journaling, then nvALT, which allows formatting, for all my other note-keeping needs.
posted by tapir-whorf at 2:06 AM on July 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seconding Day One. It's the only thing I ever found where I was able to keep up the habit. Although you can use it how you want I think it really shines for simple one-sentence or one-photo journalling. It will record the weather, time/date, music you are listening to, activity you are doing (if you have a newer phone) and location automatically which saves you having to write those things if that's all you feel like recording some days. Brittanie explains the other features better than me.

I just wish it was available on Android, I tried some alternatives but nothing came close.
posted by the long dark teatime of the soul at 5:46 AM on July 12, 2016

This is a topic near and dear to my heart, so I have another answer.

Lifehacker has a couple of templates for daily journaling (i.e. questions to ask yourself).

Template 1:

What happened to you that day (events).
Outcomes, tasks, questions. Outcomes are the big things you want to achieve for the day. Tasks are the smaller steps to achieving outcomes.
Write down 3 accomplishments.
Questions (all optional, pick as you please):
What did I read?
What did I learn?
What did I do to help my future?
How did I help someone today?
Who do I love?
What am I grateful for?

Template 2:

Write down what you’re looking forward to
People who devote time to anticipating fun experiences are happier.
So at least once a week, make plans, write them down and when you need a boost, look at the great things you have coming up...

Write down your progress
Want to know your strengths and weaknesses? Make predictions, write them down and compare against results. This is an excellent way to see where your natural abilities are and if you’re improving.

Write down your anxieties
Research shows writing about your worries can calm you and even increase performance...

Template 3:

So keep a simple log in which you write down, every stinking day, these three things: 1) what I ate, 2) what I did for exercise (or didn't), and 3) what I did with my life — sexually, socially, morally … whatever lights your fire. It is a tremendous help to know as you decide from minute to minute what do do, that 'All Will Be Written' and 'All Will Be Known.' It is a talismanic business, a sign that someone cares. Even if it's just you.
posted by Brittanie at 6:19 AM on July 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I carry a camera around and between taking legit photos, I'll occasionally will just hammer a few frames of random frames of where I am ever. No real attention to composition, keeping things steady or anything. Every time I fill up a memory card I create a really fast slideshow of all the images set to music.

The result are quick visual diaries of my days that are short and entertaining enough that people actually take the time to watch them.
posted by kpraslowicz at 12:18 PM on July 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Seconding Notational Velocity or nvALT. You can run multiple instances of both. Sync to your phone with Simplenote, Dropbox or 1Writer. It's the best notetaking solution I've found.

Or pick up a blank pocket notebook and write the date in the top corner. Keep by bed, jot a few lines before sleep.
posted by fritillary at 5:22 PM on July 12, 2016

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