May 30, 2021

How I Capture Everyday Moments with Daily, Monthly and Yearly Journaling

What were the most significant moments in your life last week? How about last month? Or last year? I bet you have some trouble recalling more than a handful, if any. With the amount of content we consume each day, our brains tend to forget most of what we come across. Unless something stands out, we move on without wasting the precious brain power we have.

This was one of the reasons why I decided to start maintaining a daily journal. After many failed attempts to build this habit, I finally got going on 20th February, 2020. Since then, I've missed only a few days without adding something in the journal. On some days I had no motivation to do anything. Or I was swamped the entire day – which is a rare event.

Besides daily journaling, I add relevant events to a Monthly Journal at the end of each week. I call this my 'Weekly Review'. At the end of each year, I go through the Monthly Journals. I document the highs and lows of each month in the form of an 'Yearly Journal'.

Although I've only been doing this for a year and a half, I do notice some benefits. Scrolling through the past events brings back memories. I may come across an idea I wrote or a reflection of the day, mood, anxieties, fears and more. I am able to create a snapshot of each year. Over the next few years, I would be able to zoom-in to a particular year, month or day.

Daily Journaling

Daily journaling is the most zoomed-in level to record the big and small moments of everyday life. I use a journaling format called 'Interstitial Journaling'. The basic idea behind this is to write a few lines every time you take a break. This method also doubles as a time tracker – recording the notes as they happen throughout the day. It can also include to-dos, shower thoughts, captured ideas, reflecting on the existential crisis and more.

Eg. May 30, 2021 5:24 AM : I am writing this article on how I do daily, monthly and yearly journaling.

I use a Notion template that I creates a new page for each day using an inline template button. It keeps the same structure with some pre-written tasks or daily habits. Notion also makes it easy to enter current time with the '@now' command. And if I need to experiment with the Journal structure, I can do that in the source template every once in a while.

Monthly Journaling

With Monthly Journals, I create a snapshot of the entire month in a single document. This is a slightly zoomed-out version.

At the end of each week, I do what I call the 'Weekly Review'. I add relevant journal entries from daily journals to the respective monthly journals. When I come across an idea I had captured, I add that to another document called 'Idea Bank' for each month.

In monthly journals, I mark each entry with either red or green background colours. The colours signify if the event was a positive or negative. I leave neutral events with their default background. This colour coding helps in visualising the entire month at a glance.

Same as the daily journals, monthly journals also live inside pages within Notion. At the end of each month, I move all daily journal pages into the respective month.

Yearly Journaling (Monthly Summaries)

My yearly journals are not perfect at the moment. The more accurate naming for it would be 'Monthly Summaries'. At the end of each year, I go through all the monthly journals and add key highlights in a separate document.

I divide these summary documents into sections each for career and personal life. Within these two broad classifications, I add the top 3 highlights, top 3 setbacks/downers. I also add the general mood and emotions through the month. The colour coding established earlier in monthly journals helps with the summarisation.

For the yearly journals (or monthly summaries), I use Obsidian instead of Notion.

The apps I use for my journaling needs

Like I mentioned before, for both daily and monthly journals, I use Notion. It is available for all the platforms and devices I use – Android, MacOS, iPadOS, Web. This made it the prime candidate as it would be handy at all times.

For my year-end monthly summaries, I use Obsidian. It's is a markdown based note-taking tool where notes are stored on the system instead of the Cloud. It's also my permanent filing cabinet for notes.

Obsidian is working on their mobile apps. I will move my journaling to Obsidian when that happens.

Looking into the past with searchable collection of journal entries

Recently, I exported all my journal entries from Notion to Obsidian. Notion continues to be my app of choice for journaling – for reasons mentioned earlier. However, Obsidian is better at searching through notes, retrieving  memories or just coming across my thoughts, events from one of the journal entries.

References

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