I’ve been using Day One on a daily basis for the past three years, mostly for my daily log—or journal, or diary, or whatever you want to call it. It’s been serving me well: I like that it saves my entries in XML (so I can easily migrate away from it in the future if I need to), and does so on Dropbox (so the iOS apps sync easily, and I’ve got that built-in backup).
The Daily Log
Sometime around the beginning of this year, I started adding some structure to those daily logs. I still do a quick list of what I do each day, but I now have several sections that I’ll fill in when appropriate. I’ve found this really helpful in prompting me to take a closer look at what I did with my day, in part because it’s forced me to think about how I’m spending my time, in a way that I wasn’t always thinking much about before.
I started off with just a couple sections, and have added more as they occur to me. My template now includes the following (and thanks to TextExpander, a few quick keystrokes expand into the starting template that I use each day):
- Watched: TV shows or movies I watched. At a couple different points, noting these has made me realize how much time I was wasting watching TV shows that really aren’t bringing any value to my life.
- Listened: Music or podcasts I listen to. For me, particular songs and albums wind up being very closely linked to events in my mind.
- Read: Books, mostly, and sometimes magazines. This one is empty more often than I’d like right now, but it’s improving.
- Spoke to: Who I talked to today, by phone, text, IM, whatever. This is just one of those weird pieces of information I like to have, so that I can answer questions like, “Oh crap, when’s the last time I called so-and-so?”
- Went to: Again, mostly useful in answering, “When did I go to that thing at Logan Arcade?” This is rarely vital information to have, but it’s the kind of thing that drives me nuts when I can’t remember.
- Felt: This one has been really helpful in noticing trends, to which I had often been oblivious in the past. Have I felt tired or depressed for a few days in a row? That probably merits some consideration, then, doesn’t it.
- Learned: This is another one that’s empty more often than it should be. It’s the kind of thing I need to stop and think about at the end of each day, and too often, I just kind of glide right past it and leave it empty.
- Positive steps taken: This one’s more of an ego boost than anything else. Meditated? Right on! Had a salad for lunch instead of the pizza I wanted to get? Well done!
- Negative actions: …and this one is kind of the opposite. But, it’s another one that’s valuable in spotting trends. Spent money on stuff I didn’t need? Ate the pizza I wanted instead of the salad I should have had? That kind of thing.
- General impression of the day: How did I feel about the day in general? Am I in a good mood at the end of the day, or frustrated with something?
Since these entries make up the vast bulk of my Day One database, I don’t bother tagging them.
I mentioned that several of these items are mostly helpful in identifying trends, which brings me to:
The Weekly Review
I started doing these right around the same time that I started using a template in my daily log. I realized (because I’m super smart and it takes me some time to note the obvious) that the only way to make progress moving forward was to stop and take a look at where I had been going, and make course corrections as needed. I typically spend somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 or 20 minutes on Sunday evenings looking back over my daily logs from the week, then answer some questions that come from another template:
- What did I do to improve myself this week?
- What habits, trends, or patterns did I see in myself this week?
- What am I looking forward to in the next week?
- What am I dreading in the next week?
- What do I need to work on/focus on for the next week?
- Highlights of the week
Weekly review entries are tagged “weeklyreview”.
I started using Day One for regular old journal entries last fall, and wrote a lot of them for several months there. In the past couple months, these have really fallen off; but then again, things have been going pretty smoothly lately, so I’m not trying to make sense of thoughts and feelings as much as I was this past winter when things were…not.
I have mixed feelings about using Day One for this, which I’ve been meaning to write about more. The short version is that I like having a searchable, backed-up journal that goes with me everywhere, that I can write a short entry in whenever I have something on my mind and just need to get it out. I don’t like that you really can’t just skim it, that typed entries lack some of the…I don’t know, humanness of pen on paper. But then again, my handwriting is bad enough that I wouldn’t be able to read it if I were writing it down anyway.
Journal entries are tagged (surprise) “journal”.
The Monthly Review
The other day, I did a monthly review for the first time. Just like I review each week’s daily logs to spot trends, I figure it’s a good idea to review the weekly logs to get a sense for the full month. At this point, I don’t have any template for this (though again, I’ve only done it once): I just look back on the month and jot down some general feelings about how it all went.
Monthly review entries are tagged “monthlyreview”.
Though I have my gripes with Day One (the way search results are displayed is a big one), I’m really happy with it overall, and as time goes on, I use it for more and more.
I’ve found it interesting to read about how other people use it, too. On the Day One blog, they often interview people about how they journal, and they also have a Uses category where they post about the non-journal-y ways that people are using the app.