Power Up Your Journal Writing With These Day One Tips

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Journal or diary writing is a great way to exercise and improve your writing skills, document what is going on in your life, and to stay in tune with your thoughts and feelings. Popular digital journal applications like Day One make you look forward to writing and maintaining a journal.

Day One is a sexy, easy to use application that is available for the Mac and all iOS devices. We’ve reviewed Day One before, and I’ve also written a beginners guide for digital journal writing. Today I will share some ways to power up your use of Day One to make it a collection of writing and images that you will want to maintain and re-read for years to come.

Just imagine twenty years from now reading back what you wrote today.

Take the Journal Writing Quiz

Okay, so you’ve started digital journal writing, but how good are you at keeping it up? To find out, take Sam Lytle’s 5 Levels of Digital Journaling Quiz. These 10 questions will help you recognize what it means to develop a digital journal writing habit.

Daily Writing Challenge

To get the most out of journal writing, you need to get in the habit of writing entries on a regular basis. I suggest committing to a daily writing challenge for at least a month. Day One includes a calendar view that marks each day you write an entry.

Day One

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Commit to filling up two or three months out of the year with daily journal entries, even if some days only consist of a few sentences. I accomplished it last month, and what helped most is using Day One’s reminders feature.


If you work at your computer or you have an iOS device with you throughout the day, open the Day One Settings and enable reminders. Set a few daily reminders when you think you might be in the position to write a quick entry.

Day One Alarm

On the Mac, the reminder appears in the menu bar, and it makes it really simple to post a quick entry:

Day One_alarm

Naturally, your iOS devices will also ping when it’s time to write.

Journal Writing Prompts

If you struggle with deciding what to write about, do a Google search for daily journal writing prompts. I’ve been using Rossi Fox’s 365 Journal Writing Ideas ($2.99), which includes a creative mixture of prompts, activities, and self-reflections.

365 Journal Writing Ideas by Rossi Fox

This Pinterest page also has links to creative journal topic ideas.

Other Diary Ideas

Digital journaling opens the door for other types of journal entries, besides chronicling your daily activities. Here are some to get your started:

  • Copy and paste important email messages.
  • Add Facebook and Google+ comments and quotes, as well as favourite Tweets.
  • Transcribe or snap photos of handwritten letters, postcards, drawings and doodles, newspaper headlines, and delicious meals you ate.

I personally like to add album covers of favorite jazz artists, but this could apply to any genre of music, or film and TV too. The Day One website also lists some other novel ideas.

Tag Your Entries

Tagging journal entries can sometimes be a chore, but they are very useful for categorizing your content, and re-reading how your experiences and thoughts about a particular topic (work, hobbies, children) have changed over time. The Day One website features a guide to using the tags in the application.

Day One tagging

Two ways I make tagging easier is by using TextExpander snippets, which enable me to quickly write hashtags at the end of my journals. I have folder of snippets, most starting with the letter “t”, followed by the tag I want to use (for example “twork” for #work.) Under Day One’s Settings > Advanced tab, you can click to convert all your hashtags to native tags.

There’s also a keyboard shortcut (Command+T, not present in the application’s menu bar) for opening the Tag window in Day One.

Day one tags

Use Markdown

Day One supports Markdown, which enables you to quickly format text and even add inline photos. What is Markdown? It’s a bit like writing in HTML, but the markup language is easier to remember and use.

Day One doesn’t include formatting tools in its menu bar. If you want to italicize a word or phrase, for example, you will need to use Markdown. To add italics, you wrap the text in underscores or italics, like this: _italics_. If you want bold text, you use double asterisks: **bold**.

Check out Markdown guide on Day One’s website for a basic introduction. Gene Wilburn’s Markdown for Writers (Free) is also another good source.

Though you can add a single image to a Day One journal entry, you can also use Markdown to add an inline image. You will need to post the image on an image hosting site like ImageShack, and then add the image URL in Markdown, like this:

![screenshot](http://imageshack.us/a/img20/9033/4a7d.png "")

The setup consists of ![alt text] (image URL). Note, however, that if the Day One journal does not have Wi-Fi access, the image won’t appear like the images you directly add into a journal entry. I use Dropzone to quickly upload images to ImageShack and get the assigned URL.

You can also add links to online videos into Day One entries, and they will play within the application. Video files themselves can’t be added.

Export to PDF

You may most appreciate your Day One journal when you view it in PDF format. In both the OS X and iOS versions of the application, you can export your content to PDF. I like to view mine in two page view in Preview, or open it in iBooks.

Day one journal

You can then print, archive and save your Day One journal anywhere you like.

How Do You Use Day One?

Let us know how you use Day One or another digital writing journal app. Are there features you would like to see added to Day One, and what suggestions do you have for users trying to build a journal writing habit?

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