Investing More Heavily in Day One

The older I get, the less willing I am to fuss with new tools.

I think this stems, in part, from my having more and more experience with the cumulative cognitive debt of all forgotten and abandoned tools from the past two decades. I’ve become wary of trusting new and untested systems or of introducing further “friction” into my daily life. 

Over time, I’ve found myself defaulting to the tools that have endured. Gmail’s native interface and apps for email. Google Calendar’s native interface and apps for my calendar. Time blocking for getting things done. Etc. It’s proven to be a successful approach.

The one aspect of my life/work that I‘ve never found my groove in has been note-taking. As a child, I didn’t habitually take notes, and as an adult, I’ve mainly managed to get by without doing so, as well. But as my records and recollections have become more widely dispersed across various apps and platforms, the need for a coherent notetaking system has become imperative.

In this time of need, I’ve turned to Day One. Like Gmail and Google Calendar, Day One has endured as a reliable partner (my first journal entry was on October 15, 2011). Its support for multiple journals, tagging, attachments, and deep search make it among the most powerful note-taking and record-keeping tools available. Honestly, I’m frustrated that it took me so long to see its full potential.

Here are a few of the ways that I’m using Day One, today:

  • The Logbook: Throughout the day, I’m writing short entries about the tasks I complete, the people I speak with, etc. Here, the goal is to document, not reflect.
  • My Personal Journal: Each day, I spend 15–30 minutes reflecting on whatever is top of mind. Here, the goal is to reflect, not to document — though sometimes I just write a “mind dump” of everything I’m thinking about as a list.
  • My Prayer Book: I have always found it difficult to focus while praying. My mind wanders. So, I have begun writing out my prayers as letters to God and storing them in a dedicated journal for that purpose. It helps.
  • Letters to My Children: From time to time, I write letters to my children wherein I talk with them as though they were adults. I intend to give these letters to them when they’re much older — perhaps even upon my death — and I hope that they’ll find some value in their contents. 
  • Social Media: I’ve been considering using IFTTT to programmatically add social media content to Day One for archival purposes, but I’m afraid of filling it with clutter. If you have experience with that approach, I’d love to hear your feedback. 

Between these categories, I’m starting to get rather efficient at documenting my day-to-day. 

I’ve also been tagging entries descriptively rather than categorically so that the tags can be used as a glossary in the future.

For example, in the Logbook, I might jot down notes about a Zoom call I just had with three people. That entry would be tagged with the topics we discussed, “Zoom call,” and the full names of each of the participants. Later, I can quickly search by their names to find the notes from the call (and any other relevant notes about them) from any device. 

Day One is proving to be an app that gets better with age. The more heavily I invest in it, the more valuable it becomes. If you haven’t tried it, I strongly recommend doing so.