Day One / Blog

The Way I Journal: Sven Fechner

[Day One] Who are you and what do you do?

[Sven] I am Sven Fechner and work as a Senior Manager for Cisco Systems across Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Russia. However, I might be more known online for the blogging I do at SimplicityBliss.com and, as of recently, I am a co-host at the bi-weekly German tech podcast “Der Übercast“.

Stuttgart, Germany—known for all the beautiful, well-engineered Mercedes and Porsches manufactured here—is the place my wife, two kids, and I call home. But my job requires a lot of travel which I tend to document in Day One, amongst other things.

When and why did you start journaling?

Maybe I had a little journal when I was a very young boy—I cannot remember. I actually cannot remember a lot of things—whether they have been two or ten years ago. The past never mattered much to me. It is the past, isn’t it? But it actually bothers me that my memory works this way. Our past is important as it influences our future. In particular if you have kids, you want to keep these memories. The first tennis tournament your son played and the first day at school of your daughter. It matters a lot. That is why I started journaling and it is Day One that made it really easy for me.

Documenting goals and progress has also become a very important aspect of journaling to me. We all have these dreams, but they too often get buried under the day-to-day noise, only to surface occasionally to remind us we have not made much progress towards them. Journaling helps me to keep these goals in sight and be more conscious about the progress I am making (or not).

What is your journaling routine?

I’ll be honest with you: I originally thought I’d take a quiet moment at the end of each day and journal. I never did. At the end of a fulfilling—and sometimes just stressful day—I simply lack the energy to journal. That is why I typically journal in the morning. Either right after getting up or in the commuter train when I am on my way to work. Since I travel a lot internationally I also take time during flights to journal.

Granted this does not sound much like a routine, but energy is equally important to me as time is and hence it is of limited value to me to journal when my energy is too low for quality reflection.

Do you focus on long form writing, or in capturing small memories of life?

Longform is something you find rarely amongst my entries. Typically it is a combination of some little longer entries that are more reflective and short snapshots of situations, moments, and feelings. The latter is nearly always combined with an actual snapshot.

Do you have a favorite spot where you like to journal?

Unfortunately, I do not have a “reflection chair” or “journaling tree” under which I sit and write. It varies from on-the-go (on the commuter train, on a plane, or in a hotel room) to when I get my cup of tea in the morning sitting at our large dining table at home before the family wakes up.

What is your first entry in Day One?

It is any entry from early October 2011 in which I am heavily complaining about the ear pain I suffered while flying from Newark back to Germany with a severe cold I, ironically, caught on the in-bound flight, thanks to United’s aggressive air condition settings. The entry helps to remember a strange, but helpful whiskey-based, get-well drink an Irish colleague made the hotel barkeeper mix for me. It has a number of unexpected ingredients, like cloves, but worked wonders and helped me with a deep, recovering sleep the night before the entry.

How many entries do you have in your journal?

503 entries of which 252 come with photos. I worked hard not to be religious about having an entry for each day—quality trumps quantity, as they say. There needs to be something to reflect on, a moment to remember, or significant (or lack of) progress against one of my goals.

What is your favorite or most used feature from Day One?

While I love that Day One supports writing in Markdown syntax and Dropbox sync, it is the simple feature of taking a photo that means the most to me. The photo represents the moment you are journaling or an association with what you are reflecting on. Many journaling apps take photos, but Day One delivers such a simple, wonderful, and aesthetic user experience that there is no alternative to it, at least for me.

Do you write mostly on the iPhone, iPad, or the Mac?

Most short entries that capture a moment, typically with a photo, are done with the iPhone. However, I typically then add some more text to the entry when in front of my Mac or iPad. Any slightly longer entry is made on either my MacBook Air (13″) or my iPad Air which, for that purpose, typically gets paired with a Logitech Tablet Keyboard.

Do you follow any journal organization rules?

People tell me I am very organized while I think modestly organized describes it a little better. In Day One I use about two dozen tags to organize my entries. The most important ones are goals, events, ideas, and the names of my wife and kids. But there are also tags that help me capture (business) travel memories, sometimes including short personal restaurant reviews.

I had to fight with my inner OCD for quite some time to accept that there will not be an entry for every day and that two entries on one day are also okay. I am a little obsessed with symmetry by the looks of it, but I can manage.

Have you ever relied on Day One for something unexpected, or used it to recall details about a specific event or date?

Not really something unexpected, I’d say, but I also record my personal movie reviews in Day One. I am usually looking to use a tool for a single purpose whenever possible. Day One is really only for journaling in my overall setup. I use other tools like Evernote, nvALT, Byword, and Dropbox for things like notetaking, meetings minutes, and to capture inspiration, articles I like, quotes, and snippets.

Going off the previous question, we often see you using Day One for a multitude of things on simplicitybliss.com. Has the Day One experience triggered you to start recording and remembering things that you usually didn’t think about?

Oh yes, I love fiddling around a bit to automate reoccurring tasks such as reflecting on progress against the goals you set. The combination of Day One and TextExpander—whether on Mac OS X or iOS—is simply made for this. While my approach has slightly evolved from the one shared in that post, I am still applying the same principle and technique in every Day One entry that reflects on “the broader state of me.”

At some stage I also went to some length deploying Brett Terpstra’s brilliant Slogger to capture my social media blurbs, like Tweets and Instagram posts, as well as my Runkeeper workouts, in Day One. It work perfectly fine, but eventually I decided to stop using it as it caused quite some clutter in my Day One database (there comes the OCD again).

Did you get a chance to use Day One Publish yet? If so, how do you use it?

It is likely the only feature I am yet to try beyond just testing it. Because of the single purpose I use Day One for it is hard for me to imagine the situation where I would publish what is a very personal memory or reflection. As everything in Day One, ‘Publish’ is very well designed, extremely easy to use and it is a pleasure to look at entries others push out with it. If my usage of Day One broadens at some stage I would absolutely consider using ‘Publish’, but at present, the options and channels available to me for sharing various forms of content address all my single purpose requirements.

Thank you for the interview, Sven—it was great hearing about how you use Day One.


About the Author

Tulio Jarocki is a student, design aficionado, and journaling enthusiast. When he is not writing about the rewards of journaling for Day One, he can be seen drinking coffee, running, or just out and about in Boston.