Day One: Four years of daily journaling. A personal record

Posted on by Mike Evans

From an early age I had a compulsion to keep a diary, admiring famous diarists such as Samuel Pepys, although I suspected (rightly as it turned out) that I would never have anything to say that would be very interesting to others. No chance of Mike Evans's Diary in twenty volumes. It would be an exercise in vanity publishing and I would surely be the only reader. I never ceased trying, though. Every year I would buy a one-page-per-day annual journal and start out in good heart on January 1. Yet I believe the longest I survived was a month; I cannot remember in which year. 

Mac display

I regret bitterly that I couldn’t have done better over the years. Diaries are nice to look back on from afar and, often, stir memories that would otherwise remain hidden. 

When the personal computer age arrived I decided to try again. I had moderate success with a number of journaling apps, including the venerable MacJournal. But it was the arrival of Day One in 2011 that changed all that. I started off, not expecting much, but such is the capability and inherent simplicity of this journal application that I was soon into the routine of jotting down something every day, no matter how mundane. Now I have over four years' worth of daily notes. They are unremarkable, but there is a certain satisfaction in knowing that I am keeping a record. 

One immediate benefit is in enabling me to check back on what I was doing on a certain day; or, for instance, when I last visited the doctor or had tea with Great Aunt Mildred. Most people cannot remember trivia like this. Their recollection of the past is generally confined to high days and holidays, days on which something memorable happened. The majority of our days are insignificant but, nevertheless, worth recording. Sometimes, on the rare occasions I forget to make an entry at the end of a day I find that on the following day I have to think hard about what I was doing. Imagine trying to recollect what you were doing on this day last year. Most of us cannot remember but, thanks to Day One, I know exactly what I was up to. 

iPhone display

Day One reminds me to jot down a few notes every single day. I can also add photographs, even retrospectively since the system automatically checks the file metadata and slots it into the correct date. It automatically notes the weather on any particular day and the location of the entry, if you give it permission. If you wish you can have the app track your fitness records from the phone or Apple Watch. And all your entries sync automatically via Dropbox, iCloud or Day One’s own sync service¹—Mac, iPhone, iPad. 

The app has also encouraged me to make retrospective entries noting the memorable days that I can identify. The worrying thing is that there are relatively few of them; almost everything has been obfuscated in the mists of time.

Why I have managed to keep Day One running for four years is a mystery. I suppose the main reason is convenience; it is just so easy to jot down notes on the phone or Mac and. So if you have tried but not succeeded, I recommend buying Day One and I am sure you will be motivated—at last. 

The Day One blog, which you can find here, provides many examples of how individuals use the application to track their lives, their activities and, in some cases, specific projects, hobbies or interests. I can unreservedly recommend Day One. It's the best.

Macfilos Day One review, 2011
Day One, the first month in the bag
Day One, day 193
Day One chalks up 366 days, leap year
Day One, day 745
Day One, adding photographs
Day One, a baiser a day keeps the doctor away
Day One, now when did I go to Lagos


¹ I have tried all three and now prefer Day One’s proprietary synchronisation service. It’s free and works quickly and smoothly

∞ Permalink