I’ve been keeping a journal since 1990, all digital, all stored in date-named .txt or .rtf files, one file per date. Much has been written about the benefits of journaling, in many places, over many years. Because this is an iPad-centric blog I’ll only say a couple of words about journaling as a life practice, then get to the app review. When you write about what you’ve been doing, and how you’re feeling, revelations appear on the page that never would have surfaced in a year of ruminating. Some people say it’s like free therapy. And really, who do you know that couldn’t do with a good dose of therapy? It’s also fun and informative to go back several years and see what you were doing on today’s day, say, 10 years ago. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ve grown in some cases, and how much you haven’t in others. For most folks, the benefits of journaling are pretty clear. Finding the motivation to do so, however, is just really hard sometimes. When you add up the hours for working, sleeping, exercising, interacting with loved ones, and the day’s mundane chores, being motivated to spend a few minutes in your journal as opposed to playing the latest cool iPad game or watching the new episode of Mad Men can be a tough sell.
So how does Day One help? It reduces the behavioral friction from journaling. Using a text or pen-and-paper techniques, you’re presented each day with a blank page, and start filling it up. Sure, you can say where you happen to be, like vacation in Rome. Or you could write about the weather. In a digital journal you could paste in a photo. In a hardcopy journal you can make a little drawing. But you have to do all entry manually. You also have to have your paper journal with you when the inspiration hits, or for us .txt-journal types, you need to be by your computer. This all adds to the effort of making a journal entry, and therefore the behavior friction, or what those of us with a psychology background call response cost. To reduce this friction you need to make journaling as effortless as possible, and this is where Day One shines.
Day One works beautifully on your iPad, as if it was made for it. There are also Mac and iPhone versions of the software, so they all sync, but Day One really looks best on the iPad. If you’re like me you almost always have your iPad with you (and probably an iPhone as a backup), so when the inspiration to write something in your journal hits, you can just tap once and Day One is ready. I’ll cover the basics of using Day One below, but the interface is very well thought out specifically to reduce the response cost I described above. When you open Day One, the first thing you see is a prominent plus sign (+). Tap it and the day entry pane opens, labeled with today’s date. Your iPad fills in your location and the weather automatically. If you use healthkit, Day One can also automatically import your activity data. If you’re listening to iTunes, Day One can import the info and add it to your entry. You can override this info if you want, but I never have. You can add a photo from your iPhoto library or take one from within the app. This level of automation makes journaling basics so easy: all you have to do is open an entry pane, wait a second or two for the automatic information to populate, and save the entry, and you’ve got a lot of info about your day.