Why I Keep Two Different Journals

There's the personal one. And there's the practical one.

pen on book

“Do you journal?”

That was the question a friend asked me not too long ago, while I was sharing with him some difficult things I had been working through. I was happy to say that yes, I journal almost every day, but in different ways.

Over the last few months, I had already been reflecting on the benefits of how I journal. I’ve been keeping two different journals for the last few years, and have come to appreciate how beneficial each one is.

Personal Journaling

I have entries going back to 2004 in the Day One app. I’m quite certain that predates Day One by several years. I had been journaling digitally already when I started with Day One, and I liked that app enough to migrate all my previous entries. I’m glad I did, because I’m still using it.

I wish I used it even more over the years — there are certainly seasons where the entries are sparse. But I shouldn’t be too hard on myself since I have over 4000 entires in there. I’ve used it in myriad ways in different seasons, including capturing books I was reading, movies I had seen, coffee I was brewing at home, or even occasional notes about formal meetings or informal lunches with friends.

But there has been one constant across all that time, and it is that I’ve always used Day One to capture personal reflections. At times, that’s been morning pages (as described in The Artist’s Way), journaled prayers (both structured or freely written), or particular things I wanted to write about that felt too personal to write elsewhere. But the persistent word here is personal … in Day One I have often tried to put words to what was happening inside me, thoughts to intimate to share in most any other setting beyond perhaps a trusted loved one.

Over the last year or so, I’ve especially found value in Day One’s On This Day feature. Most mornings I review the journal entries I had made in previous years on this date. It’s been helpful to recognize patterns in my life, whether they are patterns I want to celebrate, or patterns I want to change.

Practical Journaling

In more recent years, since 2018, I’ve been more deliberate about practical journaling as well. This is shaped more by notes about my day, or things I find interesting to track. Some of the things I used to do in Day One, like tracking books or movies, have moved into this journal.

This practical journaling began in a Bullet Journal, as I wanted to try my hand at shifting from digital to analog even for tracking my tasks. I kept up with that notebook for about 9 months, and it mostly worked, though I found projects hard to manage. (Ultimately I found that tracking tasks still made more sense to me in an app, and I’ve been using a Mac/iOS app called Things ever since.)

But I also like that piece of bullet journaling that takes time to capture notes or highlights from each day, and started looking for ways to maintain that. That has been through a few different digital settings, but at this point I’m deeply invested in Obsidian, with a template for a daily note that captures both structured themes and random notes every day.

I guess if Day One tracks my personal and internal life, then Obisidan tracks my practical and external life. And just as it is useful to look back in Day One at previous years, it’s also helpful at times to look back at different days to see the small things that happened. I don’t need to do it often, but when I do, I’m thankful that my former self took the time to make these notes.

From time to time, I’ve wondered if it adds a needless complexity in my life to maintain two different kinds of journals. But it’s proven to be helpful. And as I talked with my friend that day, it only affirmed to me that this has been a good practice to have in my life.

About John Chandler

I am a spiritual director, occasional podcaster, and a freelance WordPress developer.

I am also interested in finding meaningful ways of living beyond my work, which seems to include a lot of reading, watching baseball (Angels!) or football (Broncos!), playing board games, eating salsa, and wishing I was hiking more. Oh, and coffee.

I live on the desert edge of Phoenix with my family – with previous stops in Austin and outside Seattle as a grown-up, and SoCal and Colorado as a youngster.

You can find more of my meanderings on my micro.blog.

Photo by Max Saeling

Let's Stay in Touch

We'll send you a few emails per year with helpful resources