Why I Document My Life

As it becomes easier to access whatever information you want in whatever format you want it in (calling Arc Search? 📱), the gulf between all other information and that about ourselves grows deeper. As technology develops, we expect answers to be available quicker too, yet no google search or AI functionality is going to help you retrieve information about your past self if you don’t document how you’re feeling now for your future self.

This reality is the core driving force behind why I do what I do. It’s the foundation on which everything else grows.

Today I want to expand a bit more on why I document my life, so you can see whether it’s something you might want to do too.

This is all subjective and only based on my human experience. Please take what resonates and leave what doesn’t.

Table of Contents

The Inspiration

The inspiration for all of this was the Years by Annie Ernaux. I was so viscerally captivated by this book that I believe it changed the direction of my life.

Image made with Reader

In short, it’s a Nobel-prize-winning memoir of Ernaux’s life amongst the backdrop of France within the world from the 1940s-2008. After I finished it, I vowed that I would capture similar details about my life and the world around me for future Beth to look back on.

Will she care in 2050? No idea. Will she be alive? Will she have internet? Will her backed up data have been burned in a house fire or the cloud storage deleted? Who knows.

But in the absence of a time machine, I just focus on the present, knowing that it’s already nearly the past, and that memory is fallible. I know I will forget the little things, and frankly, I just don’t want to. These documentation practices guard against that.

How do I do this? I capture those little things in a multitude of ways. Let’s discuss…

Why?

If I was to sum up everything you’re about to read, I’d say that documentation facilitates reflection. Future me can reflect on whatever time period she defines based on whatever she’s in the mood for. I find reflection in turn helps me engage with the world better, and that’s in line with the kind of person I want to be.

How do I document my life?

In a nutshell, I use my ‘Beth’ space in Capacities for my daily check ins, all my periodic reviews, goal setting and ~ percolating ~. There is evidence of what I was thinking about/working on with timestamps in the Beth space, and also the Topics space where I do my research. Because Capacities is completely centred around a calendar, I can dive into my old daily notes to see what I was up to and what I was thinking about. That is so special to me.

I also journal a lot which I wrote about in this piece. Journalling is for the day to day, for reflecting on eras of my life, and for thinking about traces of my past life that show up in my present. Journalling is a reflection practice, and I make sure to do it daily.

I also use my calendar as a life log (with automations). I don’t even think about it most of the time, but my calendar holds colourful evidence of my days in a fair bit of depth.

This is all digital, but I leave physical traces around me too. I like to scrapbook, and I have a fun habit of writing book reviews into the front of my books. I write my rating, the date and what’s going on with me at the time. If I finished a book today I’d write something like “13.6.24, still raining. Excited to bake for the first time in this house. Cheese scones or cookies?”. Just teeny glimpses at a moment and thoughts I’d completely forget as soon as they’re over.

This is probably only scratching the surface of all I do, but these are what come to mind first.

But note how time is the thread through all of this: my calendar, my journal, my choice of note-taking app that is centred around a calendar. Time is this irrefutable anchor and basing my practices around it seems entirely logical to me.

All of this for my elderly self?

Not quite. The practices I have for documenting life for 50 year old me, also work quite nicely for Monday Morning Me during my weekly review, for December Me doing my yearly review, and for many other versions in between. “Future me” arrives in an hour, and in 50 years. My documentation practices grow and shrink to fit what is needed.

But they’re also practices for me right now, and as a result I feel more present in my life. This is thanks to taking the time to check in with myself daily. Two particular questions in my day object type have been especially great for this: what am I thinking/wondering about, and what am I worrying about.

Anxiety is just a part of my life but I obviously want to minimise that. I often feel like I have low-level anxiety all the time, and that takes up more brain-space than I realised. By asking myself each morning and evening precisely what is worrying me, I’ve been able to bring it, whatever it is, to the forefront of my mind and actually do something about it. This won’t work for all things I’m anxious about, but it has worked with a lot!

this made me start doing my paperwork to move the flat sale on, and I finished the backlink post which was pretty good!

But a nice surprise is that they’ve helped me deal with the past too. I’ve had some horrible experiences that defined me and my identity for a long time. But by focusing more on the present and the future, I feel like I can accept the past easier. In other words, it’s allowed me to give up control of things I can’t change. That’s been a surprise benefit to this documentation practice, and one I’m keen to continue feeling the benefit of.

To sum up…

It started out just with looking out for future me, and I’ve found all sorts of healing and presentness as a by product. Turns out it’s for past me, current me and future me, and that’s very special.

If any of this resonates with you, I really recommend the Years (affiliate link). The first few pages are a bit odd, but it’s a magical book, and I hope it brings you some inspiration too.

I’m excited to dive deeper into this going forward!

PS if you like this sort of content, check out my Annie Ernaux section on my website. Everything I’ve ever written of this ~vibe~ will be in there. And there’s much more to come 🙂 

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