Day One is not only my favorite journaling app, it's also one of my favorite apps in general. I love how it combines functionality with aesthetics around such a creative and frankly important thing as keeping a journal.
Journaling is a vital habit. It fosters mindfulness and self reflection and keeps your personal memories alive. If done regularly, it can give you enormous insights into your own psyche and it can strengthen you mentally and emotionally. With a digital journal like Day One, it's easier than ever to jump into the habit of journaling and get started.
What I found with my journaling is that I only realised its power on myself once I developed a certain frequency and writing routine. When it comes to journaling, quantity begets quality. The more you do it, the easier it will become. And the more you do it, the higher the value your journal will provide to you. Little by little, it’s worth will increase over time.
However, as with any habit, it's easy to fall off the bandwagon if the habit isn’t properly ingrained into your day. So how can you make journaling a better part of your daily routine?
Here are 5 things that have propelled my own journaling forward. Let me know if they also work for you.
1. Put your journal on schedule.
People are different, but I am one of those types that just cannot disobey his calendar. At least not without any serious internal disarray. What’s on my calendar has a certain priority. If a calendar entry pops up, I have to do something about it. More so than my task manager, the calendar is my tool for personal accountability.
I try to keep my calendar lean and focussed, but „Write Day One entry“ is a task on repeat everyday.1 It used to be that I just journaled whenever I found the time for it. However, often enough in this manner, the time for journaling just wasn’t there. Once I made journaling a constant calendar entry, it became a sticky and less negotiable habit.
My days widely differ from each other due to my uncommon schedule as a shift worker on an ICU. One day I may work a 7-to-5, the next it’s night shift. This is why I usually organize my calendar on a weekly basis and fit entries that deal with my habits to my work calendar.
I try to put journaling at the beginning of each day - whether this means in the morning or in the evening.2 Most of my journal entries are reflections on the day before. In this manner, I can keep yesterday separated from today in my journaling. When writing an entry, I don’t worry too much about what is going to happen but more about what has already happened.
Also, I find journaling at the beginning of the day sets the record straight about where to go and what to focus on next. I have this mindset of one step at a time and with yesterday still present and today just unfolding, I can go on inching myself forward. Just a little further each day means progress to me.
I am an early riser and mornings are when I am most productive. Nonetheless, my mornings can get busy and out of hand with workload and this-and-thats quite easily. Anchoring journaling to other morning habits like breakfast and meditation, helps me maintain structure and frequency. An orderly morning routine translates into a more productive day to me and journaling is an essential part in this.
2. Just put more stuff into your journal.
Day One makes it really easy to capture all kinds of stuff, whether it's text, ideas, dreams, thoughts, images, locations and so on. Maybe you think about a journal as a coherent prosaic account of your life - like a novel or a movie script. Well, guess what: it’s most likely not. Accept that your journal may end up quite messy. Think of it as a scrap pad. A place to put stuff in. Everything goes. Never mind the form. More is better.
With its options for tagging and search, Day One is the perfect tool to maintain order in the sometimes chaotic habit of writing a journal. Even if you haven’t found a structure for your journal, yet, the app will help you keep an oversight.
Who says that journaling has to be about those great moments, those once-in-a-lifetime photographs and those rare monumental ideas of yours, only? Truth be told, journaling is more about embracing the mundane than the exceptional.
Just imagine old-time photographs back from the early 20th century. What is it that intrigues us most about them? What is it that lets our minds wonder back in time when we look at them? It’s how the world used to be different in the small things and the seemingly banal routines - how people dressed, how streets and cars looked like and so on. In journaling, it’s the same spirit that makes it important.
Draw simple pictures of your life and capture scenes that are trivial. To a large extend, this is who you are. Write about how you get up in the morning, what draws your attention during the day, what you talk about with your wife, which emotions come up in the interactions with other people.
You will be amazed how much you will change over the course of the years, especially in the details, and how much of your trivial routines will vanish. Do you still remember how your morning pratice looked like back in college? Can you remember all the people that you took for granted back in highschool because they used to be around you everyday?
Over time, it’s hard to reproduce how you once used to live, behave and communicate. For all of us, many a memory has been lost to history. Journaling is about conserving those everyday scenes and keeping them for your tomorrow. Journaling turns your not-so-special everyday life into something precious worth keeping. That’s the true value your journal can have for you.
3. Care less about the form.
When I first started journaling, I was strongly focused on always having something meaningful and profound to say. I was concerned about the choice of my vocabulary and aimed at a beautiful and artistic style of writing. However, I quickly found this attitude to be limiting. It made it too much of a chore to journal on a regular basis. I have accepted that when it comes to keeping my journal, I am no Mark Twain and that’s ok.
These days, I no longer care about unrealistic expectations. I am just fine with a journal entry that won’t win the Pulitzer Prize. Writing the perfect journal entry isn’t something I aim for, as it leads me to not writing enough in the end.
When it comes to keeping a journal, untangle yourself from perfectionism. There is no getting it right other than just going for it. The more you journal the more you’ll get comfortable with it and the more it will turn into an essential habit that accompanies you throughout your days. You will find your voice along the way.
4. Shorter may be better.
Who says that journaling means writing epic pieces or a comprehensive almanac of your life? Who says you have to capture everything about a day?
Journaling probably has less in common with a documentary than it has with a commentary column. Sometimes, a single sentence can say more than a page. If it’s hard to write longform about something that has happend, why don’t you just distill your entries down to a minimum? Why not make today’s entry a picture and a single word only?
It’s a good way to set the bar for your journaling low in the beginning. As little as you should be concerned about the form of your entries, you should be about their length. Writing less and shorter may just be what gets your journaling ball rolling. You can always expand your habit in the future.
5. Review past entries frequently.
I have been talking about how the value of journaling is in keeping your memories alive. However, this notion is only true if you review your past journal entries on a regular basis. Sure, you may still remember your birthday two years ago. But do you still remember how anxious you felt that day about your future and what your ambitions were for the time to come? Maybe you wrote about it your journal.
Day One has the option to show past entries in Notification Center on iOS. The widget displays pictures with the attached date and it’s one of my favorite features of the app. If you tap on the snippet presented in Notification Center, it will take you to the corresponding entry inside DayOne. From there, I often find myself browsing along my timeline and drifting back in memories. It can get quite nostalgic quickly and if you are a nostalgic type like me, this scrolling back through your journal can be quite a moving experience.
Go back on your Day One timeline more often and you’ll discover how deep and diverse your life and thinking truly is. This is how journaling can redefine you and help foster the image you have of yourself. Give it a try. Don’t journal without re-reading old entries. Maybe you’ll find that scrolling through your timeline can have a powerful reinvigorating effect on your wellbeing. This is where journaling can be a strong antidote for selfdoubt and insecurities.
Getting deeper into Day One
If you want to dig deeper into how to get the most out of Day One and the functionality of the apps, I recommend Shawn Blanc’s book Day One In Depth on iBooks. It goes into great detail on how to use the apps and their functions on iOS and OS X and it’s an easy and refreshing read.