How do you differentiate between daily notes and professional journaling?

Everybody loves daily notes these days, they’re one of the most requested features in notes apps. I get the idea in theory – log what you’re been doing, maybe what you have planned to do on a very day, which allows for a professional record of what you’ve done and how.

One thing is struggle to figure out and I would like to ask the community’s opinion is how this differs in journaling for your work and processes, especially when you’re freelance (this thread is admittedly an offshoot from this more general one).

I write fiction for a living, which means that basically anything can become fodder for ideas, and that’s why I’m such a fan of the Zettelkasten method, where I can just see things emerge. Additionally, all writers will tell you that keeping a writing journal of how things went during the day, what you learned on the craft and on yourself, has tremendous value, and I’ve been doing that for years, documenting my own practice for my future self. The issue with this is that often insights get buried in years of entries, unless I care to tag the most interesting ones, but they are the most interesting ones appearing to me now, and I never know what I might be needing from my past self in the future… So having my insights at the same place I have my notes does have a clear appeal as I can immediately link things together, Zettelkasten-like, and not lose them to the past.

So, dear fans of the daily note, how, in your opinion, do daily notes differ from professional journaling? Is there even a difference in your eyes?

If not, in theory, shouldn’t we journal on any subject with daily notes so as to leverage the whole mass of our ideas and insights for the future?

Or do I have the whole idea wrong?

Very curious to know what you think.

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My Craft daily note is what happened during the day in my personal life. Something I might want to look back on to remember how I did it, major purchases, etc. For instance, I did some network troubleshooting and it went in my daily note with a back-link to my networking notes page.

I use Agenda for work only. All work stuff goes there. My work doesn’t crossover with my personal stuff, ever, so it’s easier for me to separate.

Day One is just where I write about how I am feeling about things. It’s my place to ramble.

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This is my struggle with daily notes in Craft, Obsidian, etc… For me I get more out of putting everything into Day One. Their ability to resurface “On This Day” and other ways of seeing my content is quite helpful. The other tools feel like a slog trying to get related information for later reference, but I still use them (as I find it helpful to have a text document available to make notes through my day) I just don’t go back into them often.

Right now (my workflow):

  • I take notes throughout the day on my work / personal activities, and then file them into projects at the end of the week.
  • All daily journaling items ultimately go into Day One so that I can count on the app resurfacing that content in the future.

Maybe Craft and others will get more of this functionality in the future, but this is where I’ve landed so far.

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How does Day One surface content for you? It is pretty trivial to do e.g., “one year ago today” with Obsidian’s Dataview plugin, and you can do some much more complicated retrieval/presenting if desired.

I’m really not trying to bash Obsidian. It’s a great tool. For me it’s just more “work”. I have to create all these views and queries and then deal with quirks based on the platform I’m on. Day One has a gorgeous on this day view with widgets that display my photos. I can see a nicely laid out list that’s searchable by tag with heat maps of the days on the calendar. I can also break up my notes into different journals.

I keep trying Obsidian for journaling but just don’t find it as useful for me. :confused: I still like using it for project notes, general information, etc…

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Oh, sorry, I didn’t think you were. I was just asking because I was curious about what Day One offered. Thanks for the explanation!

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I use the daily note as quick way to register everything that has any relevance during the day: ideas, future tasks, the odd webpage here and there. In a way, it’s my main inbox for stuff and also serves as a daily log.

At the end of my day, I review what’s in it. Some things become tasks, others appointments. When I log something that I’d like to elaborate and reflect upon, I journal around it. With the daily note, my journaling has become more deliberate and reflexive and not so much a daily list of (mostly) mundane stuff.

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I find this the great weakness of Day One. While it’s superb at displaying (for example, the “On this day” feature that’s already been mentioned) its search facility (given its content) is an embarrassment. That is the reason I wokred so hard to maxmisie automation of export of Day One entries and import into DEVONThink. I stilll wrtie every day in Day One but I invariably find myself searching entries in DEVONTHink.

A number of years ago Day One had on the roadmap a substantially improved search facility. That appears quietly to have been forgotten.

Stephen

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I actually don’t use my daily note for journaling whatsoever. My daily note is my sheet of scrap paper for the day, with napkin math and bullet lists of work tasks that I either complete by the end of the day or move to the next day. I use Obsidian but my daily note usage falls in line with how NotePlan uses daily notes.

I use a task manager too, Things 3, but that is for scheduled tasks I wish to offload from my mind, such as “remember this bill” or “here is a cool book to check out later”. For technical work tasks I wish to zone into, may create and complete a dozen of per hour, and may require a great deal of annotation or nesting, I find a sheet of digital paper works much better.

If a bit of journaling or anything else I want to archive ends up captured in a daily note, I move it out of there into its own note, under an appropriate folder.

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I work in a Windows environment and take daily notes in OneNote. I have a notebook for each project + 1 personal. Although OneNote stores and displays the creation date of a note in small text under the title, I originally found a lack of structure in my notes that made it hard to navigate. Then I heard about bullet journalling and set out to replicate it in OneNote.

I title each daily note with the day in yyyy-mm-dd format + the topic. I keep notes ordered by tabs for year and indents for month in each notebook. I also keep a note for each meeting and OneNote can import the meeting metadata from my calendar and create checkboxes for each invitee to quickly note whether they attended. OneNote search is instantaneous so surfacing notes from a date or topic is easy. At times when need to, I keep bullet lists of to-dos for each project on my personal daily page, copy it from one day to the next and delete the completed tasks on the new day.

I use Apple Notes in a similar fashion for non-work notes, but I recognize its limitations. I have OneNote on Mac / iOS but I have never set this up outside of work. I have Obsidian and may try to set something up there.

