The hardest part about journaling is remembering to journal. A hundred times I've attempted to "start journaling," but I always gave it up after a few weeks. "But it's therapeutic," people say. "You should journal." The word journal has taken on a new meaning — as a verb, and as a bragging right for those sitting outside coffee shops brave enough to stay off their iPhones.
While Moleskines will likely never fade in popularity, I've learned that the act of journaling is shifting. Increasingly people are taking their thoughts to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. These services have made logging your life on a small scale super simple, and journaling apps haven't kept up. The biggest difference here is that people use these services to share things with others, and that you can access them from just about anywhere. And of course, writing takes longer than typing and your hands ends up sore. No longer was I writing in an old Belle & Sebastian notebook, filling it with stray thoughts, ticket stubs, funny jokes somebody told, and quotes I liked. I hadn't been "journaling" in the conventional sense (recording thoughts at the end of each day), but recording memories I would otherwise forget: a gold mine of inside jokes, transitory moments, and ideas to build on.
What matters most is the act of saving and not letting the tiny private things in life evaporate.
Bloom founder Paul Mayne asked if I'd want to try a new version of his journaling app called Day One (which launched yesterday). I'd of course tried several similar apps before like Momento for iPhone, and even good ol' TextEdit on Mac, but always felt like I was trying too hard to find things to write down. Journaling feels self-serving and egocentric, since your entries are about you. The stray thoughts and snippets I wrote about earlier are frequently not about you, but about the things in your life. I was skeptical of Mayne's app because none of the other apps I've tried (even "smart journals" like Path) have successfully kept me reeled in. This is in large part due to the fact that most of these apps lack desktop counterparts I can use while I'm at work all day.
After spending a month and a half with Day One, I think I've finally found my solution — a way to record anything and have access to it all from any device I'm using. Day One for me has created journal nirvana, in the same way that Things created multi-platform to do syncing and iA Writer perfected multi-platform text editing. Day One creates an environment where no matter where you are, it only takes a second to record something. Aside from its presence on multiple platforms, Day One stands out as a meticulously crafted application. For example, when you add a photo to a journal entry, Day One asks if you want to change the time and location of the entry to the time and location of the photo. It's such a no-brainer that once you've seen this feature, uploading photos to Facebook and altering dates and times feels like a waste of energy.
"No matter where you are, it only takes a second to record something."
Day One is a beautiful app from its color palette to the variety of icon glyphs and animations you'll notice, and has tons of features like auto-adding weather and location data to notes, markdown support, full screen mode, iCloud and Dropbox sync (the speediest I've ever seen), and photos, but the real key is its omnipresence. Day One's lightweight and unobtrusive menu bar app (activated by a click or keyboard shortcut) provides only a blank text box to type in. The app rewards brevity, and after using it for a couple months, it became obvious that Day One is a journal for the Twitter age. I find myself frequently bringing up Day One's menu bar app to throw random obscenities, thoughts, jokes, and ideas into.
Day One emphasizes creating a new entry first and foremost, though its search bar and calendar view make it easy to dig through old posts. You can even customize the app on Mac and iOS to open a new entry whenever you launch it. Day One doesn't support scribbles or drawings or doodles, but if I do want to draw, I open up Paper for iPad. Once again, what matters is that you're saving things somewhere permanent — in a place that can be referred to later on. Paper and Day One both offer Export options to standard file types like .txt and .pdf (respectively) in case you decide to switch apps or quit entirely.
By today's standards, it's not cheap to grab Day One on both Mac and iOS ($9.99 total, currently), but it's still quite a bit less than a Moleskine. It's also a lot more common to misplace your Moleskine than your iCloud. A few months down the road you'll look back at your tweets and Facebook statuses and see that they're all filled with links you've shared publicly. Day One is a private log of your thoughts, and the other miscellanea you find worth noting in your daily life. Thanks to a simple and always accessible new kind of micro-journaling in Day One, I've again realized the value in smelling the roses and writing down the little things that matter.