Thursday, February 20, 2014

Day One: Digital Journaling for Fun and Health

For several years I have been keeping a daily journal on and off. I have always enjoyed journaling, and have posted other entries on this blog expressing my opinions about the positive health benefits of regular writing.  Here is another post on journaling.

One of the challenges that I have faced with journaling, however, is that I have not been able to settle on a program that meets all of my needs.  I have used Evernote, TheBrain, and  Day One.  I decided some time ago that  keeping a digital journal met my needs better than a paper journal.  The digital journal has the advantages of:

1. Electronically searching your journal entries.
2. Easily editing and correcting your journal entries.
3. Having the capability of synchronizing your journal entries across various devices, in my case my Macintosh laptop, iPhone and iPad.
4. Moving your journal entries into blogs and other computer programs easily.

I have found that the synchronization capability is especially important. To journal on a daily basis, at least for me, requires that I’m able to easily make entries in a  hassle free environment.    Carrying a notebook around with me every place I go would be too much trouble.  I always have my iPhone and/or my iPad with me when I am out of the house. Sometimes I have my laptop computer with me. It seems that I am never without one of these three devices.

For a while I was using Evernote as my daily journal. Somehow, however, Evernote being an all purpose note taking program seemed to make it a little bit too cumbersome to keep a daily journal. And as one journal application reviewer put it, Evernote being a repository for all sorts of things, such as receipts, webpages, and other notes of all sorts makes it a less dignified place to journal your most private thoughts. I found this pretty much to be true, plus the fact that Evernote is a bit more cumbersome to use because you have to locate the appropriate folder to put your journal entries. If one is going to journal daily, or several times a day, the process of looking for the appropriate notebook to make your journal entries is an extra step I found I didn’t need.

TheBrain is an excellent program for keeping a large database in a mind mapping format. I was using the program for my journal for awhile, but it suffers from the disadvantage of not having an iPad and iPhone program, plus the fact that it too is a repository of all sorts of different types of information and lacks the “environment” for a journal where all sorts of private thoughts are being recorded.

I also was using Day One journal application for a while and thought it was a good program, however, I reacted against the idea of a separate program to only do journaling. Recently, however, I have changed my mind. After extensive reading of reviews about Day One, I’ve come to the conclusion that it may indeed be the best program. Day One has an iPhone and an iPad program, synchronizes very well between all three of my devices using Dropbox, and is designed specifically for keeping a daily journal. The developers of Day One have taken great pains to create a very user-friendly digital environment for keeping a daily journal.

Day One has several very positive features:

1. Synchronization across multiple digital devices.
2. Password protection
3. Reminders that prompt me to make entries into my journal on the daily basis
4. Markdown program as a method of applying formatting to my journal entries
5. A very attractive user interface on both Macintosh and iOS devices

Day One is also very easy to use. Simply click on the + and a new entry space pops up. So, I have been using Day One now for several days once again. I am enjoying using the program and find  that I am now using it on a regular basis, on some days, making multiple entries. I’m using the program to record daily events, private thoughts and feelings, new ideas that I have, impressions about news, reviews of books, reviews of restaurants, and general observations about the people around me. I’m sure that as time goes on I will come up with all sorts of creative ways to use my journal. One of the things that I’m considering is keeping the journal on regular basis for several years, perhaps the rest of my life, and then leaving a hard copy of my journal for my children and grandchildren.

Upon reading many reviews of the various journal programs, I have come upon a couple very good ideas to enhance my journaling experience. One reviewer has developed a template that he can easily apply to an open empty page and Day One that provides him with some useful prompts for his daily journaling. He developed the template in a program like Text  Expander. I tried this with Text Expander and was able to develop a very useful template that I can apply which prompts me to fill-in my thoughts and a lot of categorical areas. What follows is the template that I use, which I am sure will undergo lots of evolution going forward:

Last Night

When I woke last night, what thoughts did I have?

How did I feel when I woke

How did I react to the thoughts?


What am I thankful for right now?

How am I feeling right now?

What am I afraid of?


What are today's ToDos?

What are my plans for today?

What training will I do today?

What one thing must I accomplish today?

What books will I read (listen to)?

I also discovered another useful tool that facilitates the journal process. I use Dragon Dictate for Mac speech-to-text program on my laptop and I couple it with Dragon Dictate Microphone which allows me to dictate my journal entries into Day One using my iPhone as the microphone.  I don’t always use the microphone, but when I do I find that I have a more free-form flow of ideas, and seem to be somewhat less inhibited about including deeper more personal thoughts into my journal entries. I am sure that is a very individual thing and some people might not want to use a speech to text approach to journal entries.

So, I plan on using Day One as my primary journaling tool going forward. I consider journaling to be not only a lot of fun, but a very good practice to aid in psychological health. I know that it will be very entertaining and informative for me to look back into history and see what I was thinking and feeling a year ago, three years ago, five years ago, etc. As I move forward with my journaling experiences, I will be sharing them here.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I have found many if the same things you have about journalling. I have kept a journal steadily since Law school in 1988. (I had been inspired by Scott Turow's book "One L") and wanted to remember the experiences and emotions.

I've paper journaled a file drawer full of books, but also find that I'd like to find entries again. The digital platform is the only viable one for that. My son introduced me to Day One a few years ago and it has been my go-to app for all the reasons you mention. I like using tags and headings and recently have decided that one topic per entry makes it easier to review them, sometimes making multiple entries on a day. I, too like the syncing with iPhone and iPad.

You can add pictures to your entries, although I'd like to add it to the particular part of the text that references the photo. Haven't figured out how to do that yet.

When my mind feels cluttered, I know it's been too long since I've made an entry. It is an invaluable tool and I will continue using it.

Thanks for sharing this. Keep writing.