Background

Journals are intensely personal. The contents of any journal reflect its creator thoroughly and uniquely.

As a result, journals can take many forms and can play many roles. One journal may be a log of a person’s activities at work. Another may be a scrapbook of a person’s travels and voyages. Yet another may take the form of a diary, where personal letters are written to a dreamed-up, modified version of a future self. A journal represents a mouldable pocket of clippings, trinkets and memories which is unique for everyone.

I’ve written in the past about how I’ve kept a journal for a long time. My Day One currently consists of 1200 entries over a three year time frame.[1] I have about 30 or 40 starred entries, hundreds of photos and all my written work stored in a single spot. And I’ve even ventured back into my journal to relive some past events. There was nothing like reading my personal thoughts on the eve of our wedding day.

Yet, at the same time, Day One isn’t perfect for everything. I can’t store old train tickets I accumulated during my backpacking of Europe. I can’t scribble down diagrams or pictures of something to be recognized later. And the intimate nature of a pen and paper is lost when clicking on a laptop (or iPhone) keyboard.

I’ve spent the last three years tinkering, adjusting and mending my journal habits — my journal has always been a work in progress. Every few months, I’ll come up with a new way to create structure and organization. And this has created a constant discontent. As much as I love keeping a journal, actually maintaining that journal at the end of the day has been a nuisance.

So when Joe and I started talking about the best way to keep a journal, we began to connect the positives of each of our journaling habits. I discovered bits and pieces about my process that suck and he discovered new ways to improve his journaling frequency.

The following is a method essentially devised by two individuals who have found a difficulty in their journaling.

The Hybrid Journal

Joe and I came up with a journal that incorporates the benefits of both a digital journal and a paper journal. The “Hybrid Journal” — for lack of a better name — utilizes two mediums and three platforms to satisfy as many of our own personal journaling requirements as possible. Using this three step process, we are able to:

  • Log our daily events quickly and efficiently

  • Search our work logs, beer logs, wine logs, daily summary logs and sleep logs

  • Create structure, organization and uniformity

  • Access the intimate nature of pen and paper for drawing and charting ideas and thoughts

  • Scrapbook personal photos and writings in a tagged archive

The Hybrid Journal will be best viewed on a laptop or an iPad, but the majority of entries will be entered on a mobile device. Logging our daily lives is easiest with an iPhone and carrying around a small memo book for writing, drawing and creating works best for archiving our less refined activities.

Day One and The Archive

One of Day One’s greatest assets as a journal is its ability to search through its archives. Entries can be tagged and starred for easy access to important dates and important information. Entries are automatically location stamped, creating a mapped archive of your travels. And entries can include photos, which adds a visual aspect to a journal.

Indexing and archiving physical journals for future reference is the great bane of paper journaling. Sure, you can keep a journal with neat writing and organize those journals in a pleasant organization scheme, but going back to those journals and finding a specific piece of information has always been difficult.

Day One eliminates the stress in indexing and archiving. Day One is searchable. Every entry can be searched with a fine-toothed comb, providing direct access to any and every entry within seconds. Entries can be tagged to provide context in your search. And most importantly, your Day One archive is digital; no house fire or torrential flood can tear your archives from your hands.

Day One’s ability to quickly search all your entries is what makes digital journaling so delightful — it’s what makes computers so useful. Day One is the first of the three major tools we use in our Hybrid Journal and we have chosen to play to Day One’s strengths rather than its weaknesses. The same can be said about Launch Center Pro.

Launch Center Pro and The Daily Log

Like Day One, we have decided to play to Launch Center Pro’s strengths. Launch Center Pro can quickly execute fairly lengthy processes all with the tap of a few buttons. It’s also quick to launch, putting those automated tasks at our fingertips faster than any other app out there.

Knowing this, we decided to create simple logging actions inside of Launch Center Pro that can be quickly inputed into Day One’s archives. Joe already summarized a list of these logging actions in a recent post and you can check out his future plans for the actions.

