13 Easy Ways to Document Your Life

By Jess Friedman

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Keeping a personal history provides major benefits for both yourself and future generations, but many people believe it’s either too embarrassing, too time-consuming, or too overwhelming to create an honest, thorough record of their daily life. The truth is that there are a variety of ways you can use to document your life, and none of them have to complicate it. Here are thirteen easy ways to document your life so that you—and your grandkids—can celebrate your joyful life by remembering it.

1

Keep a Journal

Keeping a journal is my go-to choice for documenting my life. I got my first journal as a present from my parents on my 9th birthday, and I just started journal #73 about a week ago. I’m grateful that my mom and dad helped me set a pattern of writing early on, because I love reading back through my old journals to reminisce. It’s amazing how many events and people would be gone from my life forever if I hadn’t kept a journal.

If you find the prospect of keeping a daily journal daunting, keeping a weekly or monthly journal works, too. Just make sure you set aside a specific time to write, or it’ll never happen. If I know I’m not going to be able to write for a few days, I’ll also keep a running list of things I want to make sure I remember to write about.

2

One Sentence a Day

If you don’t feel like you can write about your day in detail, don’t despair. Even writing a single sentence every day can give future generations a glimpse into your life, and you might find that it inspires you to write more. I had a roommate at BYU who used a 5 year journal, and she liked being able to compare that day’s single line to what she’d written over the past few years.

3

Themed Journals

Documenting your hobbies is a great way to document your life. If you like to watch movies or go to plays and concerts, save your ticket stubs[1] and stick them in your journal using mounting stickers like these, then write your own review. Many avid readers like to keep a reading journal, where they review the books they’ve read and save their favorite quotes from each. Frequent travelers may like to keep a travel journal, where they can save ticket stubs, brochures, and other ephemera that reminds them of their trip. Equestrians, hikers, and runners can track miles and routes, cooks can save recipes, DIYers can outline their process.

Regardless of your hobby, you can find a way to document it. Not only does this allow future generations to see what you’re passionate about, but it also gives you a way to track your own progress. And the best part? You can keep a themed journal all on its own, or your can easily incorporate it into your daily journals.

Want More Journaling Tips?

Check out our growing collection of journaling posts!
4

Record Your Random Memories

If you haven’t already established a journaling habit, there are probably a lot of memories floating around in your brain. How sad would it be if you never wrote them down and they were lost forever? Next time you remember a random event from your life, take a few minutes to write it down or type it up. I’ve known people who keep binders full of these little memories, and others who have a file box filled with memories jotted on 3×5 cards. The Project Life app is a great way to record these memories on the fly, and you can get them printed up on beautiful, archival paper to store in expandable albums. 

Another great way to record random memories is to make a journal jar. Fill a jar with writing prompts, and whenever you have a few moments to write, pull one out and answer it in your journal. Check out my Journal Keeping Pinterest board for lots of great ideas.

5

Bullet Journal

Bullet journals are kind of a fun hybrid between journals and planners, and while there is an official methodology developed by the original creator, it’s really more of a jumping off point. The whole appeal of bullet journals is that you can make them whatever you need it to be. This is super handy if you want the structure and organization a planner gives you, but struggle to find one that fits your exact needs. You can take a minimalist approach to it, or you can get super creative and artsy. You can create monthly spreads, weekly spreads, and daily spreads. You can create collections, like Books to Read or Movies to Watch. You can track your goals and habits. There really is no limit to how you can use a bullet journal.

I kept a bullet journal for a while, and although I ultimately decided it wasn’t really my thing, I did borrow a few ideas that I still use in my daily journaling. Most notably, I created a template that I use for the beginning of each daily entry, which allows me to keep track of my daily schedule, people who need prayers, and Come, Follow Me progress. It has helped me be a lot more organized, and I enjoy being able to look back at the end of the day and see what I accomplished.

6

Sketchbook or Art Journal

If you prefer drawing to writing, you can document your life using pictures and images. There are some lovely examples on Pinterest and Instagram. Art therapy has a proven track record, so art journals can be a tremendous benefit for dealing with mental health issues.

Even if you don’t feel up to creating an entire book full of your art, you can incorporate art into your daily journal quite easily. I like to draw little doodles in my journals to help illustrate whatever I’m writing about. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words—and how much better if that picture was created by you?

Drawing of Bono in a journal
7

Photo Book

As an avid photographer, I have thousands of photos of my life. I hate to leave them sitting on my hard drive, so a few years ago, I started making yearly photo books with Blurb. I love to see those books sitting on my coffee table, and they’re great conversation starters. Is it vain of me to say that I never get tired of looking at them? I love seeing all of those pictures of people and places I have loved, and you can bet yer boots that they paint a pretty vivid picture of my life for future generations.

If you’re ready to make the leap into the wonderful world of making photo books with Blurb, get 25% off photo books with the code WINTERBOOK now until 3/18/22. (If you miss that window, don’t fret! I keep this post updated with their current offers.)

Make a Photo Book That's as Unique as You Are

Check out the Post 10 Tips for Making Gorgeous Photo Books
8

365 Project

In a 365 Project, you take a photo every single day for a year. I did this when I lived in England for grad school, and while it was sometimes a challenge to find something new to photograph every day, I do love that I have a daily visual record of one of the coolest years of my life.

