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I've kept journals on and off since I was eight. Mostly in plain notebooks. As a child I scored days on a 1 to 10 scale. Often I wrote in ✏️ pencil, long since faded. After a stretch of daily entries, empty months would follow. For years at a time I lost interest or wrote sporadically.
During the pandemic, I’ve returned to consistent journaling. It’s part of my bedtime routine. I use Day One mainly because it's simple and reliable. I also like these features: 👇
Printing my journal as a book 📖
I like that Day One lets me periodically order a physical book with my journal entries. I do it every 18 months or so. A book feels more substantial than a digital file.
My most recent book was 248 pages and cost about $40. That was 25% off of the full price, because I pay for Day One’s subscription. (More on pricing below). Books are 5.5" by 8.5” — they start at $15 for 50 black and white pages or $20 for color — plus 10 cents more per page. They’re capped at 400 pages. For some reason you can only order books from an iOS device.
I pay for the $35 annual subscription. I originally used Day One for free. A couple of years ago I started subscribing, mainly to benefit from the following premium features:
25% book-printing discount
automatically importing stuff from other services via IFTTT (more on that below)
adding short video clips of my children
adding audio memos that are transcribed into my journal.
For basic journaling the free version is great. That’s what I’d recommend unless you care about these premium features.
Audio and video 🎧
Day One lets me record audio entries. It saves the audio and automatically transcribes it into text. So later you can read or listen to your recordings. I like that I can record directly into the iOS app, or I can upload voice memos of other things I’ve recorded, like my children’s music performances. I sometimes like to record conversations with family members to preserve their thoughts and voices.
I like adding photos along with these audio recordings. In addition to audio, I occasionally add video snippets. In recent months, that's meant brief shots of the cygnets 🦢 growing up in a nearby duck pond, or my younger daughter's first solo bicycle 🚴 ride.
In years past I used only text in my journals. Nowadays I like the surprise of encountering a little audio or video snippet when I look back on something that I may not have fully captured in words.
Add via email and SMS
I can email a journal entry into Day One. Or I can text a thought, quote or image into my journal. Or if I’m working on something else on my laptop, I can use a shortcut keystroke to pull up a little box to type out a journal entry. when something comes to mind. I like how easy it is to put stuff into my journal.
In addition to my primary journal, I have one for books. Each entry is about a book I've read, with a few thoughts and quotes and sometimes a picture of a key passage. I have another journal about teaching, where I try to jot down one observation or suggestion for myself after class. It's helpful for incremental improvement. I like keeping the journals separate so that I can print just my personal journal, or flip through books in a streamlined view.
Import stuff you like automatically with IFTTT
I connected Day One to various other services I use. I have what I call a resonance journal to host things that have resonated with me. This includes YouTube videos I've liked, articles I've saved, read and liked on Instapaper, songs I've liked on Spotify, and Tweets I've liked on Twitter.
To link those social platforms to Day One I use IFTTT, which stands for IF This, Then That. It allows me to set a trigger and an action. For example, if I like a video on YouTube, IFTTT triggers an action to create a new Day One entry with that YouTube video in my resonance journal.
This resonance journal lets me reflect back on the media I'm consuming. I'm not using Instagram much these days, but Day One lets you create a journal that syncs with your Instagram.
Book printing works only on iOS, not on Android and not on Day One Mac for some reason.
Weak built-in templates. There are a few templates built-in for starting journal entries, but they’re simple and haven’t improved much since 2019.
No Web sharing. An earlier version of Day One allowed me to share links to individual posts with family members. Now sharing means sending a PDF of a post or text.
Limited design options. I’m happy with text, bullets, links and photos. But if you like the fancier design options you have with Medium, Notion or other new online services — for embedded content, for example— Day One isn’t quite there.
Annual subscription. Some journaling tools you buy once without needing to pay every year. Some, like Mini Diary, are free. You can also use Day One for free, but there’s a cost to use its full features. I find the cost worthwhile, but others will prefer a free or pay-once option.
Start a new kind of journal
The type of journaling you do matters more than the tool you use for it. Here are a few journaling methods that might be helpful.
If you prefer paper
Create a one-sentence journal to save one memory each day without the pressure of writing long notes. My wife’s been enjoying this approach for years.
If you’re journaling for well-being
Create a story journal to save one story each day. Accumulate a wealth of anecdotes, rather than recording less-meaningful minutiae.
If you’re journaling for self-improvement
Create a productivity journal if you’re aiming to free up time to spend with family or on creative projects and want to identify patterns in how you spend time.
Create a decision journal to note the context surrounding decisions you make. Reflect later on the results. Decision-making expert Sheena Iyengar’s research suggests that people make 70 decisions per day, as noted in her TED Talk. Alex Lieberman, Morning Brew co-founder, Tweeted about why decision journaling is useful and how to do it.
Create an interstitial journal to learn more about the allocation of your time. I consistently underestimate how long things will take, so I find it helpful to document the time required of tasks and projects that I have to do repeatedly.
Thanks to the 120+ readers who shared input in the survey I shared last week. You collectively voted more than 2,000 times to agree/disagree with various statements. Many of you added much-appreciated comments and opinions that others voted on. If you’re interested, you can go back and see what new opinions have been added and vote on those.
I’ll soon share a summary of what I’ve learned from the feedback and the adjustments I’ll be making. If you occasionally or regularly read this newsletter and you haven’t yet replied, thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts in this new survey format. Your input is appreciated. Thanks.
Prefer a Public Journal or Blog?
Bloggi is a nice new spot to start a blog or a public journal. I found it easy to set up a free little blog experiment in about 10 minutes. It’s $9/month if you want premium features like a custom domain and special fonts. The free version is fine if you just want to create a quick space for yourself online with a clean design. Medium’s a good place to publish publicly, but if you want your own little online hut, rather than a stall in someone else’s mall, Bloggi’s worth a look.
Prefer a Paper Journal?
The 5-Minute Journal is one I bought as a physical journal a couple years ago to try writing daily on paper. I liked that it had space to respond to three simple prompts each morning — “I am grateful for…” — “What would make today great…” and "Affirmations: I am…” In the evening, the prompts are for “three amazing things that happened today” and “what would have made today even better.”
It’s undated, so you can start whenever. It has a solid cover and nice paper, with space for six months of daily entries. It’s a bit pricey at $25 — a lot more than the $8 blank notebook I use now when I want to journal or take notes on paper.
Here’s more of my toolkit for feeling good and for starting the day with a good morning 🌞
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