It’s been almost a decade since I started keeping a journal.
I’d never thought of myself as a journal kind of guy, but there was this online journaling tool that came out of Y Combinator, called OhLife. It launched right around the time I moved to Biloxi to work on Stry.us, and it seemed like an interesting way to document my days on the Gulf Coast. Every day, they’d send me an email that said, “How did your day go?”, and I’d write back. It became a habit at first, and then a ritual. A day couldn’t end without me writing down a few thoughts.
As I wrote more entries, OhLife would write back to me and say, “Remember this? One year ago you wrote…”, and include an entry from a year ago on that day. There were moments in 2013 when I was in New York, working at BuzzFeed, and reading about things that had happened in Mississippi — all of which made me wonder: Had all that happened in just the past year?
In 2014, OhLife shut down, but I kept journaling. My current setup is simple: I’ve got an email that lands in my inbox every day at around 6pm. I reply to it, and the reply gets added to a doc with all of my previous entries. Every once in a while, I’ll open up my doc and search for a random date, just to see what I wrote on that day. As I write every year in my Things I Believe post: “I know that my beliefs will continue to change. I know that I will change.” And every time I look back on my notes from a particular day, I’m reminded of just how true that is.
I didn’t realize that the simple act of journaling would mean so much to me. It’s a moment for reflection in my day, and an opportunity to document my progress (or, in those early years, the lack thereof). I think it’s one of the most valuable things I do every day.
And if you want to get started with journaling, there are apps that make it easy. There’s even one of this list that allows you to send everything via email!
Give it a try. Over time, you might be surprised to reflect upon the person you were back then — and the person you’ve become today.
That photo comes via Hannah Olinger for Unsplash.