The Way I Journal: Chris Bowler

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

[Chris] I’m Chris Bowler and I’m a bit like the other folks you’ve interviewed to date; what I do differs from moment to moment. By day, I’m a member of the amazing support team at Campaign Monitor. I also write for my own site and tinker away on design and educational projects for my business. Before that I helped run a web advertising company.

When and why did you start journaling?

If memory serves, it would have started in January, 2012. Yes. It was pen and paper for the first year or so. There were two purposes to getting started. First, the actual activity is cathartic, whether the end product is useful down the road or not. Just sitting still, taking stock of things, and the act of writing are all beneficial on their own and journaling makes use of all three. Second, I had hoped to mimic my wife. She had always journaled through our entire marriage. I was seeing how this benefited her when we would reminisce about a particular event; she would often refer to her journal to get details we had forgotten. They weren’t always included, but, more often than not, her journal helped her remember some little details that time had clouded.

What is your journaling routine?

It changes. But basically, I don’t have one. I wish I did. I’ve had times where there was a routine. I’ve tried making it a regular exercise at the beginning or end of the day. I’ve tried it right after lunch. Nothing has stuck. So it tends to be sporadic and spontaneous. The end of the day is too tiring and it’s my time with my wife. The middle of the day is too busy, and probably too caffeinated. So most of my journaling is in the morning, but I would like it to be a little more regular. And that is my goal as is it fits well at this time. I’m more focused and reflective in the morning because it’s my spiritual time. I spend my time in devotions and studying the Bible or preparing lesson plans for the classes I teach. Journaling fits well with these things … if only I could get by on 4-5 hours of sleep 😉

Do you focus on longform writing or capturing small memories of life?

Both. I tend to have two types of entries; short narratives on the events of the day (or several days), or longer summaries of an issue that occurred or significant event. The latter tend to be after my wife and I have discussed at length a topic of importance or a big decision to be made. These longer ones are what I enjoy more when it comes to reading entries from the past.

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

No. Although that is probably a part of the problem when it comes to making this a habit. If I had a routine, the space would be critical! I hope to have a firm answer to this at some point. I do tend to have a reading/writing spot in each home we’ve ever lived in. It tends be somewhere with good lighting and warmth. By the fire, or my rocking chair. With a place for a beverage. But I haven’t yet made a place to be the “one spot” for this activity.

What was your first entry in Day One?

Since I started using Day One primarily as a work journal, it includes some details of the work day. A few notes of the progress I made and the meetings attended. Nothing magical!

How many entries do you have in your journal?

576, currently.

What is your favorite or most-used feature in Day One?

Good question … in no particular order.

  • good typography: this is vital to any app that I enjoy a lot. iA Writer is a good example; I enjoy writing in that app more because of the nice type. Day One is similar, especially how a saved entry looks.
  • markdown support: writing itself is more enjoyable with markdown and Day One does a great job with markdown preview
  • tags: all those longer entries I referred to above … I tend to mark those with a specific tag for revisiting later

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

Not the iPhone, never the iPhone. My iPad probably gets the most entries, but the Mac is also used a good bit.

Do you follow any journal organization rules?

Just tags. There are a few things that I want to be able to refer back to easily. A good example is home maintenance: there are a few items I have to change around the house on a regular basis. But these instances are months apart, so I like to have that record in my journal. And when I enter in the more important journal entries, items requiring a decision at some point or habits I want to form, I tag them as “review”. Every month or so I look over the various entries that have this tag and give each some consideration. That’s about it in terms of structure.

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

Yes. As I’ve touched on a couple of times already, I use it for home maintenance items like changing water filters or smoke detector batteries. It’s so comforting to be able to have the exact date for when I last changed these items rather than a vague recollection that is most likely inaccurate. Apart from that, the entries that matter most to me are less about specific events and more about points in time where I was trying to make a change or a decision.

You mentioned in your Grounded & Steadfast journal that you often track your work progress with Day One? How and why do you do that?

It was originally all I used Day One for. I had a simple habit of throwing in an entry at the end of the day that gave a high level overview of what I had done. I tend to do that more on pen and paper these days however. But one change in regards to Day One and my work is that I use it to track technical details on certain projects. For many projects, I use GitHub for my version control. But if I have to move a smaller project to a server, I track higher level changes in Day One. Because of its lovely formatting and Markdown support, the code samples look great. Using tags, I can review what changes I’ve made and why I made them. It’s certainly not proper version control, but it does allow me to keep a high level view of what I’ve done for various projects.

You recently tweeted that you now plan to use Day One for all your writing purposes. Why is that—why do you see Day One as “more than a journal”?

Again, due to the look and feel of Day One, as well as the great search and tag support, it’s a good environment for multiple types of writing. I’ve already described some, but I’ve also thought about using it for meeting notes and draft blog posts. I currently keep these types of items in Simplenote, but Day One is a slightly more attractive environment. I must admit that there is some hesitation for making this app an “everything bucket”. Because journaling is an inward focus, I do have a sense that I don’t want those thoughts intermingled with external items or simple “tracking” entries. In the end, because of the ability to search and filter entries, as well as the fact that journals are often filled with both historical information as well as introspective thoughts, I’ve ignored this hesitation. And because Day One treats your data as your data, I can always change my mind at some point in the future. Enjoying this app as I do, that most likely won’t happen 🙂

Thanks for you for the great talk, Chris—It was a pleasure!

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.

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