Journaling 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.
I’ve got lots more tips for keeping a journal, so watch for a post about those soon!
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 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.
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.
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 track my water intake (because I’m still working on getting enough H20), my daily goals (like writing for 30 minutes a day), and my schedule and to-do list for the day. 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?
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. 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.
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.
As much as I hate the Book of Faces, 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 data—all 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. Record One Second Every Day
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.
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.
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.
There’s no time like today to start documenting your life. Pick one of the methods above—or any other method you like—and create a regular habit of recording your experiences.
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