Daily Logging: How and Why I Track My Habits and Goals—and how you can too!

A real-life example of my daily log from March 2023, in Obsidian

Introduction: What is a daily log? Why keep one?

Since December of the year 2016, I have been keeping a private ongoing list of notes of my daily activities, thoughts, and progress. I realized how much I can forget what I have done and move on to the next task, without taking the time to appreciate what I have accomplished.

In my first log, I can see that it was the month I took an improv class about a type of comedy show I still do to this day (called the “Harold”). I also have notes about how I worked on blogging for this site and met a lot of friends around then

This daily log isn’t a planning tool or a to-do list. It’s not a list of tasks you need to complete. What I’m talking about is keeping track of tasks you’ve already completed. Think of this idea as a form of an ongoing “Tada List,” a term coined on the podcast Happier by Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project. Tada is the sound of “fanfare to call attention to something remarkable”. At the same time, my log functions as a type of gratitude list.

This creates a way to practice acknowledging every step I’ve accomplished, rather than focusing solely on what I haven’t done yet. By taking a few moments each day to reflect on what you’ve finished, you might just start cultivating a greater sense of satisfaction.

How to start your own daily log:

  • In a journal or in a text document, start with a simple list ongoing of accomplishments for each day.
  • You can track anything you want; such as where you went; who you saw; what you accomplished; and what you did to keep entertained and relaxed.
  • Schedule a weekly reminder on your calendar to review and catch up on any missed details
  • Don’t worry about getting every detail “right” or missing a day or two – you can always fill in the missing information later on or miss days entirely. The point of a daily log is to help you reflect and learn, not to keep perfect records.
  • Try to find a few minutes each day to reflect on your day and record your entries in your daily log.
  • You might also keep your notebook or document available when possible as you work or do various hobbies to record in real-time.
  • The log and your use around it can evolve each day, allowing you to track different life patterns and habits.
  • Each month, start with a fresh page in your journal or with a new digital document.

How I structure my daily log

For each month I start a simple text document where I list the day and the day of the week (i.e., “1 Tuesday”), and then below I write out what I did that day as bullets below that.

I also use this document to track other things that feel important to me: my mood, my most important tasks of each day, and who I’ve connected with that day.

One reason that I separate them monthly notes, is that this makes each month a fresh slate. I can reflect on the previous month and I get a blank slate to reset. It feels too separated for me to individual notes of each day or week rather than in groups by month.

Monthly notes containing my daily logs also help me model my later entries off of early ones. I can quickly see my own examples of how I tracked the 1st of the month, and that prompts me to add an update on the later entries.

At the beginning of the next month, I just have to set up a new document and I get the satisfaction of a blank slate.

What to track

For my own logs, I combine different areas of focus and track a wide range of activities, helping it serve as my one-sentence journal, a fitness, food diary, and more. You can customize your log to fit your individual needs and preferences, and allow the lists to evolve and flex with each day.

In addition to recording your daily activities, you can also include prompts for self-reflection and goal-setting. For example, you can track your mood, list what you’re grateful for, and imagine a successful future.

Where to keep your lists

When deciding whether to keep a physical notebook or use a digital app to log your life, it’s important to consider how easily you can access your log.

If you opt for a physical notebook, make sure it’s small enough to carry with you wherever you go, and that you have a pen or pencil readily available to jot down notes.

Alternatively, if you choose a digital app, ensure that it’s easy to access on your phone, tablet, or computer and that it syncs across devices to avoid any potential loss of data.

In the past, I used Google Drive and Google Docs to keep my daily log and that worked well. However, I have recently switched to Obsidian.md, a similar text-based note-taking app that allows me to organize my notes and ideas.

By making your daily log convenient to use, you’ll be more likely to stick with it and reap the benefits of keeping a record of your experiences and reflections.

Plan to “fail” and catch up later

Starting a daily log can feel intimidating, but my philosophy is to stay flexible and forgiving. It’s okay to miss a day or two, or even several weeks.

In fact, missing a few days can be a fun exercise to try to fill in the gaps later on, and the catch-up process can encourage you to keep logging more often. You’ll be surprised at how much you forget when you don’t keep up with it!

