Journaling. I never had a journal in my life. I never wrote down anything from my ‘childhood’ days nor did I really keep anything. Perhaps I was too engrossed in the present moment to care about writing things down about my life and experiences, perhaps I was just lazy and didn’t want to spend time on that. I don’t really regret not having written anything as there is no reason to regret anything but now that I think of it, it sure would be nice to have something from the past. To see actual physical evidence of what I was thinking and going through at the time and not having to rely on memory for these things. One might ask, why would you even want to remember the past and keep anything from it, what is past is past. It is gone. Why not focus on the present moment and think of the future? I can only answer that question for myself.
It started with a present. A cube calendar. It was a cube with little cards that had days written on them that one can tear off after the day has passed. It also had motivating and life quotes on some of the cards. It looked great. I didn’t think much of the present although I was incredibly happy that I had been gifted such a thing. So days passed. Cards were torn off. After a while of seeing these cards being thrown away and my cube slowly shrinking I thought to myself why not get some use of these cards. I decided to write something memorable that has happened to me on this day on the back of these little cards. The space on the cards was small but it was perfect for the task. I thought it was a great idea. I wrote all the memorable things that have happened to me during the day and put the ‘used’ cards in a box. Even the days that didn’t have anything ‘remarkable’ happen, still had my ink on them. This was in Winter of 2015. Fast forward 8 months and I have this little joyous stack of little cards stored in a box in my room :
With time I actually grew a kind of love for writing on these cards. I realised that not all days are equal. Some days you try and fit everything you can in the space of this little card. Some days you have a sentence and you are trying to think what more can I write about this day. With time the collection of cards grew and I could play games. I can pick a random card from the pile and try and recollect what happened to me on this day.
But this was just the beginning of my little experiment with recording my day’s memorable experiences. During my time of writing these cards, I have found out about a little great app called Day One. This app back then was a simple digital journal. It had a simple design and a simple premise. There were entries that you could write in, each entry could contain text and one photograph. It also had tags. I really love well made tools and applications that in the spirit of unix do one thing and do it well, this was one of these tools.
I thought about the idea of having this digital journal of things. What if I could write my cards in the app instead? Of course it would kill the novelty of writing things on physical cards with actual ink but what about the great benefits of having things be written in this digital format? There would be no boundaries of how much and how little I can write. I would have the power of search at my disposal. If I wanted to read my writings from some past day, I didn’t have to pick out through all the cards to pick out the card I needed. I could be able to write my cards anywhere now given that my laptop and also my phone is always with me. I could also read them from anywhere. What more, now my recordings from the day are not only constrained by language but I could add a photograph. As they say, a photograph is worth a thousand words and I am all for writing less and remembering more. The choice of a digital journal evolution was obvious plus my little cube was growing smaller and smaller with each day.
I also had an idea. A way to extend my writing to take advantage of this new and exciting digital format. I thought and came up with two things that I wanted to include in my newly digitally written entries :
- What have I learned this day?
- What memorable things that have happened to me?
I thought those two to be the most important things I would love to capture from my day. I try and learn new things every day so why not write them down? The process of writing things down helps to cement the newly learned ideas in your head. After all, you do have to write it out in your own words. The second point was essentially the continuation of my ‘cube’ legacy. Wow. I have just created a systematic way to journal. I had a template with two simple questions that I could answer. I love little systems like this. What about giving them a name? After some time I concluded that these entries are essentially evaluations of my day so why not give them an appropriate name. Day Evaluations.
One problem that this newly created template brings is that I would then need to write the two questions every time and only then try and answer them. Wouldn’t it be great to have the template be ready for me with every new entry I write? Well I had a little utility named Typinator just for that. It allowed me to make expansions of whatever text I wanted to write. All I needed to do was create my expansion :
And use it :
No longer bounded by space of a little card. I was free to write what I wanted and how I wanted. This was September 2015. Fast forward to July and I now have 370 entries.
I have 370 days documented and remembered. I know what I did in every single one of of these days. I have evolved my writing to include photographs, some entries having more than one of them. I have made use of the great tagging system and I have started giving my days ratings on a scale of 0 to 10. I have never went below a 5 yet and my most occurring rating was a 7.
My writing has evolved and I have evolved with it. Writing in this journal and making these day evaluations was one of the best decisions and habits I have formed. It is an incredible feeling knowing that my life and most of my memories are accessible within a minute’s time. Memory is a strange thing, all needs is a trigger, a way to bounce off something to form a coherent picture. I now had that ‘something’.
With inclusion of Day One’s multiple journals, I now have a journal for documenting my travelling adventures. I have a journal for ‘lessons learned’ where I lay down little personal lessons I have learned over my life. Perhaps I have bought something I didn’t need or hurt someone and didn’t apologise. I write it down and record it. I started writing in a dream journal where I write down the dreams I remember thus improving my recall and eventually having lucid dreams. A human spends 26 years of his life unconscious and sleeping, isn’t it great to use that time to fly or explore the inner working of your own subconsciousness?
Perhaps you too have a journal that you are already writing in. If so, great. I would love to hear from you and how do you approach writing in it? Perhaps you too have a personal system. And if not, I hope I could convince you how having a digital recollection of your memories can be an incredibly empowering feeling and an incredible asset to one’s life.
About the Author
Nikita Voloboev (@nikitavoloboev) is a computer scientist, writer, and an aspiring web developer.