Regarding Journals

The Nicest Bullet Journals I’ve Ever Seen

Recorded on July 23rd, 2016

If you want to see arguably the sanest, yet prettiest Bullet Journals out there, check out honeyrozes on Instagram. I won’t even borrow a photo of her stuff here. It’s all so good I could never pick a representative sample. You should just go to her profile and scroll through all the pictures of her journal pages, and wish Instagram would make it easier to zoom in. No overly flowery, scrapbook-y journals here. Just pure information and getting shit done.

Why Capture All These Details About Travel?

Recorded on June 2nd, 2016

My friend Jack tweeted me a question after yesterday’s photo and post about journal-recorded travel minutiae:

That is a totally great question and I’m eager to share the insane reasons behind all this.

I don’t know why, but I’ve always been driven to document things: what happened, who was there, where were we, what music was haunting me at the time, what got us excited, what did we learn. I know we’re on earth for a short time and this is my way of wringing a few extra seconds out of existence. Maybe if I capture as many details as possible now, I can artificially lengthen my stay, or make some elements of it reverberate after I’m gone. It’s a panicky need, and life happens more quickly than it can be documented, but I still try. I still can’t help it.

The other reason is time travel. Until we figure out how to make a real-life flux capacitor, our pitiful effort at recording details, words, images and sounds is the best hope we have to be able to revisit a past time. This is a Dick Cavett quote that I pointed out in an earlier post:

As with so many times in my life, I wish I’d kept some notes on the dinner conversation. In relative youth we assume we’ll remember everything. Someone should urge the young to think otherwise.

I forget stuff regularly. At this moment, I’m forgetting what I did between getting my hair cut this afternoon and sitting down to write this. We all discard inessential bits of information throughout the day because we don’t need all of it. Who cares if I went to Target and bought cat litter tonight? Those aren’t the details that interest me. But when we’re on vacation, or doing something unusual or unusually fun, I go into capture mode. I especially do this on trips. Mundane details are elevated because of their physical and temporal setting. The purchase of toothpaste and a toothbrush at Whole Foods on the edge of the Duke campus last week was a minor detail, but it was a tiny stitch in the fabric of the trip. If I assemble enough of those details, I can re-live the highs and lows of a travel day years after the weekend has settled in my mind as one hazy blob called “MoogFest 2016”.

Here’s an entry I made in Day One during a visit to Portland a few years ago. It’s another boring grocery store trek, just in a new town.

photo of journal entry from Portland grocery store

BUT! Looking at that list of foods, I now remember that we bought some of it to keep in the kitchen and eat for breakfast while we borrowed our friends’ apartment that weekend. And I remember distinctly that the Snackwells and chocolate cake were damn good. Those memories would be lost otherwise. If I do this capturing well enough, I can time travel as long as the paper or text files are readable.

A Pocket Paper Journal for MoogFest

Recorded on May 31st, 2016

photo of paper journal with MoogFest entries

I tried going back to a paper journal for our trip to MoogFest. As much as I like Day One, and as much as I love Drafts as the first stop for journal-y thoughts, it’s just flat-out easier and more socially acceptable to whip out a Field Notes-like1 notebook when things are moving fast and you’re moving around a city you’re visiting. I may or may not get around to transcribing all these scrawls into Markdown, but the important thing is that pen + paper allow for non-linear, shorter, and more frequent entries than even jotting down text into something like Drafts first.

The biggest thing I give up by not writing directly into Day One — which I would never do anyway, because using Drafts first is way more stable and easier to edit — is geolocation of entries. Ah, well. I shoot enough photos on the phone that I can always get a vague idea of our location later, and Day One will pick that info up. But location data is less important than what happened and when. I’m way more likely to scribble down a word or two and a timestamp here or there on paper.


  1. It wasn’t actually a Field Notes notebook. It was from wordnotebooks.com. Same size. 

Day One 2 Is Pretty, Pretty, Pretty, Pretty Good

Recorded on February 28th, 2016

I threw my hat over the wall and moved to Day One 2, despite my earlier nervousness. A few things made me just about comfortable enough with the idea of Version 2 to decide to go with it:

  1. Bradley Chambers’s endorsement on Mac Power Users #304.
  2. A positive review on MacStories.
  3. A comment on iTunes that said something to the effect that people didn’t freak out when OmniFocus or Evernote ran their own sync services, but everyone was piling on Day One for doing the same.

Still, I wanted to keep a finger on the pulse of Day One Sync, wanted to know if the nerd community had settled into it, wanted to know if there were catastrophic failures. After searching Twitter enough times for “@dayoneapp” and “sync” and coming up with a disturbing number of reports of duplicate entries caused by Dropbox syncing (and it being a “known issue”—awesome), I figured it was actually less risky to just go with the new, actively developed version 2, and their new-ish sync service, than stay with Day One Classic.

To mitigate against disaster, I first exported from the old Mac app to (1) a giant PDF of all of my entries, (2) a Markdown file of all of my entries, and (3) a plain text file of all of my entries. Then I breathed deeply, switched the classic iOS app over to Day One Sync, waited for it to upload everything, and bought the 2.0 version, which is still $4.99. I don’t know how much longer it’ll be on sale.

Everything seemed to go ok and I don’t think I’ve lost any data. Besides that, I love how you can set colors for different journals, because it finally means I can mostly get rid of that pukey light blue that I’ve always hated in the app. It’s still there when you look at Settings, but you don’t see it much otherwise.

The multiple journals are nice, and being able to add more than one photo to an entry is welcome. I also like having the map view in iOS, which was only available in desktop before. And you can now export from iOS to a text file, which I don’t think you could do before. I still look forward to private key encryption. I hope that comes with version 2.1 as they’ve been promising.

I know that iCloud sync had issues in various apps that used it. I don’t know how Dropbox sync works under the hood, but my gut tells me that with the way that Day One works, Dropbox is a less than great fit for it, although I never had any problems when I used it. Many reviews praised the new Day One Sync service as being fast and solid; so far, it seems to be very speedy and reliable. If I find otherwise, I will report back!

“We Assume We’ll Remember Everything”

Recorded on February 22nd, 2016

A friend mentioned to me the other night how the days and months were running into each other, seemingly faster every year. I suggested to him that keeping a journal – of even the mundane stuff – could help draw the days out a little. I’m terrible at keeping up the habit, but when I do I notice that it helps slow down time.

I sent him Reshma Rajendran’s answer on Quora to “What are the benefits of writing in a journal or diary?”:

It’s one of the best and enriching ways to even attempt towards self-improvement.

-When you write a journal you ask yourself the right questions. There may be no answers but you discover what is really important to you in the process.

-You notice everything around you more. You learn to appreciate the small things in life.

-Your over analyzing and over thinking mind comes to control to a great extent because you are able to organize your thoughts and feelings when its [sic] put into words.

-You write down your significant moments and when you read it later you relive every moment.

-You process your past events and make your peace with it and grow as a person.

While I was looking for that link, I saw in my notes a snippet from this Dick Cavett article about meeting Steve Jobs for the first time. I should paste this up on every wall in my field of vision:

As with so many times in my life, I wish I’d kept some notes on the dinner conversation. In relative youth we assume we’ll remember everything. Someone should urge the young to think otherwise.

That is what happens to me. When I meet someone interesting, learn something new, or have a meal with old friends, I enjoy the moment and it’s gone. By the next morning, the details evaporate like the sweet fizz from a Coke. But if I take five minutes to write down what happened and who was around, and even just some bullet point notes about what we talked about, I remember things I had already forgotten in the past hour, and I trap a hint of the moment for reliving it later.