How to use a Journal

MacSparky recently wrote about plans to start a journal with a couple of ideas about why it could be a good habit and how he would use it. I liked the thoughtfulness he had about why he is planning to journal so the motivation is more clear. He also suggested Day One journal software would be worth trying. Day One has also been recommended by Andy Ihnatko the Mac guru for the Chicago Sun Times who is featured on the MacBreak weekly podcast.

Day One is a beautiful application for Mac ($10) and iPad/iPhone ($2) which syncs via Dropbox. It has many well implemented features with lots of plans for enhancements:

Mac Feature List: Features Coming This Year:
  • Quick Entry via the Menu Bar
  • Tags / Categories
  • iPhone / iPad Application Sync
  • Photo Attachments (Mac / iPhone / iPad)
  • Password Protection
  • iCloud (sync)
  • Calendar View
  • Text Formatting (Bold, Italic, auto Hyperlinking via Markdown)
  • Export
  • Full-screen writing mode
  • Inspirational Messages
  • Encryption
  • Reminder System
  • Additional Export formats
  • Search
  • Many other great features planned as regular updates!
  • System Hot-key Shortcut
  • Starred Entries List
  • Command Line Interface
  • Lion (OS 10.7) Support
  • Quick Entry
  • Of course everyone from Oprah to Jim Rohn has spoken about the merits of keeping a journal to become more mindful and with that there are myriad other benefits.
    For example see this video from Jim Rohn.

    Story telling is a big part of effective speaking and writing so that is another good reason to keep a journal. It really helps speech writing to have a collection of stories that are personally meaningful to you.

    Problems and solution tracking can be helpful so you can refer back and relate to them if someone else needs help with something similar.

    Emotions and what are affecting them can be good things to track too. Since self talk can really impact your life you might want to try recording these “conversations” so you are more aware of them and can analyze how they are affecting you.

    Jim Rohn recorded an inspiring hour long audio-book on How to Use a Journal that can be purchased from Audible.com or other sources for only a couple dollars.

    Many people like to use a moleskine book as a journal which is quite attractive because it looks and feels good. Packaging can emphasize the importance and enjoyment you are attaching to capturing your ideas.

    Personally being a tech guy trying to reduce clutter in my life, I currently use MacJournal on my Macs ($40), iPad ($2.99), and iPhone ($2.99). That way I have a journal capture tool with me all the time. I like the way I can keep information entered from each device (iMac, MacBook Pro, iPad, iPhone) in its own journal as well as a merged master journal. As a possible point of interest my stats for journal entries show that I have the same amount of journal entries on my iPhone and iPad, twice as many on my MacBook Pro laptop, and twice that number on my desktop iMac. To put it another way here is a pie chart view.

    Syncing really is (as in so many other areas) one of the key features that makes journaling powerful and simple enough to use every day without a lot of extra overhead. It is high time that I produce a review on MacJournal tips and techniques but for now here is a quick list of features you might be interested in:

    • Media browser to adding multimedia to your journal entries
    • Send to journal entry to blog such as Blogger, WordPress, LiveJournal, Tumblr and more
    • Backup journal
    • Export in multiple formats
    • Icon labelling
    • Mood indicators
    • Advanced sorting
    • Timer as reminder to do journal entries
    • Writing Statistics
    • Calendar mode
    • Full screen mode
    • Security protection

    MacJournal pretty much has all the present and future planned features of Day One with the possible exception of the current menu bar and future iCloud sync (and markdown?) features. Of course not all features are necessarily created equally so a full review would need to compare the implementation quality of each feature and overall design of the application on each device.

    MacJournal (on the Mac)

    MacJournal from Mariner Software

    If you like the timeline view in MacJournal this is something that you can get on steroids by using the Beedocs Timeline 3D ($65) or Easy Timeline ($20) software that can also export your timeline as a pdf or video. Timelines are so popular that Facebook is on the bandwagon too but in my opinion that is only good for information that you want to make completely public.

    Although MacJournal is a highly functional specialized journaling tool with extra bells and whistles (especially in the just released [December 2011] version 6 for the Mac) you might want to use something simpler like Simplenote (see Simplenote Love) that can also keep your text notes in sync across all your devices wherever you are. Another alternative is Evernote (free for entry version) which also can be used multi-platform and allows for rich text and media formatting. Springpad (free) or a plethora of other online or device notebook apps are also a possibility which may be attractive if you like to classify your journaling into different notebook topics (though MacJournal can do this too).

    Another feature you might find attractive on your Mac or iPhone is social network communication with selected parts of your journal. MacJournal supports publishing journal entries to blogs but not social networks which you have to do manually either through export or cut and paste. It also doesn’t have a feature to import social network posts into your journal entries to organize your personal history. Day One has neither of these social network integration features.

    A beautifully designed iPhone app called Momento ($2.99) has quite extensive social media import capability. Its claim to fame is it can automatically import information from the following social networks:

    • Twitter
    • Facebook
    • Flickr
    • Instagram
    • Last.fm
    • Foursquare
    • Gowalla
    • Digg
    • YourTube
    • Vimeo
    • RSS feed

    It seems a bit preposterous to be aggregating your videos for the long term on a mobile phone but this is the only journal that appears to include this feature right now. Unfortunately there isn’t a Mac counterpart to the program and the export capabilities are limited to emailing text information. It seems ill advised to aggregate much of your social network records in this app at the moment. You can backup the multimedia database via iTunes but it can only be restored to Momento. For now, Tweets seem the best match for including in Momento iPhone journal data. Perhaps in the future Momento will develop better export capabilities and partner with a Mac application.

    What might be a good candidate is a Mac application called Chronories ($14.99). Chronories puts an emphasis on automating the collection of data that could be added to journals. It can import from MacJournal and also automatically capture information from the following sources:

    • Computer activity
    • Favorite applications used
    • Weather information
    • Music played
    • News headlines
    • Screenshots, images and isight photos
    • Emails and chats
    • Visited web sites
    • iCal appointments

    Chronories

    Synium Chronories Journal

    Oh yeah, you can also type and format text into the journal and use other features like:

    • Menu bar service for entering moods or other quick information like screenshots
    • Analyze and visualize your data with charts and tag clouds

    Back in distant past there emerged a vision of not just journaling but capturing digital life data in total. It was done by a pioneer named Gordon Bell as part of Microsoft research in a MyLifeBits project. An audio recording of the MyLife Bits and Memex vision can be heard at ITConversations. We are gradually moving in the direction where more and more data is being collected. Hopefully there will be tools that will allow individuals to manage the increasing volumes of their own data. We are making progress but we are not there yet. In the mean time we can choose from the alternatives that exist today and with an eye to the future plan to evolve into the brave new world.

    The developers of MacJournal, Day One and particularly Momento and Chronories could potentially evolve products that through interoperable interfaces or even collaborative development rise out of the ooze of lowly text journaling into life information tools. Where there is Siri and isight can multimedia dictation be far behind?