Keeping a journal for 12 years
Today I discovered an interesting post on Dev.to: How To Take Notes on Everything by Max Antonucci.
It’s exciting to see how other people are trying to solve the same problems as I do, but differently.
Because I get to learn and absorb new ideas.
My story is that I keep digital journals for 12 years. The first entry I can find was written on 19 November 2007.
I had journals on paper way before that, so it’s a normal habit for me.
Initially, I was writing notes in Microsoft Wordpad - .Rtf format, because I was on a Windows PC. And I hate the .Doc and .Docx format, because it forces you to use the full Microsoft Office suite.
Then I loaded everything in Google Docs, because I started using Linux much more and I wanted a portable way to see my notes on different computers, at home, and at work.
Then I became more concerned about privacy and started to run away from Google, so I exported everything in Markdown using a script.
Since then, I just write everything in plain text/ Markdown, edit with Atom Text Editor and commit in Git every day or so.
I tried a ton of Markdown editors, but I always go back to Atom, because it’s the most feature complete.
Since I moved from Google Docs, I started to implement a fixed structure to my notes, to separate and tag entries, so I can find them later.
I keep different files for personal stuff, work and other projects.
I group the personal log entries by date, eg: “2019-07-July.md”, “2019-08-Aug.md”, etc.
The projects are in separate files, but I don’t split them by date. The largest project file “Trinkets-log.md” has 6700 lines of text.
Every entry has a date and potentially other semi-structured meta-data, eg:
- “## 2019-Aug-20 | 📖 ☀️”
- “## 2019-Aug-25 | ⚙️ 🔩 😀”
- “## 2019-Aug-30 | 🕸 📕”, etc.
I write about things that happened during the day, events I might want to remember, things that I learned and maybe I want to go deeper in the future, about movies that I watched, interesting articles or links, intriguing quotes, ideas for notes or projects…
I keep my TODOs, DONEs and IDEAs and everything worth tagging in caps, to find them later.
It’s not as strict and organized as I could be, but I’m constantly improving.
The huge advantage of plain text journals is I can use a Grep/ AWK in command line, to search and filter whatever I need in my files, I have absolute control.
I just counted 1,719 entries with grep and wc. Not all of them are structured correctly, so I can’t count them all.⏳ 8-feb-2020 :: I managed to organize a lot of old notes, there are 2,243 entries now.
It was a long journey, but I’m pretty happy with the stack and I could never go back to the limitations of a closed format like .Rtf, or a closed system like Google Docs.
The only disadvantage right now is I can’t read my private notes on the mobile, because they are on the laptop. But to be honest, that wasn’t a big problem so far. I take notes on the phone with Bear app and move them in the journal from time to time.
I could access the repository in a browser if I really wanted.
Or I could use a mobile Git application, but I didn’t try that so far.
The number of comments suggests there are many other people that use more or less different methods.