When filling in gaps in your daily log:

  • Try to recall as much as you can about the missing day or days. Think about where you were, who you were with, and what you did.
  • Don’t worry too much about getting every detail right. The point of a daily log is to help you reflect and learn, not to create a perfect record of your life.
  • If you’re having trouble remembering what happened, try looking at your calendar, social media accounts, or other sources of information to jog your memory.
  • Be honest with yourself about what you remember and what you don’t. If you can’t recall certain details, that’s okay. Just record what you do remember and move on.
  • Don’t let the fear of missing a day or two prevent you from starting or continuing your daily log.

Reasons to keep a daily log

As someone who follows ideas borrowed from the Getting Things Done (GTD) productivity method, my daily log stays part of my weekly review process. This helps me to stay on top of my commitments and feel confident that I’m making progress toward my goals.

I can double-check that I’ve captured all of my next action tasks and then update my plans. Even if you’re not familiar with this weekly review process, you can use a daily log as a simple way to start noticing your progress toward your goals.

A few reasons why you might consider starting your own daily log:

  • Daily logging can be a fun and nostalgic activity, allowing you to easily look back on your memories and appreciate the moments that have shaped your life.
  • This creates a concrete way to celebrate your accomplishments and motivate you to keep going.
  • By keeping a record of your daily life, you can also gain a deeper appreciation for the small moments and experiences that may have gone unnoticed otherwise.
  • You can practice and notice your goal progress and the status of your desired habits.
  • This serves as a tool to improve your memory and help you remember and savor important events and details.
  • Writing down your behavior over time helps you discover patterns – such as when you tend to be most productive or when and why you experience the most stress.
  • This gives you a chance to practice self-reflection and self-awareness, which can aid in personal growth and development as you know yourself better.
  • It’s a great way to experiment with different tracking methods and take on new focuses by noticing what’s worked for you before
  • Finally, keeping a daily log can be fun!

Here’s an example to illustrate how these reasons can surface: one day I might feel disconnected. But then I can see on my log that I’ve had a lot of social events recently. I might notice that I was really into yoga for a week and then forgot all about the new habit.

It can also be a place where I can relive the joy of a big work accomplishment. With these documents I can quickly search for information about what I have done, who I was with, and when I last saw a friend. This helps me appreciate my experiences and identify patterns in my behavior.

Easy Mode: Incorporate Reminder Prompts

Over time, you may develop a list of prompts and reminders of what you want to log. Your reminders might note that you want to track your mood, what you’re grateful for, activities and hobbies, reflections for each day, and any progress on your goals.

This is a reminder list or a trigger list (in Obisidian) that I use to remember what I want to make note of.

Having a list of reminder prompts can reduce friction and the brain power needed to get in and out of your note.

If you’d like, feel free to borrow from my sample list from which I only pick one or two of these each day:

  1. List what you’ve done every day. It is essential to keep track of what you have accomplished each day, no matter how small or big.
  2. Focus on the good sides of any situation. Even in difficult or challenging situations, there are always positive things to focus on. I write down what I am grateful for and what I can change about my attitude or approach to avoid stressing myself out.
  3. Write down three good moments that happened each day. I also like to write down three good things that happened each day and reflect on why they happened.
  4. Identify your most important task of the day. This is the one thing that, if you accomplish it, will make your day a success.
  5. Track your activities. I like to plan out my day and write down what I need to accomplish. For me, this includes hobbies like practicing the piano or singing and chores like cleaning my apartment for one minute. I also sometimes track my meals, when and how I exercise, and what’s rewarding at work and home.
  6. List your stresses and negative thoughts. Acknowledge and validate your negative emotions and thoughts. By writing them down, you can identify patterns and work on reframing them in helpful and realistic terms.
  7. Keep a log of your moods. I track my mood each day and use this information to identify patterns and triggers. I also remind myself of positive affirmations, such as “positives matter,” “stay present,” “clear communication” and “gather input.”
  8. Maintain relationships. I also make a note of my interactions with friends, family, and relationships. This helps me stay connected and identify areas where I need to improve my communication and plan social events.

Tracking Your Areas of Focus

In addition or instead, you can create more specific and entirely separate, focused daily logs. These logs can be tailored to different areas that occur regularly and that you want to record more attention and specifics.

