Calendars as Life-Logs: My Current Approach

Julian Lehr will never stop inspiring me

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Intro

Most of my thinking time is spent pondering calendars, timelines, history and how they all intersect with PKM and journalling. There is always an open thread.

It’s been a long-standing interest, but it really picked up after Julian Lehr’s multi-layered calendar article, as it gave me the language to explore something new. Please read his article if you haven’t already. His 2020 tweet also introduced the term ‘life-log’ which is what I’m referring to here throughout.

Today I want to roundup how I’ve interpreted calendars as life-logs so far. I see this as a direct companion to my journalling practices and it’s now a part of my daily life.

Disclaimer before we start

I do this because I want to, not because I think I need to or that this should be the standard. I invest money in tools that help me do this because it aligns with my personal goals. I see this practice as helpful for my emotional wellbeing, and that’s about as subjective as you can get!

What and Why?

I use my calendar to look back probably more than I do to look forward. I log information about my day in the calendar using automations from third-party tools.

I do this because everything is connected to a date. It just makes sense to redirect time-stamped information into a calendar where I can. This allows me to access my information in a time-based context in a calendar, or their original contexts from their sources.

But it goes beyond this too. I have long been interested in capturing the essence of my everyday (referred to as essence from here)- what was I doing, who was I talking to, where did I go.

All of this is because I have a lot of memory loss from terrible times in my past, and I have no clues about what was going on then, or who I was, what I liked etc, and that makes me terribly sad.

My essence collection is me purposely leave clues for my future self so I never feel that again. I have no idea if I’ll ever want that information in the future, but I simply don’t need to take the risk. Essence collection is therefore an undertone to everything I do with my digital systems.

I’ve written more about this here:

How

In short: this life log is achieved through integrations sending calendar events to multiple calendars within Google Calendar. These act as layers that I can show or hide to build up a picture of my days.

The source of these layers is Google Calendar. For my automations, I currently have active subscriptions to Zapier ($25/month), Make ($10/month) and IFTTT (£49/year). This covers all automations, not just these calendar-based ones, of course.

I’ve also tried Morgen Assist, which I liked but I don’t want to pay for another automator right now whilst I’m focusing on other things day to day. I could also put Oura stats in via N8N, but it’s very expensive just for 1 automation.

The process is simple really, I choose the automation tool depending on the trigger I want.

The action is always to make a detailed Google Calendar event. I send the event to a specific calendar, which maintains these layers.

Once the automations are set up, information gets sent to my calendar without me thinking.

So far I have these automations set up:

Automation

Why

Source

Milestones

What good things are happening each day?

Notion Milestone Database

Time-tracking

How am I actually spending my time?

Toggl

Medium Posts /Youtube Video Published

What am I creating?

Medium

Bookmarks/Tweets

What am I interested in/what’s going on online?

Raindrop

These live in two particular layers:

  1. Essence (personal, blue)

  2. Business activities (PKM Beth/Capacities, purple)

I add emojis to make it more fun and I change the colours because the Google colours hurt my eyes 😅 

All this provides a picture of my days which is great.

But the recent attention of Amie’s integration has allowed me to take this further. Amie (Mobile) has so many amazing integrations (Apple health, workouts, sleep, Spotify listening history). In practice, I guess I see Amie Mobile as a plug-in to Google Calendar. Google Calendar has the core information, and Amie my retrospective view, plus some lovely extras.

I love this insight and how easy it is every day. Whilst this practice is really aimed at my future self, I find myself scrolling back in time even a couple of weeks to see what was going on.

There have been weeks that have passed me by where I haven’t felt like an active participant in my own life, and these calendar clues allow me to ground myself more.

Just for completeness, I’ll mention here that I’m using Akiflow as my daily/future view as I don’t think Amie is currently developed enough as a task manager/scheduler for me right now. In other words, Akiflow is geared towards action, and Amie towards reflection.

I’ve been thinking about this as components to a digital ecosystem roughly built around three bases: an action base (Akiflow), a reflection base (Amie and Day One) and a knowledge base (Capacities), and of course extra apps in the periphery.

Amie and Day One talk about my everyday, and the history notes I take in Capacities talk about what was happening in the world through time. Together, I consciously contextualise my life story within the real world which I think is really important, and honestly very interesting for me.

But regardless of all the activities that might occur within a personal system, they are all connected by time and always will be; I may as well have calendars for this to see how this comes together.

Akiflow and Amie both talk to Google Calendar, and time is a central pillar of Capacities anyway, so it’s easy to review content by date there.

But anyway, back to calendars as a life log!

Where I want to go with this…

This picture will evolve of course, but I think once I have some more free time, I’d like to add more calendar layers so that I can have more customisation on which things I see. It’s messy right now, which is realistic but not the only way this information can be displayed.

I’ll also add more granular filters that assign emojis per type of content. This will make reviewing the information easier and fun!

After that, I think it will be good to base my weekly reviews out of this calendar view too. This is very much inspired by Rize*, which was actually the first app that showed me I can track my whole day and categorise it. I’m hoping they add a Zapier integration where I can add the info it collects about my laptop usage to another Calendar layer.

Categories are useful for reviews and I already love looking back at what I’ve done each week on Rize, as a reminder to do more/less of certain things to align with my goals. I’d love to see this in a calendar somehow too.

I’m also wondering whether I look at some reporting directly on top of this, perhaps via a Notion database to count how many tweets/bookmarks I save in a given time period. Honestly, I’m not sure if this is because I want that information or because I’m enjoying using integrations, and it would be a great challenge for me to make something like this. This practice is as fun to me now as it is a gift to my future self.

Finally, I’d like better integration with my journalling practices. Day One links to my calendar, so all of these events can be turned into the titles of journal entries. I absolutely should comment on my days with that as the structure, but in reality that involves more friction that just brain dumping one long narrative each morning when I journal.

Lots to trial and discover over time :)

Conclusion

So this was a look at my processes for having a life-log in my Google Calendar. It’s all the power of automations through third-party apps, and lots of trial and error. I had a lot of fun setting this up, and I love reviewing it.

I think using calendars for the past (reflection), present (scheduling), and future (planning), just makes so much sense.

I really feel this is the beginning of my practices and thinking around this, and I literally can’t wait to see what I’m doing 2 years from now.

I’m sure he’ll never read this, but if Julian Lehr happens to read it, thank you for publishing your content! It feels like the missing piece that links my PKM and history notes with journalling. Of course everything is connected through time, why shouldn’t we view that on a calendar?

I would really love to talk to more people about this. Please reach out across any socials (@pkmbeth) or emails ([email protected])!

I’m also happy to provide more detailed breakdowns of the set up for anyone interested, again just let me know.

I work for Capacities. All opinions are my own, I’m not being paid to feature the app in this article.

Links marked with * are affiliate links which help support my free content. They don’t cost you any more to use, but I get a commission per sale. This helps towards the running cost of this website 🙂 

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