Starting up a one-line diary

Every day write one line summarizing that day. I call it the one-line diary. Easy to update. Easy to read.

Easy to update

Longer journals can be daunting to write. Bullet journals can be intense with all their code and filling up a page every day. With a one-line diary you have one line to write about that day. Much easier to keep up with.

Easy to read

A one-line diary is easier to review. You can look back at your one-line journal and get a quick overview of what your life was like at that time.

The challenges of a one-line diary

I try to keep a one-line diary, but I often find myself too overwhelmed to fill it in. Yes! One line often daunts me! Some days feel less achievement-filled than others. But looking back at the journal is rather fun.

Now I’m back doing it again.

Different ways to fill out a one-line diary

Currently I keep my one-line diary in a Google doc. Each line is one day.

Sample one-line diary I’ve also done this on paper with a printed form. It works better when it’s on a sheet of paper, as you have a finite space with just one line per day. Plus, it’s cool to just have that actual physical sheet of paper with your notes written every day. Someday, I’ll post a photo of one my hand-filled sheets from 2008/2009.

But you don’t always have the sheet of paper with you to fill out. For me, the trick is getting myself to fill it out every day. Google docs are available anywhere online.

I suppose you could also do it on a private Twitter account. But sometimes you want to backfill certain days you missed. With Twitter, you can’t tweet something in the past. Although you could just start each tweet with the date. However, I put personal things in my one-line diary that I would definitely not want online.

Reminders of what you did on past days

When you need to back-fill your one-line journal, you can reference several places:

  • Your calendar. Always a great spot to remember what you did that day. One might say you could even keep your one-line diary on an actual calendar. Not a bad idea!
  • Exercise journal. I keep track of my bicycle runs on Strava. Often I’ll put notes on there where I went.
  • Swarm (foursquare). Another source for where you went that day.
  • Twitter, Facebook, other social media.
  • Your photographs. Always a good source for your historical record of what you did that day.
  • Evernote. I save articles into Evernote. By looking through this archive, I can see what I was researching that day.
  • Screenshots. If you’re like me, you take screenshots ALL THE TIME on your computer. I use the Mac’s screenshot function to record activities.

If all these services could talk to each other, that would be great to have a daily summary across all services. For now it’s a hand-curated list with the one-line diary.

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Rebecca Thering
6 years ago
Reply to  Matt Maldre

Thanks for sharing your system, Matt! I’ve been keeping handwritten journals most of my life, but the amount of time between entries can vary quite a bit. At the end of January, however, I started a #100DaysofDailyJournaling project. Originally I wanted to do three morning pages every day, but I soon realized I’d have to lower the bar to make it sustainable. So I told myself I just had to write SOMETHING, whether it’s a single word, phrase, sentence or multiple pages. When I miss a day, I try to never miss two days in a row. Today is Day 96, so I’m almost there!

To help remember, could you set a daily alarm on your phone—and when the ding or song plays, that’s your reminder to write a sentence if you haven’t yet?

With a physical journal, I just let it live on my bedside table, and thus see it every morning and night—the visual is enough of a reminder for me.

Good luck with your move!

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