I'm not a natural reflector.
I used to kid myself that I reflected 'enough', casting a moment or two or of hurried pondering before moving on to the next big thing. I certainly never thought I'd be the sort of person to habitually keep a journal.
In the past few years, however, I've come to enjoy - even love - journaling as one of my most valuable personal development resources.
My journal of choice isn't a physical notebook, but an app (available for iOS and Mac) called Day One (www.dayoneapp.com).
In no particular order, here are my five favourite features from the Day One app.
1. Multiple journals
I keep journal entries on all of the following topics:
- Traveling & holidays
- Home improvement projects
- Reflective practice from coaching & team facilitation sessions
- Fitness activities and progress towards goals
- Films I've watched
- Books I've read
- Things I'm grateful for
- Podcasts I've enjoyed
- Great quotes I want to capture and my subsequent ponderings on what they might mean
It's important to me to be able to separate these into various compartments. If I were keeping a physical journal, it's unlikely I'd want all my coaching notes sitting alongside an entry on our latest DIY efforts. Day One allows you to set-up multiple/colour-coded journals that you can switch between within a couple of taps - a great feature that allows me to keep my entries organised and free of clutter.
Even within each of my journals, there are a huge range of topics covered. The ability to 'tag' a journal entry like a blog post (e.g. 'running', 'family' or 'food') allows me to quickly search through and find a series of entries I'm looking for.
There's another type of tag which is super-useful. Whenever you place an entry, it is automatically tagged with the location that you started writing. If you add a photo (see below), the app will also ask you if you want to use the location that your photo was taken. This is especially effective on the iPad and Mac apps- meaning that you can browse your entries on the 'map' view .
And there's more data that get added automatically - weather reports and step counts for instance. Because I'm a bit of a geek about fitness, I like the idea that I can go use my journal to help with my current fitness goals by going back to a time when I was really happy with my fitness levels and see what's different to where I am now (Was I more active then? What type of exercise was I doing then that I'm not doing now?).
You can currently add up to 10 photos per entry, and these are displayed as a gorgeous collage as you flick through entries. Some of my entries have no words, just pictures. Often that's all you need to capture something you want to remember.
4. Launch Center Pro integration for utilising the Five Minute Journal system
Launch Center Pro is an extremely powerful iOS app that allows you to launch actions, not apps. It's a bit like having a speed-dial for all your most-used workflows.
Launch Center Pro has teamedup with Day One to offer some custom templates which allow fans of the Five Minute Journal (FMJ) approach to easily log a morning and evening entry. If I don't have any additional entries to make that day, as a minimum I know there will be ten minutes per day of dedicated reflection time.
Here's the rough gist of the FMJ:
Morning- asking 3 questions:
- What am I grateful for?
- What would make today great?
- Daily affirmation
My take on the affirmation part can sometimes vary from a quote I've found, to a commitment to achieve one particular thing, or a reminder of a recent achievement that might be relevant today.
Evening - two prompts:
- Three amazing things that happened today
- How could I have made today better?
Again - I try to mix this up a bit. Some of the 'amazing things' I capture might be a genuinely brilliant bit of news or success, a tasty meal, a beautiful sunset or simply something that made me laugh. I try and record a note if one of my '3 amazing things' was something that I was able to directly influence - it's interesting to see over time if a particular pattern of behaviours or thoughts has an impact on the number of 'amazing things' I experience.
Equally, the second evening prompt can often be helpful to bring to mind patterns and trends over time. When you note the answer to this question down every day, it's easy to spot themes occurring ("gone to sleep earlier", "not committed to so much this week", and so on).
5. SoMe feeds
This is a recent addition to Day One - allowing you to connect your favourite social media feeds to an 'activity' view and select which you'd like to add in to your journal as entries. A memorable Twitter conversation or Facebook post can be captured in your journal and tagged accordingly!
One of the things I find especially helpful about daily journaling using the FMJ approach (and all the features listed above) is that habits/patterns/trends become very clear over time. By working on our "stuff" through a simple practice like journaling and reflection, over time we can reveal these patterns to ourselves.
Often, it's a realisation that we are not making the choices we think we are, but reacting to life in the way we always have. These unconscious patterns can be like driving on a roundabout and not being able to take an exit- you just keep going round and round.
Mastering our unconscious behaviours, patterns and biases help to boost our ability to make new choices, directing our lives towards new and exciting places.
Side note: I genuinely can't enthuse any more about this product, so for the avoidance of doubt - I am receiving zero compensation/commission for this post!
All in-app images in this post are provided by Day One from their official press kit.