Journaling Tips

Family and Personal History with Day One

The majority of the time I use Day One, it follows a scenario kind of like this: I’m out with my family and something memorable happens. I pull out my iPhone and snap a photo. Then, at the end of the day, I create a few entries with selected photos. (Day One’s use of photo metadata—time, date, and place—is awesome.) In addition to capturing memories as they happen, I’ve started to use Day One to capture past events in my life, too. Here are a few things I’ve learned in this process:

  1. Forget about perfection. The exact date, time, location, and other details of past memories and events is usually hard to remember. That’s fine—do your best to remember. As an added bonus for putting in date, time, and location for past events, you’ll also get historical weather for that date for many locations (data available from the 1970s and later). Regardless of the accuracy, whatever you capture will be better than nothing at all and will go a long ways towards preserving your memories for future reflection by you or other friends or family with whom you share selected entries.
  2. Pictures = a thousand words. Jog your memory by looking at old photos and scrapbooks. Even better, scan the best photos and add them to your journal.
  1. Interview family and friends. Talk with family and friends to get their perspective on past events, especially with hard-to-remember events like your birth and early childhood. You may find it useful to record these conversations, then transcribe their memories into Day One. The different perspectives and voices will provide an interesting depth to past events.
  2. No time like the present. If you have children, encourage them to use Day One now so they can capture present memories. (See Day One and My Daughter for a great example of how Day One can be used with your children.)

As you retrace and record your past, here are a few possible things to capture:

  • Your birth. Of course you don’t remember this, but family or friends might have some memories of your birth.
  • Childhood memories. There are a broad range of possible entries based on childhood memories—from memorable vacations to favorite hobbies, activities, or friends. Just note what was memorable or significant to you.
  • Courtship and Marriage. Write down as many memories as you can remember, then interview your spouse and add his/her perspective.
  • Significant accomplishments. Note completed projects, awards, etc.
  • Vacations and trips. Oftentimes, these will include photos, thus making it a bit easier to recall the time, date, and location.
  • Ticket stubs and other physical memorabilia. Take a picture of tickets from concerts, movies, and amusement parks and other memorabilia. Write about what memories are contained in these objects. (Side Benefit: You might find that after adding these photos and memories to Day One, you can simplify and de-clutter by recycling old objects.)
  • Children’s births. If you have children, add photos and memories of their births.

Check out these additional resources for more inspiration on what to write about:

  • Day One Reminders and Inspirational Quotes. Many of Day One Mac’s reminder messages are meant for exactly this process—writing about your past. You can scan through these messages by tapping the refresh button in edit mode.

After you’ve identified a past event that you want to write about, create an entry with a past date in Day One. Then write. You’ll be glad you did. Lastly, here’s some additional encouragement to get started writing your personal history:

  • “Keep looking up! I learn from the past, dream about the future and look up. There’s nothing like a beautiful sunset to end a healthy day.” —Rachel Boston
  • “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” — Marcus Garvey
  • “Look back, and smile on perils past.” — Walter Scott
  • “Keep all special thoughts and memories for lifetimes to come. Share these keepsakes with others to inspire hope and build from the past, which can bridge to the future.” — Mattie Stepanek
  • “In this bright future you can’t forget your past.” — Bob Marley

About the Interviewer

Dallas Petersen is Day One’s product manager by day (and some nights). When he’s not working, he’s hanging out with his wife and five kids and/or playing board games.

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