As a creative professional, maintaining a daily log can be a useful tool for staying motivated in your career. For example, if you’re a writer, you can log your daily word count, note your progress on individual projects, and record any creative breakthroughs you have throughout the day.

If you’re a visual artist, you can log the time you spend on specific pieces, document your creative process through sketches or photographs, and reflect on the decisions you made during each stage of a project.

Photographers can log the locations they visited and the time of day they captured their best shots. Musicians can log their practice time, progress on learning new pieces, and any new musical ideas they have throughout the day.

When I’m practicing piano every day, a dedicated piano practice log with its own prompts and ideas can help me see my progress. My reminder list includes theory, sight-reading new music, recording practices more often, and a reminder to play for fun. This helps me notice areas where I’m struggling and make adjustments to my practice plan. Sometimes I’m practicing fun things or too focused on the technical parts, when what I really want is a good balance. Now I know what questions to ask of other musicians or if I need a book, class, or even need to aid of private lessons.

The last step: Try daily logging for yourself

By keeping a record of your daily life, habits, and goals, you can gain insights into your strengths and weaknesses, and identify areas that you can work to change.

And perhaps most importantly, daily logging can help you cultivate a sense of gratitude and appreciation for the present moment, as you become more aware of the gifts and opportunities that surround you each day.

So why not give it a try? Start small and stay flexible, and see where the process takes you. You might be surprised by what you learn about yourself and your creative process. Daily logging is about celebrating your accomplishments.

Embrace the journey and appreciate all that you’ve done.

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

Artists Don’t Want to Work for Free, Facebook isn’t Email, and Secrets Behind Viral Hits

Artists Don’t Need Your Exposure

@forexposure_txt is a Twitter account of quotes from artists who were expected to work for free. Too many people don’t value art. Artist Ryan Estrada posts real quotes from real people who think we need to work for exposure. Especially now in the internet age, exposure is incredibly easy to get for anyone for free. My networking guide post contains better ideas for promoting your work and making healthy relationships as an artist.

I respond by explaining in detail how I design. I drew for years as a child. Educate others kindly that creating is truly difficult work. I’ve worked as a designer the moment I turned 18, while also studying Fine Art (and classical piano). I learned to love studying computer programs and reading books on design and productivity. Slowly putting that knowledge to use every day. Spent the last 17 years learning techniques from many amazing colleagues. That said when others (even clients) are excited to tackle a design project I encourage them to do so. If they can stick with it and do it themselves, good for them!

Facebook isn’t email

Most people don’t even see your posts. The FB algorithm shows only what they think will keep you on FB. All of your friends are hidden.

“I learned a real profound lesson with the Inside news app. You can get 500,000 people to download an app, but only 1 percent or less will use it a day. And then I realized, I took the same information that was in the app, I emailed it to the same audience and 40, 50, 60 percent opened it every day.” Jason Calacanis on Recode Media Podcast

On the user end, email is super easy to control. You own it. Most email programs make it easy for users to sort email automatically, search, and surface content when you want it.

Hit Makers make content popular, not viral sharing

Viral sharing is over rated. Tracking memes and “viral content”, analytics discussed in the new book Hit Makers show that they stay within small circles until famous hit makers and influences get involved. Distribution is more similar to traditional broadcast media than you think. And most people find out about content through the big broadcasters promoting.

“Facebook initially went ‘viral,’ not by building a product that every person might share with five other people, like a disease, but by using networks that existed. They digitized the Harvard network that existed, and the Ivy League networks that already existed.” Derek Thompson, Atlantic Senior Editor

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

What to Do With Your Journalism Degree

Although the print industry might be dying and reporters like Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward are becoming rare, there are still excellent job opportunities available to those with a journalism degree if you can think outside the box. Here are some areas you can explore with a journalism degree, starting with the most obvious (print) and working towards the less obvious.

• Print Journalism: It remains true the 21st century and online journalism is on the rise, but it does not mean the death of newspapers and magazines. While journalism mediums are increasing, print journalism is still making its way into millions of homes. Hence you can start writing articles for local, city, county, regional, national or international publications. What you need to do to break into this field is expand your networks. Search for a variety of publications, send your resumes and clips, and do not give up. You can also search online on journalism job sites to find a place hiring journalists.

