How I journal with Day One and IFTTT

a bit extra but exactly what I want

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I recently published a piece about the two biggest influences on my PKM practices right now, and the use-case I bring you today combines the two: capturing essence, inspired by The Years by Annie Ernaux, and Julian Lehr’s multi-layered calendars.

This is how I’m currently capturing essence using Day One and IFTTT.

In short, Day One serves as a hub for my journals and various sources of essence. I use different journals within Day One to give me different “layers” of information (Julian Lehr-inspired), which I can choose to view individually or together. Journalling is mainly a manual task, but the layers of information I bring in already exist elsewhere in my digital system, so I use IFTTT automations to also bring them into Day One. This ties lots of things together: lots of information about me, the world, and my world, all attached to a date, and it makes reviewing my journal altogether a richer experience which is very important to me (Annie Ernaux-inspired).

If you’re interested in how this looks, read on!

Firstly, what is considered a source of essence?

Annoyingly, it’s impossible to create a full list of what I might consider essence. It really could be anything, and after years of collecting essence it just feels like instinct more than anything. But that isn’t a helpful explanation!

It might be more helpful to phrase it like this: “does what I have identified feel like a product of its time and therefore something future me might use for reflection?”.

Yes 👉 save it

No 👉 save it anyway because there’s a reason I considered it as essence in some way.

…still not particularly helpful.

So perhaps it’s easier to talk about what forms this content could take.

Mostly it’s tweets, I find the 280 character count of most tweets great for giving a snapshot of information, but I also take a lot of pictures either of real life, or screenshots of things I see on Instagram or Tiktok for example. I also make little notes of observations, or lists of songs I listen to at a certain time of life… it’s just little fragments of things that are connected to a date and therefore mean something to me individually or compared to other things I’ve collected of the time.

Two examples:

  1. I love Tiktok. It teaches me how to cook fun things, how to apply skincare and how to live a better life in many ways. The picture on the left is from a creator who does weekly trend summaries but the screenshot below is from her first super viral video, showing there is perhaps a wider interest in what I would call capturing essence. Her review is so incredibly evocative of Tiktok in 2021 and I simply saved the video to Bublup where I used to capture essence things like this, and left it there to be rediscovered. It tells me something about 2021 so I want to see it and it is interesting to review it!

  2. Similarly, the tweet on the right summarises the Covid eras. It’s a short snapshot of a time that’s passed but reading it takes me back to that very odd time, though I’m still yet to make sourdough.

I’m not particularly strict with what I capture. The point of this practice is to give my future self lots of material to look back on to allow me to deeply reflect on my past, the world I live in and how I’ve interacted with it. I’d rather have too many sources to look back on in my old age than wish I had saved something of which I have a small glimpse of a memory.

This is of course a manual process though. When I set about creating one place for these essence sources to flow into, I stumbled across IFTTT’s integration with Day One and decided to use it to automate some essence capturing. This is because it takes what I’m already saving day to day to the relevant place as well as funnelling it all into Day One to become part of my journalling and reflective practices.

Let’s look at this in more depth.

What automations have I got set up?

Spotify

This was a built-in connection to IFTTT so why not add it. When I find a song I like, I become obsessed, so tracking the day that first occurs is interesting.

Raindrop

This is the big one, as this is where I capture all my links, all 2300 of them since September 2021. Think of the breadth of content I’ve collected in there over the years! It’s all timestamped in Raindrop but with one simple automation, new bookmarks trigger a new journal entry in Day One which makes the bookmarks doubly useful. They’re useful for the initial reason I saved them (e.g. business advice from Twitter creators so I learn how to keep doing what I love but better) and then they’re part of reflection too (I need help running a business because it’s all new, and that’s the phase of life I’m in now!)

Raindrop is actually where I capture a lot of tweets because the built in Twitter x IFTTT automations are based on your Twitter posts or likes. I don’t post or like very much, I mostly save Tweets for action or review later, so having the Raindrop connection was necessary.

I also like to see what other links (not just Tweets) I’m saving, so this general Raindrop → Day One connection works brilliantly.

This is Raindrop and Spotify in my Essence journal.

Twitter (X…)

I tend to bookmark most content as mentioned above, but I do save my Twitter likes too so I can see what I was into and what people were saying in the community at the time (that I liked).

I also choose to capture what I tweet too, because that tells me something about what I was thinking and wanting to share with people at the time.

Medium

If Raindrop and Twitter hold the inputs to my systems or ideas, Medium publishes some of the outputs, so it’s good to add this in and see what I’m publishing too and how I’m writing.

The unexpected beauty of using Day One for this is that every saved link, photo or calendar event can become an entry itself meaning I can add annotations to everything essentially. For example I annotated a picture of my aging Labrador to say how weird it is to go home and see him getting greyer and greyer. I could also annotate the Tweets I save to say why I saved them. This lets me add more and more layers if needed and it helps me meet my goal of collecting essence so easily. It’s just excellent.

Where do these automations go?

All of these automations get saved to a journal I created called Essence. I save my own journal entries to the Journal journal. I can review everything against a given date in the All Entries view.

Why do these automations help?

Journalling is a manual task: only you can write your thoughts down. If I forget to capture something (e.g. if I forgot to write “I saw an interesting Tweet today and it showed me how to fix a problem I’ve had for months”), there will be no trace of it in the future, and I find that really sad.

So automations give me some “fail-safe” mechanisms, and reflect that my practice of essence is multi-modal, I should be prioritising other forms of inputs other than just my words.

Also, most of what I bring into Day One exists elsewhere already, or the automations’ triggers are something I naturally do: liking Tweets, saving songs to Spotify, saving links to Raindrop. This is just how I live and use the apps I have, so if IFTTT can be working in the background to bring me glimpses of the essence of 25 year old Beth in 2023 sorted by date, then that’s great.

This is what builds a picture of my lifetime and the world we’re in, and this is really interesting to me. This explains why I spend so much time thinking and writing about it! I plan to keep doing this, and just use the On this Day feature to review where I was x years ago.

Maybe one day when I’m retired I’ll write my own multi-media memoir, like some form of hypertext that involves all of this as some grand PKM x Writing experience. But retirement is decades away, so for now I’ll keep collecting with a mix of manual and automations.

It’s currently costing me about £74 a year (£32.99 a year for a Day One premium account and about £41 for IFTTT per year). For something this important to me I think that is incredibly good value (especially as IFTTT has countless more automation options), but of course this is subjective.

A note on “eras”

Everything is connected to a date, and therefore could/should be in Day One, but in practice things might be more associated with Eras than a specific date. “That reminds me of high school”, “we used to listen to that when you were a child”, or often for me “this reminds me of my year abroad”. These eras span a length of time, and communicating commonalities between something that lasted months is quite tricky in a daily journal format.

I’ve worked out enough of a solution for now, using Google Calendar and Notion, but it will probably evolve. If anyone is specifically interested in this let me know and I’ll make a separate post on it!

Conclusion

I appreciate this is unlikely to be a practice that everyone reading this is going to pick up immediately, and that is not the point of writing this. I just wanted to show how I’m using Day One and IFTTT to curate essence. It is so profoundly important to me and central to who I am, so I’m super excited to see how this develops over time, and the lessons I learn from dealing with info here do influence other systems I have, so it could be useful to share.

You might find that IFTTT can offer you other automations into Day One that will help you in some way, to add more context to your journal entries. Either way, I recommend journalling in any way to any degree. It’s the best habit I ever started.

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