Create your digital, personal insights journal

Earlier this week, writer Shawn Blanc published what I thought was a rather clever post on his blog, “The Core Curriculum.” In a nutshell, the post is about gathering the insightful lessons, experiences, thoughts, and other notable moments that occur in the course of a year into a single, tidy, and easily-referenced format. I like this idea, especially since we’re only a couple weeks into 2015.

The inspiration, if I’m correct, is the human tendency to forget details over time or otherwise have one’s recollections affected by environment, future experiences, and so on. This practice of capturing the details shortly after they happen not only helps ensure accuracy, it allows you to recall the initial insight after months or even years pass.

I’m going to change this practice in two ways. The first is a semantic change. “Core Curriculum” has become a politically charged term, and, for that reason, I think its use here is not the best choice. Instead, I’ll use “Insights Journal.” Second, since this is a tech-related column, I’ll suggest software as the main repository, where Shawn suggests a notebook.

In his article, Shawn notes:

“…Why not put together a small notebook that contains highlights and summaries from the books, speeches, articles, sermons, teachings, and other things which have most shaped us?…Then, once a year or so, go through the notebook. Read your summaries and highlights to stay familiar with the things that have shaped you.”

The following is software that can help you do just that.

  • Evernote. You might have seen this coming, as I’ve written about Evernote several times on Unclutterer. It’s my external brain, perfect for long-term storage and search. It’s compatible with almost every platform and it is actively being developed. It’s definitely a good way to capture your ideas.
  • Day One. This program is just for Mac and iOS users, but it has a slew of fans. Day One lets you enter text, as well as photos, weather information, location tracking (if you opt for it), and more. It syncs across devices like your Mac, iPad, and iPhone via iCloud or Dropbox. You can even publish certain entries, if you prefer.
  • Red Notebook. If you’re a Windows or Linux user and are looking for something similar to Day One, consider Red Notebook. This “modern notebook” lets you get in and start writing very quickly. You can create several virtual “notebooks,” so making a new Insight Journal at the end of the year will be easy, as will reviewing all you’ve captured.

Of course, there’s always Google Documents, Microsoft Word, Apple’s Text Edit, or even a physical notebook that you could use for this purpose. Just note that, while excellent at accepting text, those options won’t offer as strong of search options for your review as Evernote, Day One, or Red Notebook.

I hope Shawn’s idea inspires you, as it does me. He’s right — we do experience insightful and beneficial moments in our lives that we are quick to forget. An Insights Journal is a great idea to formally capture life’s lessons for future reference.

5 Comments for “Create your digital, personal insights journal”

  1. posted by Leslie on

    I’ve been doing this for about a decade now in notebook form. I use an 8-1/2 by 5-1/2 format loose-leaf binder that’s also used to keep track of my goals for the year (and my 3 and 5 year goals). It’s useful to review those insights, as well as whether or not I met the previous year(s) goals, before setting goals for the year(s) ahead.

  2. posted by Mike Donovan on

    Otherwise known for centuries as a “Commonplace Book.”

  3. posted by Sandra Barsy on

    I’m one of the raving fans of DayOne but I also enjoy Penzu as it has a headline log which is interesting to browse and stimulates the skill of distilling the day to a highlight. The best thing though is the “looking glass” feature that sends you a link to your entry from three or two years ago. So insightful to see what was happening’ — I now record with an eye to surprising or delighting my future self.

  4. posted by JT on

    I love Circus Ponies’ Notebook. Mac only I think, and syncs with iPhone.
    Incredibly versatile, allows you to do voice notations, record meetings while taking notes, add pictures, videos, add clippings from various web sources through the Services menu under Finder, customize the interface and so much more. I do not work for them! Just think it’s an amazing app.

  5. posted by cheryl on

    I’ve kept journals/diaries since I was a teenager. I love paper/pencil and will never succumb to keeping one on a laptop or personal computer. I can more easily access a notebook than bring up info on my computer and can take it anywhere…

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