• Broadcast Journalism: If live reporting is something that interests you, broadcast journalism starts to look like the career you are looking for. Television opportunities are plenty but competitive. The categories in news and talk shows include local and national coverage, sports, entertainment, environment, and more. An anchor job is not the only thing one can do with an interest in broadcast journalism. You can also write for television shows, from dramas to comedies, with the writing abilities you have, so dig into your creative channel and start writing scripts.

• Radio Journalism: Have that smooth radio voice or the passion for writing for music shows? If so, then think about working for a radio station and start getting experience in this type of work. A job in radio journalism can open other journalism opportunities for you because the script writing done in this career will carry with you for other journalism opportunities in broadcast, media relations, and marketing.

• Online Journalism: The Internet has paved the way for a new kind of job: freelance writing. You can report for traditional newspapers and magazines on their online mediums or write for blogs and other websites. The advantages of online journalism is that you can do the work wherever you want. You are not tied down to sitting at a news desk in the same state as the company or organization. Beyond freelance writing, jobs as content managers and online editors are opening up on sites across the board.

• Media / Public Relations: Companies and organizations look for people with the writing skills capable of promoting a variety of initiatives. With a journalism degree, you are on your way to doing media / public relations work. You have the talents to frame stories in certain ways, as well as gather the right facts to create works with substance. From writing press releases to media advisories, your journalism expertise will get you far in this field.

• Communication Departments: Writing well becomes an essential ability needed for positions in communication departments. To communicate, one needs to have the proper writing skills to express the right thoughts completely and concisely to an audience. Your journalism degree will give you an edge in companies looking to hire leaders that can write for various mediums. If any of these six fields sound interesting to you, good! If not, then think about other things you can do with a journalism degree: publishing, editing, or marketing. Think about it, you have the talents and foundation of quality writing, so why not use it to write a book?

So start thinking about how you want to cash in that four-year journalism degree.

Estela Marie Lactao Go is a guest blogger for My Dog Ate My Blog and a writer on online courses for Guide to Online Schools. 

 

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

How to Podcast for Free (on Archive.org)

I recently moved my podcast from Libsyn‘s pay service to the free hosting on Archive.org, the Internet Archive and home of the wayback machine. If you’re willing to allow a licensing model compatible with their upload system, this might work for you. Libsyn is a great and simple solution, but the monthly payments have added up and the free solution is pretty easy using Feedburner and WordPress.com to create an iTunes compatible feed.

Step 1: Create your podcast audio file

 

Audacity in BNI-Ubuntu
Creative Commons License Audacity. photo credit: Sloshay

Record your podcast in a standard audio format. Mp3 is pretty common and universal. If you need a free audio recording and edition program, I suggest Audacity. That’s what I use. It’s free and open source.

Step 2: Upload to the Internet Archive

On Archive.org, click on the SHARE button. If you don’t have an account, you’ll be prompted to create one. You can even login with your usual OpenID if you have one. If you’ve already created your WordPress.com account (which you will need to do in Step 3), you can use your WordPress.com URL as your OpenID/Login.

Archiveupload

With the SHARE button, your browser will prompt you to select the file or files. On the new page, you’ll be able to see the status of your upload. In the Title field, put the short name of your podcast. Archive.org will generate an identifier with this name that you can use to add more episodes of your podcast as your create them. Although you really don’t need to keep all of your podcasts under the same identifier and can upload anywhere, the site has what it calls Collections and it simplifies things to keep all of your episodes under the same collection. The description and keyword fields should be about the general podcast and not episode specific. Choose a license if you want. Finally, click Share My File(s).

It will take a minute or so for the site to create your page. Save the url that it generates as this is where you’ll be updating your podcast from now on. Under “Audio Files”, you’ll see the file name of your episode. Right click (Windows) or Command click (Mac) on the listand copy the link URL to your audio file to your clipboard.

Step 3: Create your WordPress.com Site

In this example, I’m using a free WordPress.com blog. You can substitute the blogging site and software of your choice as long as it will generate an rss feed.

wppodcast

Follow the directions on the site to sign up. It’s pretty straightforward. Create a new blog post. Put the episode title as your post title. Add any description or show notes or links about the episode as needed in the body. At the very end, paste your url to the mp3 and make the url link to the mp3. Publish the post to the web.