These logging actions were discovered through a simple tweet. The tweet discussed a Launch Center Pro action to log the books you’ve read in your Day One in a structured, tabled format. I don’t read enough books to apply that specific action to my Day One archive, but I decided to alter the action slightly to log my meals. Joe took my meal logging action and devised another eight additional actions which could be logged in his Day One:

In essence, we come to each of these actions once or twice each day and answer a quick, predefined survey to be entered into our digital Day Ones.

We took this idea from Nicholas Felton’s Reporter app which pings you every so often to answer a survey. Reporter logs your answers and you can export your results into a spreadsheet for later processing. I personally had less interest in the statistics of my daily activities and had more interest in simply logging my activities for future reference. Therefore, Reporter didn’t fit nicely into my journaling habits and I went looking for something that fit me better.

One of the other strengths of Launch Center Pro is its ability to remind you to complete specific actions. For example, I want to complete one Daily Summary log per day but I don’t necessarily need to complete a Wine Log for each day. I can create a reminder specifically for my Daily Summary action and I can eliminate unnecessary notifications throughout the day. I love this aspect of our journal.

Further, Launch Center Pro allows for complete customization of our logs. I do a subsantial amount of hockey officiating and I can create an “Officiating Log” that asks me how many games I worked, which level of hockey and who I worked with. I can log these in my Day One and quickly search a summary of each game within a few seconds.[2] Launch Center Pro’s customization epitomizes the originality of journaling and it is the perfect tool for completing surveys to be logged in Day One.

Oh, and with the recent release of Launch Center Pro for iPad, logging your life is no longer platform-dependent. Sweet!

A Physical Journal and You

I think many people view their iPhone as an opportunity to eliminate many of the tedious paper tasks that consume large amounts of their time. The iPhone is one of the greatest tools ever created because of its ability to be anything you want it to be. However, despite its incredibly broad appeal, an iPhone is simply not great for drawing, charting or graphing thoughts and ideas. And further, the intimateness of a pen scratching ink onto paper will forever be emboldened in our hearts.

So why completely eliminate a paper journal?

If Day One’s greatest strength is its searchable and structured archive and if Launch Center Pro’s greatest strength are its customizable, quick-logging actions, then a paper journal’s greatest strength is its raw potential. There is absolutely no structure when writing on a piece of paper; you can write sideways or upside-down, you can handwrite or you can scribble, or you can draw or cut out funky art. We all have a creative side that might be hindered by the inherent boundaries of software. Paper demolishes those barriers.

For anything that can’t be logged or can’t be typed, Joe and I have found comfort in a physical memo book. Those thoughts and ideas are no less meaningful than the pieces logged into our Day Ones; in fact, they may be more meaningful because of their raw and pure form.

There still needs to be a small amount of structure in our written journal, however. I’ve searched for many physical-journal-specific indexing methods and the greatest, by a wide margin, is the Bullet Journal. Bullet Journal provides a simple structure to your written journals through the use of different bullet points and indexes.[3] Each person’s mileage may vary with the use of Bullet Journal. I personally have little use for a monthly calendar or monthly to-do lists, so I have chosen to eliminate those. Utilizing page numbers to create an index, however, is fundamental to how our digital and physical journals will tie together.

The last important piece of a physical journal is the actual book you decide to use. Bullet Journal creator Ryder Carroll recommends a large Moleskine Squared Notebook for maintaining written records. Joe and I, on the other hand, believe in portability and small memo books. I personally don’t have pockets that are large enough to carry a large notebook, so I need a memo book that can fit in my back pocket for easy access. My combination right now is a Field Notes memo book with a Hellbrand Leatherworks Field Notes Leather Cover.[4] I use a cover to lengthen the lifetime of my memo books — in the end, I want these physical books to last my lifetime and not end up ripped and torn in the recycling bin.

