DayOne and Time Travel

Brett Terpstra has posted a number of very cool things that can be done with the OS X and iOS application DayOne. They were so compelling that I gave in and bought the suite. They are all solid and attractive applications but it doesn’t fit my workflow as well as plain text files.


If I am actively working on a problem, I record notes in Simplenote (big surprise). On Windows, I either use ResophNotes or the Simplenote Web site. On my Mac, I use either NVAlt or several custom scripts for adding short entries to a text file.

I call it logging, rather than notes, because these are not complete thoughts. They are bread crumbs describing how I got to a solution or how to avoid a worse problem.

DayOne could accomplish this for me if it was the only thing I kept in it. DayOne is a diary. It does not differentiate between entries for a project and entries for anything else.


My notes are complete thoughts. They are conclusions, plans, designs, theories and ideas. I usually take my time to write notes. My notes are intended to be read at some later date when I may have forgotten my motivations or lost the inspirations.

DayOne can capture notes, but there is no way direct way to distinguish them from Logs.


I keep several journals in plain text. I keep an accomplishments list. This comes in handy when someone asks me to list what I accomplished at work over the past 18 months. Normally I could only recall the details of the last few months. By journaling when I complete a project, I leave myself a script of what I did and how well I think I did it.

I also journal project overviews. When a project ends, I record some thoughts for myself about what went right and what went wrong. These are brutally honest. They are only for me. It’s the most honest self assessment I can come up with. It’s purpose is to tell the future me what I’m good at and what I suck at. Past-me is kind of a jerk.

I journal the occasional personal event.[1] It’s a record of my life for my far-future self. The future self with a shorter memory and a weaker bowel. I try to write these entries soon after they occur so that I can capture the nuances. The things a brain is poor at recording. These don’t happen often, but it’s nice to look back. It’s the past-me making up for being a jerk.


Has DayOne found a place in my workflow? Yes. In a deeply personal way.[2]

I don’t normally share my personal life on this site. My family is not up for comment, ridicule or criticism. I’ve never posted a personal photo to Macdrifter. Until now.

Light of my life

That’s my daughter[3]. She’s awesome.


Last year my Father, died. He did a crappy job of taking care of himself and his body was fed up with it. He smoked from the time he was 10 years old, ate hotdogs for dinner and drank way too much. He died from complications of doing whatever the hell he felt like.

I only knew two aspects of my Dad. There was the Dad I had when I was a little kid. He was kind of an asshole. He tried, but mostly we didn’t get along.

Then there was the Dad I knew when I was an adult. He was a genuinely kind person. He literally gave the shirt off his back to a total stranger. He offered a helping hand to anyone. He also told the best dirty jokes I’ve ever heard.

The intervening years between the Dad that raised me and the Dad that was my buddy, were not simple. My Dad contracted a brain infection in my senior year of high school. Cryptococcus infected his brain. It grew to the size of a baseball until it caused grand mal seizures and changed his personality. Turns out that there’s not much extra space in the ol’ brain sack. To make room for the baseball his brain expelled some of his personality.

Over the course of several years, he recovered. He lost some memories and his speech patterns changed. He became a child-like version of my Dad. He was kind, sweet and slight. The adult-me never got to know the adult-Dad. A fungus took that opportunity away from me.


There are very few things I could say I am truly proud of. I grew up being poor in the 70’s. I managed to go to college rather than prison[4]. I was proud of that. I finished college worked as chemist at a pharmaceutical company for four years. At the height of that career, I gave it all up to go to graduate school because I loved chemistry. I was proud of that. I finished graduate school and got a job. I was unimpressed with myself by that time. Then my daughter came along.

My daughter taught me one thing. I never really experienced pride before. The first time I really felt pride was when she said “I love you.”


So how does all this relate to a trivial review of an application like DayOne? It’s the first time I’m keeping a journal for someone other than myself. Every other thing I write is for me, but what is going into DayOne is for my Daughter. With DayOne’s Reminder integration, I get an alert every day to add another entry. A subtle encouragement to do the right thing.

DayOne is my time machine. I use it to write letters to my future daughter.[5] When she will be by age, my body will be almost 90. There’s little I can predict now about that future. I need to tell her about our family and what I was thinking while she was growing up. I try tell her about the moments that she will never remember. I hope I can explain who she is now. In these entries, I will travel to the future and explain who her dad was when she was small. I wish my Dad could have.

  1. It’s not all that different from how David Sparks uses DayOne.  ↩

  2. Fair warning. This is not my normal review. It is personal and lacks a lot of the sarcasm and flippant remarks that I typically rely on.  ↩

  3. She’s also a jedi  ↩

  4. Ironically, it was my Dad’s illness that allowed me to go to college. Because I was the only one earning any income in my household, I was eligible for enough financial aid to pay for all of my education that part-time jobs couldn’t cover.  ↩

  5. Of course I export to plain text. I’m no fool. iOS XII will probably not support DayOne files.  ↩