In 2015, I made a New Years resolution. At the start of each day, I would review what I had done the previous day and log it in a text file. This wouldn’t be literally everything (Otherwise it would get rather tedious); just things that were worth remembering or indicated some kind of action had been taken that would move me forward, no matter how small. If I made a new recipe, it would go in. If I saw a new movie, it would go in. Four years later, and I can safely say that this is one of the best decisions I have ever made. These are some of the ways recapping my days has changed my life.
There’s a famous quote from C.S. Lewis: “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different?” Life can feel like it’s rushing by you, and you can easily lose of track and how you got to where you are. By logging my days (usefully in single sentences; this isn’t a lengthy diary), I can more easily trace how I got to where I am now When did I move into my current residence? When did I leave a previous job? When I look back on my logs, I can see that my life is a journey, rather than just being a Groundhog Day where everything is always the same.
When I don’t feel like doing anything, I remember that I’m sabotaging the “tomorrow version” of myself, who’s going to wake up and not have anything to put in the log. Occasionally, I’ll have to cop to not doing anything and log a “?” for those days. If the day is almost over and I’m scrambling to do something, I’ll add a sentence or two to a short story I’m working on. Then, I can wake up the next day and put “I worked on my short story” for that day’s log. It might not be writing a novel, but it’s still something I can be proud of.
At the end of each month, I mark especially notable days in bold. These “Bold Days” don’t have any specific criteria; they’re just ones that were especially important in terms of development or effort. For instance, if I complete an important project or go to a new place, that can be considered a Bold Day. The hope is to make every day a Bold Day. It doesn’t always happen, but I’ve been doing pretty well.
Another aspect of this project is reflections. At the end of each month (and year), I consider what has happened and how it has affected me. This has been things like the start of a romantic relationship, adapting to a new living situation, or simply dealing with mental frustrations. Being able to write how I’m feeling without judgment of said feelings allows me to bring more mindfulness into my life.
I’m not going to say that I have a perfect memory, but I can confidently say that recapping my days has helped to make my memory stronger. When I look back on previous logs, I can better recall past experiences. As we get older, life can feel like it’s going by in a flash and that there’s a lack of meaningful experiences. Taking note of my experiences lets me play movies of my life in my head. Plus, if I ever want to write my memoirs, I’ll already have extensive notes available.
Brody Kenny is a freelance writer. He focuses on self-improvement and mental development, as well as arts & culture. Learn more at brodykenny.com
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Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.