Linking the Old to the New

The very last thing Joe and I want is to create multiple journals instead of one, over-arching journal. Like our body, our journal is a sum of its parts. Each piece, be it Day One or a Field Notes book, needs to work together to create the ultimate journal.

So how do they work together?

Day One’s ability to archive and index is already baked into the software, leading to minimal effort in keeping my digital side organized. My memo books require a little upkeep, though.

First, page numbers are absolutely necessary. Before I start recording thoughts and ideas in my book, I go through the pages and number each page in the bottom corner. If I feel obliged, I can leave the first page blank to create a “title page”, or I can utilize the handy Field Notes documentation page on the inside front cover for this purpose.

Second, I leave the last page blank for my index. I need this index for linking my digital and my paper journals.

Third, I leave at least two pages for each calendar date. I use one page for my to-do lists and daily events and the other page for written thoughts and ideas. Obviously, you can extend the amount of pages you need for each date depending on your usage.

To link our daily summaries and our paper journal, Joe created a “Physical Notebook Reference” prompt in the Launch Center Pro action which allows us to pinpoint our daily writings in our digital journal. I use a simple reference syntax like “2014–1 Pgs 45–49” to indicate the year and the book number for that year. This way, if I need to reference both sides of my journal, I know exactly where to look.

Taking this a step further leads to other interesting connections. I can “star” an important date in my Day One and I can easily show myself where to find that starred date in my paper journal. Again, your personal customization may come into play here, but I have found this to work effectively.

To complete my index, I include the page numbers of starred dates and of other important events. Like the Bullet Journal, any “Collections” — groups or lists of thoughts which collectively share context or which may be drawn on in future paper journals — can be appropriately entered for quick searching at a later date.

All in all, creating connections and references between our digital and paper journals allows for a (more) seamless experience than if separate types of journals were maintained. In the end, I envision the ability to print out my Day One in a nicely formatted PDF and throw that into my archive of Field Notes memo books. If you want to get to know me, I would recommend highjacking those boxes and scouring through the relatively unexciting meanderings of my daily life.

Wrap Up

You might wonder why Joe and I have decided to go to great lengths to create such an intricate journal. And although it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why, I think it has more to do with fear than it has to do with curiosity.

I’ve written in the past about a fear of my ideas and thoughts being lost in the ever-changing digital environment. Due to this, I decided to begin writing my thoughts and ideas in a memo book instead of my phone. Migrating my list of notes from the “previously best note-taking app” to the “newest best note-taking app” is both tedious and tiresome. Sometimes, my notes would get caught inside an app and I would forget where to find them.

The Hybrid Journal allows for the collection of logs — like Reporter, but more customized and easier to search — and for a collection of thoughts and writings. Launch Center Pro is the best tool to automate these processes. Now, my thoughts and writings are organized in one uniform location and my daily logs are recorded in another location. They link together to create reference and they stay separated to create structure and organization.

The Hybrid Journal is definitely a work in progress. As we go, we will continue to find things that work and things that don’t work. If you decide to implement a simple process like this and you find something that may work better than what I have discussed above, let both Joe and me know.

The better your journaling experience, the more likely you will be to write, record and revisit your journal in the future. And, in the end, that’s what journaling is all about.


  1. I think Shawn Blanc coined the term “My Day One”. As Day One continues to grow, so too will this term. I’ll do my part to spread the word.  ↩

  2. This is especially powerful when something bad happens during a game.  ↩

  3. At this point in time, I would recommend clicking on the link and watching the Bullet Journal video. It’s short, sweet and gives a great tutorial on how to structure a written book.  ↩

  4. I had my leather cover shipped to a community which borders the North Dakota/Manitoba border to save on shipping costs. You should have seen the look on the border guard’s face when I told her I was picking up a memo book cover. “No ma’am, you can’t pick one of these up at the local office supplies store. You Americans create incredible leather goods and we don’t have the luxury of cheap shipping!” was my answer. She was flabbergasted.  ↩