9

Facebook

As much as I have a love/hate relationship with social media, I do love that it keeps me connected with friends in far off places. I also love being able to look at old pictures and conversations. It may seem a little oddball to suggest that Facebook can be a valuable part of documenting your life, but hear me out. Facebook has a fancy feature that lets you download your dataall of it. We’re talking pictures, wall posts, chats, records of calls and text messages (if you use the Messenger app), what ads you clicked on, pages you like. All. Of. It. Not only can this tool help you identify ways you’re being tracked without knowing it (and therefore, know what you need to change in your privacy settings), it can also give you a useful record for genealogy. It will require a little weeding and formatting, but you could easily put all of those pictures and posts in a photo book of their own. Except for maybe that photo your cousin posted of you dancing awkwardly at Uncle Bob’s wedding reception. That one can die a fiery death. It’s okay.

10

Blog Book

And speaking of turning your online presence into a tool for documenting your life, if you’re a blogger, you can also turn your blog into a fancy book. Those who blog on WordPress can export posts from a WordPress blog using the Adpose.Words Exporter plugin and pasting the document into a photobook layout.

11

One Second Everyday

A few years ago, I saw a TED talk about a guy who records one second of every day of his life, then edits them together into a montage that is at times hilarious, heartbreaking, and soulful. I really love the idea, and I would love to try it myself someday (maybe when I recover from doing my 365 project). Apps like 1SE make this super easy, and I have a few friends who love using this to document their adorable kids.

12

Audio

I learned this one from my friend Leslie, who would make audio recordings on her phone of little sounds we heard on our trip around Europe. She recorded buskers, church bells, choirs, and the little jingle that plays before every PA announcement at train stations in France (which still gets stuck in my head…). I LOVE having those recordings, and listening to them takes me right back to where we were when we heard them.

13

Letters

You know those scenes in movies, where the main characters open boxes in their attics and find stacks of old letters bundled together with ribbon? And it’s so romantic and heartwarming? Well, guess what? You can do that, too. Snail mail may largely be a thing of the past, but that just makes every handwritten letter that much more precious. I can’t honestly say that I’ve kept every letter I’ve ever gotten, but I do have a cute box where I store many of them. I’ve got letters from my grandmother, from the pen pals I had in middle school, and from my friend Jackie, who is a wonderful letter writer even today. My friend Amanda even collected all of the letters she and her husband wrote to each other during their respective missions and had them bound into a book by the company 4everBound.

I also have friends who share my love of postcards, and they like to write a little bit about each day of a trip on the back of a postcard that they mail home to themselves. Then they punch a couple of holes along one edge and clip them together with binder rings, and voila! They’ve got an automatic journal of a fun trip they took.

How do you like to document your life? Share your favorite methods in the comments below!

Jess

[1] This works best with tickets that are still printed with ink-jet printers. Laser-printed tickets tend to fade rather quickly.

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Jess Friedman

Jess Friedman

Jess is a Canadian-American who's always ready for the next adventure. She loves all things living, always has a million creative projects in progress, and polishes her nerd badge daily. She is passionate about strengthening families by empowering women to make space for things that bring them true and lasting joy. You can read more posts by Jess here.
Jess Friedman

Jess Friedman

Jess is a Canadian-American who's always ready for the next adventure. She loves all things living, always has a million creative projects in progress, and polishes her nerd badge daily. She is passionate about strengthening families by empowering women to make space for things that bring them true and lasting joy. You can read more posts by Jess here.

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8 Responses

  1. Holy cow this is crazy- I literally just googled how to document your life because I’m being prompted by heavenly father to compile all of my journals from day my mom found out she was pregnant with me until today… writing about general conference in my journal- and im 39!!!!! Plus all of the millions of pictures of my life including my husband and children…and to make sure I include the traumas and trials ive had nonstop since age 6- and what I did to endure them abd not lose my faith etc…. at first I thought it was for my kids now im a little scared that this massive project will be shared with a lot of people to bring them to christ…it goes along with my patriarchal blessing….but I’m just overwhelmed like how do I do this….is there anyone else in the WORLD who is as obsessed with memory keeping as I have been since I took over my journal from my mom at age 8?? So of course I turned to Google!!!? but man I just told my best friend last night that I think heavenly father likes to control my social media feeds and youtube feed sometimes because something will pop up just when I need it…. well guess what… He controls my Google too Haha!!??? first thing I click on is this….not only so you have journals of your life too…. but im guessing from this post and you saying you had a roommate at BYU lol… that you’re also lds! What are the odds?? I cannot WAIT to go thru every little thing on your site lol! So fun!!!! I’m on insta @riseupshinebe…I talk a bit about the whole journal life story thing there and ive started sharing little snippets of my life… it’s overwhelming tho lol! Im so excited to find you tho!!! What a cool tender mercy!
    Hi! My name is jaelle – it’s literally just JL but my mom tried to be fancy lol ?? no one can pronounce not even me lol ive looked at it and tried!? ok gonna go read as much of your stuff as I can before I have to go be a mom Haha…. I’ll look and see if you have an insta too…. I’ve literally seen this one post and thats it so far but im thinking there is a good reason this was the first link that popped up ?

    1. Hi Jaelle! It’s so nice to meet you! I’m so glad this post was what you needed. And yep, I am a member of the church! I love meeting new people who also love journaling and documenting your life, and it’s definitely something I write about a LOT on here. 🙂 Thank you so much for your comment. It totally made my day!

  2. I really enjoyed reading this!
    I’m just turned 18 two months ago.
    When I reflected back on my life, I just felt little sad when I realized there aren’t alot of memories of me since the age of 7.
    I have been researching for months about way to document life
    This is been very helpful.Thank you!?

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