Five Ways to Automate Your Day One Journal with TextExpander
January 24, 2017 by Josh Ginter
Update: October, 2020: Day One no longer natively supports Text Expander in the iOS app. You can still use the Text Expander Keyboard inside Day One, however there's a limitation with this when using an external keyboard. At this time we recommend using Day One Templates, and Apple Shortcuts app to insert templated content on-demand into Day One.
If you’re anything like me, you have a compulsive need to maintain consistency and uniformity in your everyday life. Be it perfect punctuation and Markdown formatting when jotting down quick notes or having consistent filenames in Finder, I am constantly striving for some sort of organizational utopia within my Mac.
This couldn’t be more true for my personal journal. If I start a journaling practice — say, reviewing movies or TV shows — I have to review every movie I watch, or I have to review none of them. And within each review, I won’t stop before every single review has been edited and formatted in the same manner.
This is quite ridiculous. I’m the first to admit it.
Whatever my ailment, my journal needs structure to be effective. To maintain this structure, I rely on workflows, snippets, and short-form quizzes — actions that are quick, easy, and efficient so I can get back to what I was doing.
In my experience, the best apps for creating workflows, snippets, and quick forms are (in no particular order) TextExpander (iOS/Mac), Workflow, and Launch Center Pro. These three apps make short work of the mundane formatting and consistency I strive for in each Day One journal entry.
Exploring all three in the same post would be particularly overwhelming, just like a Google search of “Day One workflows” or “Day One snippets”. Today, we’ll take a look at TextExpander.
If not for TextExpander, I’d go crazy. It has singlehandedly saved me more time than all other applications combined. From short HTML snippets, to predefined Markdown tables, to affiliate tags, TextExpander is the king of text automation.
For the uninitiated, TextExpander uses customizable keystrokes to expand large amounts of text. Say you need to provide your contact info at the end of an email. Create a snippet such as
;contact and all of your contact information will hit the page. For mundane tasks like creating Markdown tables or for adding affiliate tags to the end of a link, TextExpander reigns supreme.
With TextExpander’s potential in mind, the app becomes a natural fit for creating consistency, structure, and organization inside Day One. I have a plethora of quick Day One-specific snippets to help track fitness, time, reviews, and other personal bits of information I’ll want to draw on again in the future.
Here are five ways (and then some) to use TextExpander to make short work of journal templates in Day One.
1. Professional Journal
Katie Floyd developed this handy TextExpander/Day One template for her professional work. Both Katie and her Mac Power Users podcast co-host David Sparks are attorneys, making professional work tracking one of her specialities.
With a few quick keystrokes, Katie’s TextExpander snippets create professional logs to track phone calls, client consultations, conferences, and meetings. These snippets make short work of consistency and uniformity in her work journal, and also allow for quick searching and tracking.
2. Time Tracking
In conjunction with the snippets created by Katie above, I went ahead and created my own time-tracking TextExpander snippets. I work as a junior accountant by day, so time-tracking becomes fairly prevalent when working on different year-ends and tax work. Of course, these snippets could be used in any profession where time-tracking is necessary.
I use two TextExpander snippets to create Markdown tables in a specific “Work” journal in Day One. The first pre-populates the header information, such as the date of the time-tracking log and the first line of the Markdown table. It also creates a small section at the bottom of the template slated for daily notes — if a client comes to the office and needs to see my boss, I leave a little note to remind my boss when he returns. The second snippet is used to continue populating the Markdown table as the day progresses.
The final output looks something like this:
It may not be the most sophisticated time-tracking tool in the world, but this TextExpander shortcut allows me to properly format a table in Day One for each day of work. Tracking the number of hours I dedicate to a specific task is a breeze, and searching for a specific date or project to answer a question is far faster than any analog method.
Other Ideas For This Snippet
- Time-tracking for app development
- Event-tracking for experiments and/or lab work
- Step-by-step recipe creation (these are particularly useful in our household)
3. Book/Film/Comic Reviews
In short, these TextExpander snippets create predefined forms to fill out after watching a movie, reading a book, or enjoying a comic book. I’m particularly fond of the movie review form, but heavier readers will surely find the book and comic review forms useful. If I do my due diligence, I can fill out one of these movie review forms while sitting through the credits at the theatre.1
The movie review form asks for a title, director, rating, notable actors and actresses, your favorite line, and an overall review. I added some Markdown formatting syntax to David’s TextExpander snippet personally, but his snippets are ready to go out-of-the-box.
Other Ideas For These Snippets
- Restaurant reviews
- Wine and beer reviews
- Hotel reviews
4. The Five Minute Journal
The Five Minute Journal was originally founded as an analog journal by Alex and Mimi Ikonn. It’s a simple notebook designed to ask you quick, creativity-spurring questions to both get your day started on the right side of the bed and to end your day on the right foot. The Five Minute Journal has become incredibly popular, with support from many productivity wizards across the world.
Created by Chuck Grimmett, these TextExpander snippets are designed to replicate The Five Minute Journal in your Day One. Chuck describes how he starts his day with a quick
;5am keystroke to bring up the first three questions for the day. He then uses the
;5pm keystroke in the evening to fill out the end-of-day questions.
If you’re more interested in keeping a digital version of the Five Minute Journal, Chuck’s TextExpander snippets should fill the void perfectly.
5. Mood Form
I found this unique TextExpander/Day One snippet by way of Bakari Chavanu, a contributor for the site Make Us Of. In the article, Bakari goes through ways to use TextExpander to automate your Mac. Near the end, Bakari shows off one of the more unique snippets I’ve seen for Day One.
Bakari uses a TextExpander snippet to create a mood form for some of his Day One entries. It’s a very short dropdown menu with a list of predefined moods, of which he chooses his current state of mind. Bakari’s mood form — and other forms of this type — are best used with Day One’s reminders feature, ensuring the form is filled out consistently at specific intervals of time.
This short dropdown menu is perfect for keeping any analysis or personal introspection consistent and defined to a specific scope. If you are looking to find statistics on your moods, thoughts, feelings, or daily activities, dropdown menu snippets like Bakari’s can provide valuable data for your analysis.
Other Ideas For This Snippet
- Activity form
- Water drinking form
- Sleep tracking form
This is but a tiny list of the potential between TextExpander and Day One. I use most of these TextExpander snippets myself and appreciate the level of consistency brought to my Day One, but even writing this article feels like I’m just dipping my toe into the water. The opportunities to automate your Day One journal are endless, especially with TextExpander. Of course, these snippets can be used within Day One on iOS as well. Snippets like the movie review snippet are best executed shortly after watching a film, so if you have your iPhone on you while you wait for the after-credits Marvel scene, you can quickly hammer out your review on the spot. If you have your own unique TextExpander snippets, be sure to get in touch with us so we can update our list of TextExpander, Workflow, and Launch Center Pro templates.
About the Author
- Presumably, I do this on my iPhone. And in order to use fillable text snippets, you’ll need to be a paid subscriber to the newest version of TextExpander and have the latest version of the iOS app installed on your iPhone. I have TextExpander 3 installed, so fillable forms just result in blank text placeholders that I need to work through and change. This is still better than nothing, but will surely be a better experience for any subscribing TextExpander users. ↩