Do you keep a diary? Or a life log?

Do you keep a daily diary? I have a couple questions for you:

  1. Length: Do you keep it really short? Or do you write longer form?
  2. Medium: Where do you write it? In a physical notebook? Or maybe online in a blog? Maybe some sort of software, or Google Drive.

The short diary in a Google doc

For many years I’ve tried to keep an extremely short diary. One line every day. From 2008 to 2019, I kept a one-line diary in a single Google doc. Read about this format in my 2017 blog post, “Starting up a one-line diary“.

Here’s what a two weeks of entries looks like from 2016:

One-line diary kept in Google docs

The problem is that I didn’t fill out the diary every day. Here’s the number of entries I had for each year:

  • 2008: 29 (8%)
  • 2009: 17 (5%)
  • 2010: 24 (7%)
  • 2011: 0
  • 2012: 0
  • 2013: 0
  • 2014: 0
  • 2015: 89 (24%)
  • 2016: 52 (14%)
  • 2017: 175 (48%)
  • 2018: 56 (15%)
  • 2019: 15 (4%)

You can see that I was not consistent at all. Only one year did I get even close to filling out half the days.

The Google doc got a bit awkward in the structure. Do I keep it chronological, and add to the bottom? It would all be in order, but then every time I write something, that’s a lot of scrolling, scrolling scrolling.

Then I tried keeping the newest entries at the top. Reverse order never felt quite right for me. I liked the ease of having the dates already added to the list, but then every month I would have to add the newest dates. And that got to be too much to do. All the stuff is still there, but I never really updated it much. The single-line part sounds easy. But then sometimes I’d want to write more.

The longer-form diary in Evernote

Thus, i figured in 2020, I’ll make a new diary. Here in Evernote.

Why Evernote?

  1. Available offline
  2. I could write a lot or a little. Every entry is a new day.
  3. Could add photos? Not sure about this. But it’s possible.
  4. I’m already in Evernote for lots of things.
  5. Sortable. I can sort reverse or forward

So far I love it. I can write as much as a I want. And guess what!? I still get the single-line preview from the title field.

Here’s a screenshot of the list of entries I have so far:

Daily diary: preview in Evernote

Since I’m writing about every day, I am able to reuse some of the text. Today I wrote about my three-year-old daughter’s first movie we took her to. I composed it Evernote, and when I saw all that text, so I thought I’d email the text (and photos) to my family.

There might be days where I want to write only a single sentence. And that would be fine too!

If you keep a daily diary (or life log), I’d like to know how you write your entries.

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4 years ago

I’ve had a blog since 2009. I actually started it to help improve my writing for Grad School. I really enjoyed it, but I too didn’t know if I should write a lot, a little, or somewhere in the middle. I finally found a happy medium of posting four times a month, and writing posts at various lengths. I did this for YEARS, but in late 2018 I received a Moleskin notebook for Christmas. That was a game changer. I started journaling in that. I do my best to write a page a day, and thus far I’ve been pretty successful with it.

Since then, I have noticed that the quality and amount of times I blog have diminished. I find that I pour so much into that physical notebook that when I remember to blog; I’m unsure what to write about. Inevitably I’ll write something along the lines of “Oh no, it’s been so long since I last posted here”. I think I really just fell in love with writing in a physical notebook. 2019 was a crazy year in my life, and I love the fact that I chronicled it, and it now sits on my bookshelf. It’s like official.

I do need to take some time, and revamp what my blog will become. I may turn it into a proper home for my podcast series. Or create some new storytelling project there.

Chris Aldrich
4 years ago

I keep the sort of diary/commonplace book you’re talking about. Generally it lives in two places. The biggest portion lives on my website where I can generally quickly bookmark almost everything I read, listen to, watch, annotate, reply to, or deal with online in some fashion. Not all of my posts there are public, but they’re archived there privately for search. 

My secondary backup is on OneNote (I’d used Evernote in the past and I find them roughly similar), where I’ll tend to keep some personal daily to do lists (not too dissimilar from a digital bullet journal) and other private things that are easier to keep there than on my own website.

I like that both OneNote and my website are available on almost all the platforms I regularly use, so they’re always accessible to me.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x