Around this time each year, I find myself wanting to document my life a bit more. It’s almost certainly because there are more vacations, family get-togethers, and various activities during the Summer months. This desire to document usually results in an uptick in photographs, but over the past couple of years it has also meant an increase in Day One usage.
Day One is an application that I’ve been aware of for, what seems like, forever, but I’ve only really started using more seriously over the past month or so. Previously, it was something I would dip my toes into briefly and then eventually find myself ignoring. But now that we’re starting into the Summer months and I have a baby on the way, I’d like to start building a daily habit around journaling.
There are a couple of key benefits to journaling that I’m looking to add to my life. One is to have an appreciation for the things that I’m doing. I think we all tend to dwell on our mistakes, failures, and disappointments, but I want to start journaling daily so I can document and celebrate the successes in my work and everyday life. I’m hoping this will help remind me regularly, through the use of Day One’s “On This Day” feature, of the good things in life. Which I expect will improve my overall mood.
The second is just the simple act of documenting different aspects of my life. Time feels like it’s flying by at a faster and faster pace as the years go by. And the time I’m going to have with my child in their younger years is going to feel like a blip when I look back on it in 30–40 years. I don’t want to forget all of the little things that take place. The small moments that could be taken for granted — the laughs, the cries, the funny faces, and more. I don’t want to forget any of it.
So I’ve started building the habit now. I have a reoccurring to do item in Things with a list of tasks that I do each night before I fall asleep. It’s mostly made up of mundane tasks like brushing my teeth, filling up my water bottle, laying out my clothes, and reviewing my to do list for the following day. But the most important item on that list is journaling.
It started as just an open ended item — launch Day One and start writing. I quickly realized that this was a bit too loose and in order to help increase the number of days I actually journaled, I should structure it a bit more. Now, I have a Shortcut that I use each day that asks me some stock questions, collects data from HealthKit and combines it all into a new journal entry for me.
If you’re interested, you can download the Daily Journal .shortcut file from here or use the iCloud link for all of you thrill seekers on iOS 13. You can use it to build off of for your own daily journaling shortcut or run it mostly as is. I say “mostly” because you’ll likely need to do some adjustments to the Health-related actions. I set it up for my specific setup — like grabbing some activity data only from my Apple Watch. In my experience, Shortcuts isn’t too graceful when it isn’t able to grab the expected data. So if the Shortcut crashes when you run it, take a look at those actions and edit as necessary.
But over the past week or so, I’ve upgraded my Day One setup a bit more. I started using the newly introduced Instagram feature to automatically import all of the photos that I share on Instagram and add them as entries into their own journal. This is such an excellent addition to the app because it allows me to share photos to a single location and have them automatically syndicated to all the places I want them — Twitter, Day One, and Instagram.
As I publish more photos on Instagram, I’m sure I’ll grow a larger appreciation for this feature. And that’s saying a lot because I already think it’s great.
In addition to pulling Instagram photos into Day One, I’ve also setup a number of IFTTT applets that save more of my online activity into Day One. I created a few Day One journals to house these entries — “Initial Charge”, “Twitter”, and “Archive”.
The “Initial Charge” journal is powered by an IFTTT applet that triggers each time there is a new tweet published to @initialcharge. Since that account is only used for sharing links to entries that I publish, it is essentially documenting every time I write for the site. And the benefit of saving these into Day One is that they can be surfaced for me automatically with Day One’s “On This Day” feature.
The “Twitter” journal is powered by an IFTTT applet that triggers each time I tweet from my personal @mdrockwell account. The Day One entry contains the text of the tweet and a link to the original on Twitter’s site. For now it only triggers for standard tweets and replies, but I might adjust it in the future to include retweets as well. Again, this will really pay off in a year when I start to see these entries appear in “On This Day”, but there is also a certain amount of peace of mind that comes from knowing I have a backup of all my tweets going forward.
The last journal, titled “Archive”, is a bit of a catch-all that houses all of the more passive online activity that I take part in. There are four IFTTT applets that create entries in that journal and they trigger when I “like” an item from their respective service:
I’m not sure if these will have as much value as the other automated journal entries, which is why I don’t actually have this journal setup to display in “On This Day”. But I’m hoping that I’ll find it useful in the future. For example, if I’m looking for something I saw online, but can’t remember where I discovered it. As long as I’ve liked the item, I can search for it in Day One to find a again.
All of this Day One automation is a bit of an experiment at this point, though. I suspect it will be something that adds value when items start showing up in “On This Day”, but the jury is still out on that. In the meantime, though, these applets are igniting interest in an application that I want to build habits around. And hopefully that will result in ingraining this journaling activity into my daily life in such a way that it becomes automatic. I eventually won’t need to be reminded to journal, it’s just something that I’ll do — that’s the goal anyway. Because memories fade over time and there are some things that you just never want to forget.