What can I use instead of a spreadsheet for my personal journals?
August 2, 2019 7:46 AM   Subscribe

I keep a personal journal, of the "stuff that happened today" variety. It's a long org-mode file. I also keep a Google Sheets spreadsheet journal, which records things like how much sleep I get each day, whether I was sick, and whether I had caffeine. Is there any way to combine these? I like using a spreadsheet so I can do things like calculate averages over time, my regular journal entries are often several paragraphs long and would be awkward to put into a spreadsheet. I've read that it's bad practice to use spreadsheets when what you really need is a database. But I don't know anything about databases. I'm using Android / Chromebook / Linux.
posted by CustooFintel to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
You should probably look into the full feature potential of org-mode tables. You can do a surprising amount with them, including calculations. You have a spreadsheet system built into org-mode already!
posted by overeducated_alligator at 8:08 AM on August 2, 2019 [4 favorites]

I use a jupyter notebook for something very similar to this.

It's meant to be a literate programming device but I pretty much live in said notebooks. They very good at mixing tea, code in various languages with output and all kinds of export options.

Essentially I have notebook that starts with a cell that does some startup (imports some libraries, initializes some variables - I happen to like python, and contains some comments for things I don't do very often. Then a whole list of chronological cells that contain a timestamp, include have my diary bits (in markdown) and append values to those predefined variables. At the very bottom I have a cell that graphs the things I track that are better followed with a visualization.

The notebook server runs on a virtual server 'in the cloud' as a) that lets me offload the bandwidth intensive things and b) when I started I'd already started carrying an iPad as my EDC daily driver and local options weren't good. It's proxied behind nginx and I use let's encrypt for an https certificate. I get that this isn't everyone's cup 'o tea but it totally works for me and I like talking about it if you want to contact me for more details.

It's a giant document so it lives in a dropbox folder and (belt and suspenders) a cronjob pushes changes to a remote git repo.
posted by mce at 8:13 AM on August 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Is there a reason not to use an app for this? There are dozens if not hundreds of apps made for this, and they'll make lovely charts for you too so you can correlate your caffeine with your sleep, your sleep with your mood, etc. I'm sure some have websites too.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:35 AM on August 2, 2019

To piggyback on overeducated_alligator's answer I found a Stack Exchange question about adding to a table from a capture template:

posted by pianoblack at 8:57 AM on August 2, 2019

Notion is really useful and flexible - you can create spreadsheets, make kanban boards, have basic notes, etc. It's supposed to consolidate all sorts of tools into one and it's worked really well for me so far.
posted by thebots at 12:18 PM on August 2, 2019

As someone who has built their own webapp running off a MySQL database to keep track of the video games they played/bought after using a Google Sheets document for a few years: do you, in fact, need a database?

Databases are great things and are really useful if you need to store your data in a structured fashion and perform complex queries on it. But I haven't heard anything that suggests your use of Google Sheets is insufficient for the task. The biggest thing you will likely run into if you continue using Google Sheets for this task is that you may run into performance issues, depending on the amount of data you're storing and the calculations you're performing. The calculations you're performing don't sound too intense and the amount of data you're collecting sounds pretty reasonable.

I'm a big fan of building something more complex only when you know you need it. Google Sheets is a surprisingly resilient data storage and simple computing platform, and it's incredibly easy to use. I think you'd be fine to keep using it if that's what you want!
posted by chrominance at 3:22 PM on August 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

« Older peak human   |   Help me rejigger my businesses Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.