Step 3: Create your podcast RSS feed

This is the part that turns your blog and mp3 file into a real published and subscribe ready podcast. By default, WordPress.com will put a link to your RSS feed on your blog’s page. Copy that url. Google’s Feedburner service makes this part pretty easy. Log into your Google account or create a Feedburner account and past the URL in the field marked Burn a Feed right this instant. Check the box that says I’m a podcaster. Hit next. You’ll have to title and create a short url for your feed. Continue through the options hitting next and filling out all of the fields until Feedburner says “You have successfully updated the Feed”.

Step 4: Submit your podcast to iTunes

 

itunespodcastsubmit

Most of my listeners come from iTunes, so this step is pretty important. Follow this link to Submit Podcasts to the iTunes Directory. This will open iTunes. Copy your feed URL from Feedburner, paste it into the iTunes’ Podcast Feed URL box, hit continue until your submission is complete. It could take up to a few days for your podcast to appear in the iTunes Podcast directory.

That’s it, you now have now have a podcast!

 

Update January 4, 2012: With sites like mypodcast.com no longer doing podcast hosting, I think it’s important to remind you to backup your content!  Archive.org is much more stable and capable of holding your content than many smaller sites. Be safe anyway and make sure to have copies of your content even if it’s on the server already.

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

How to Make Your Graphic Design Portfolio

If you’re working steadily in a graphic design job or just starting to look for work, it’s always a good time to have an up to date portfolio. The hard part is to figure out how the pieces fit together.

I’ve already discussed the basics of what should go on the pages in Tips for a More Perfect Design Portfolio. In that article, I explain why to choose your absolute best work, how to use the work of others as inspiration, and how to use an unexpected twist to make yourself stand out. Building a perfect portfolio is a process that continues over and over again throughout your career.

How to choose a portfolio case

12 Steps to a Super Graphic Design Portfolio from Youthedesigner.com starts us off by telling us about the case. Choose carefully and consider how you want to present your work. Think about yourself in an interview or with a client. Find a case that fits a style of presentation that works for you.

My first portfolio was a leather case with sheets of thick photo paper printed pieces. Especially for interviews with multiple people, passing around the works in my portfolio and letting people handle them and really look at them had went over well. These were designs for magazine layouts and for advertisements so it mimicked the original experience.

For a later portfolio, I chose to use a 12 x 12″ scrapbook binder. It came with removeable sheets and a very slick looking cover that made for a very professional cover. Check out crafts stores and office supply stores for case and presentation ideas and don’t be afraid to think outside of the box.

How to present your portfolio

AIGA has a great article on “Presenting your portfolio by Steff Geissbuhler of Chermayeff & Geismar Inc. It’s both from the point of view of someone who hires designers and from a design who has been there himself.

How to choose what to present

Brian Scott writes in “How to Create Your Freelance Graphic Design Portfolio” that you should include your best work and only your best work. I agree. It’s better to show five perfect pieces than to show eight that include work that you aren’t happy with. Your enthusiasm about every piece in your portfolio has to be there.

Tips to Create an Effective Graphic Design Portfolio from Twit Taboo emphasized the importance of variety. Show off different concepts and skills in your work. I’d add that you should make sure that each skill is somehow relevant to the specific position and company you’re applying to.

Building Design Portfolios: Innovative Concepts for Presenting Your Work (Design Field Guide)

Building Design Portfolios by Sara Eisenman tackles how to build your portfolio and, for hiring managers, it tackles how to look at portfolios critically. It contains a series of interviews with leaders in the field, provides inspiration and shows real world portfolio.

Graphic Design Portfolio Strategies for Print and Digital Media

Graphic Design Portfolio Strategies for Print and Digital Media discusses portfolio building for graphic design students. How do you take your student work and present it for employers, graduate schools and fellowships? This book tackles that question with illustrated examples of successful student portfolios.

The Graphic Designer’s Guide to Portfolio Design

 The Graphic Designer’s Guide to Portfolio Design is another book helping students transition into becoming professionals. This puts the portfolio in the context of resumes, interviews, and cover letters

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.