It is important to me that my diary system is simple, quick, and yet meaningful. We all have three minutes in the evening to briefly write down the memories of the past day. In my article “How to Remember Your Life,” I wrote in detail about the benefits of a diary.
My diary system consists of three components that can be completed within three minutes. The consistent structure allows a routine to form. Also, you can go back months or years and look for specific events.
My journal routine starts with summarizing in one sentence the most important experiences of the day. This sentence can be a few lines long, depending on how much happened during the day. I try to limit myself to the most important things and to formulate the sentence in such a way that I can still understand it in the distant future.
An example from my diary is: “I studied a lot for university, worked for my student assistant job, went running and watched the movie M3gan at the cinema with my girlfriend.”
In another, much shorter sentence, I write down one thing I learned each day. The daily lesson can range from a scientific fact to fun facts to emotional lessons.
Sometimes the daily lesson is very profound, but there are also days when it is not so impactful. The point of the daily lesson is that in the evening you think about what you learned in the last 24 hours instead of just forgetting it.
Last but not least, I write down in key words the people I had contact with during the day. For example, I jot down who I met with, who I wished a happy birthday, who contacted me, etc. This is especially helpful when I want to look up later when I handed in an important document, for example.
This simple 3-minute system can also be extended as needed if you want a better overview of your life.
Special daily highlights that are formative for your entire life can either be marked in the diary or transferred to a separate list so you can find them again more quickly. My life highlights include, for example, my graduation from school, new jobs and anniversaries.
I keep my journal analog and transfer it to my digital note-taking program once a week. This allows me to access my diary on all devices and back up my data to an external hard drive. I can also link people so that I can find them again more quickly and, for example, view all connections with a person.
I work with the program “Obsidian.” In this article you can find my Markdown templates for the diary system, which you are welcome to use.
Weekly & Yearly Overview
The 3-minute system presented here is the smallest possible diary routine that is still meaningful. If you supplement the daily overviews with a weekly and/or annual overview, you will gain even deeper insights into your life. However, these more detailed overviews also require more time.
In my article “How to Remember Your Life” I wrote more about my weekly overview.