Writing a journal is not the only way to keep a running record of your life. Journals are awesome – some people swear by them, but they can be time-consuming to maintain. Here are four ways to log your life without interrupting their flow, so that you can later recall what happened when. You’d be surprised.
One thing that’s cool about all of these tools is that your data doesn’t stay on your device, so it doesn’t die or get stolen with your device, either.
I’m a big fan of Evernote Food. I’ve used it as a general-purpose food log for a long time, but you don’t have to: You can just snap photos of meals that mean something to you.
Evernote Food lets you snap several photos per meal, add tags, and specify the cuisine and the venue. But even if you don’t do any tagging or writing, you still get a great record. The screenshot above shows an actual meal (well, more like a crazy market binge) I had in Toronto’s excellent Chinatown back in October 2012. Images of the awesome pastries are saved along with a timestamp and a GPS location record. Just looking at this instantly reminds me of the flavors, smells, and atmosphere of that day – and all I had to write was just a short title.
This is either creepy or useful, depending on your outlook: Chances are your phone is tracking your every move, and sending all of that information to Google. Okay, it’s probably both creepy and useful – some Google services, such as Google Now, need this information to work. But you can also use it yourself.
The Web-based Location History browser is basically Google Maps with a calendar next to it, and a bunch of dots and red lines on the map showing your every move over time. You can go back to previous months and browse all of your data, to see where you went, and when. You can also export a given day to a KML file, which you can then use to create your own virtual tour in Google Earth.
This is a handy way to automatically document a road trip, for example (though it’s not the only road trip tool we recommend). You can also use it just to get a feel for your day-to-day and recall where exactly you were Thursday before last.
Days Since is a free app that’s pretty open-ended: You use it to log the time that passed since something happened. You can use it for routine tasks (change the sheets, get a new toothbrush), but I prefer to use Regularly for those things. What makes Days Since interesting for this post is how it saves your data: Google Calendar.
Instead of having its own closed database that will be lost as soon as you lose your phone or uninstall the app, Days Since opts for a much saner option. Saving this information on Google Calendar means it will probably be available for years to come – and just as important, it allows you to use Days Since on multiple devices and enjoy seamless synchronization.
Think of it like timestamps for your life – quick one-liners that show when something of note happened. You can later expand on them if you want.
I first told you about Automatic Call Recorder when I explained how to automatically record calls on Android and never run out of space, and I’ve been using it since.
The result surprised me: What started out as a practical means to record calls with service providers turned into a trove of personal calls that are close to my heart. Listening to conversations you’ve had with loved ones is a powerful experience – even if at the time, the call seemed utterly mundane. It’s a living memory – you hear exactly what the person said, not what you think they said. You can hear the emotion in their voice, too. Of course, be sure to consult those close to you and let them know you are doing this!
Because Automatic Call Recorder syncs all records to Dropbox, you can then move the audio files out of Dropbox and into more permanent storage, and save them for years to come. The filenames contain the contact name and number, which means you don’t need a separate database to find the calls you want.
Not a Journal In Sight
I’m not against journals – writing is fun. But it turns out you can document a staggering amount of information about your life without having to sit down and write anything. It may take some creativity to get started, but it takes almost no effort to continue.
Will you be trying any of these out? And how do you feel about Google Location History? Share your thoughts in the comments.