I did try DayOne and there were aspects of it that I liked, but some showstoppers that stop me investing time and data into it. One is the data silo where notes are going into (what at least appears to me to be) a proprietary container. The other is the “pied piper” ransomware business model. Let’s find a way to tax people somehow, on what they already have. I know, let’s kidnap people’s thoughts and then make people pay to access them. No thanks.

I also use paper notebooks for ephemeral notes.

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I appreciate this line of thinking/enquiry…

Currently, my daily notes are top of mind, start-of-day brain-dumps, with a few templated constants. Largely personal. If/when I start to dig deeper into something I’m working on, I’ll usually split that thinking off into its own note. I lean towards the “one note per idea” way of thinking, particularly since Drafts doesn’t currently allow for transclusion in the way that other apps do.

That issue of insights “getting buried in years of entries” is one that I feel keenly. I feel that’s something the Roam-likes are supposed to combat, but as I’ve written elsewhere, I haven’t yet managed to derive particularly compelling returns from dabbling with any of them; not enough to pull me away from my current set-up. So with regard to keeping insights in view, I lean on a few different strategies:

  • concept maps in iThoughts (which looks very much like manually maintaining a knowledge graph, I guess, but works for me)
  • random reviews
  • cross-links between notes (reinforcing trails and connections…)
  • an SRS inspired system of extended reminders (powered by GoodTask quick actions)

As someone who also writes creatively, the border between my personal and “professional” notes/insights can be porous— while there are some items that fall very distinctly on one side or the other, some can cross-over, so I’m less inclined to separate them out into different apps. That helps to reduce cognitive overhead, and as you say, makes it easier to establish links between notes/insights regardless of whether they exist within a personal or professional realm.

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Great to see your insights – thank you for sharing and for the conversation! I’m quite relieved (for myself… but sorry for you guys) to read that I’m not the only one wondering about this distinction. This probably going to be harder for people with more porous borders between the professional and personal (as you mention, @jsamlarose ) where both directly feed on one another.

For the surfacing part of things, I find the Zettelkasten method does a great job of spaced repetition / exposure to your own material as you link it and link it and see structure emerge. Which is why I’m pondering the relevance of (professional) journaling in the same place as notes, so that these insights may develop into their own notes through linking. But I find there is a difficult line to walk, as I’m afraid this would become one more inbox to process indeed (as you point @Andre.Sena ) and there are already too many to my taste.

I find creation often bumps into this difficulty / limitation: it’s a lot harder to isolate true tasks from “random ideas that may one day develop into things I want to do, or never, but I will never know unless I tend to that garden a little”. Clear atomic notes are kind of easy to sort into a system, finding a place for incubating stuff that needs to simmer in the back of your mind and that you review from time to time is a lot harder, and yet I find this is usually where the true gold lies. There needs to be a place for random, half-formed ideas. :slightly_smiling_face:

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I put random half-formed ideas in my Zettelkasten like anything else. I run across them periodically, and sometimes they snap into place, and it’s very satisfying.

Other times I run across them because I just had the same idea all over again, having forgotten about the first time. That’s less satisfying.

I put random half-formed ideas in my Zettelkasten like anything else.

I’m very curious about this. I can totally see the value - and I think Luhmann himself said that he should not overthink what he puts into the system - but I wonder how this works for you. Do you nevertheless take some time to formulate clearly the idea (whatever it may be) and link it correctly? Do you also capture things where an idea might be lying to capture later? Or are you still very diligent about what makes and doesn’t make the cut?

Thanks for your insights.

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For me the separation between business and private lies in the programs used rather than tags or categories. I’m not really into regular journalling but when off doing something exciting (e.g. 3 weeks in the mountains) I’ll keep a log of routes climbed, interesting places etc. etc. in Day One. Notes and recipes go in Notes.

Business stuff is in transition at the moment. Client records are in Craft, but I still like taking meeting notes with the pencil using Notability. I was using Evernotes for little snippets of info but I haven’t opened that in ages (though that could be a COVID no work thing).

CPD stuff goes into Goodnotes as another (artificial) separation between studying and working, even though they are obviously part of the same thing.

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I decided a long time ago that I couldn’t be too picky about what I put in my Zettelkasten — if I have to spend too much time thinking about whether or not it belongs, that’s cognitive load I don’t need. (Caveats below.)

So I do my best to articulate the idea as clearly and concisely as I can, with an eye to my future self as the reader. (A big part of my day job includes writing clearly and concisely, or trying to anyway.)

In theory, the less useful stuff will gradually settle to the bottom (if I sort by modified). I can safely ignore it. Occasionally I come across something almost incomprehensible; sometimes I’ll delete it, but usually I don’t. It’ll be there if I need it, but usually I can just ignore it indefinitely.

I’m bad about linking my notes, which is probably one reason I am surprised when I rediscover the same ideas. If/as I get better at linking, this approach should get more useful.

I do a couple of things to limit clutter.

  • Anything I consider ephemeral doesn’t go in my Zettelkasten: tasks, text that is just shunted elsewhere (usually via Drafts), and so on.

  • I do have some sub folders that segregate certain types of information: notes that form a kind of timeline (to keep track of dates that don’t really belong in a calendar), project summaries (for use with an Obsidian Kanban plugin), raw reading and conversation notes ( that I haven’t summarized or synthesized yet), images and PDFs that are linked included in my other notes, etc.

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Yes…for me it’s a ‘dump’. Using Obsidian, I dump everything into it, Daily Notes and Zettels.

  1. I use YAML>Aliases. Each new note has one Tag-…Seedbox. The Alias is blank to start.
  2. Each Zettel has a Zettelkasten (Date) pre-header in the Title. Alpha title are appended when I get time to review. Review can be every day or ANY day. No schedule no pressure.
  3. Daily Notes are one per day (Duh). Zettels can be one to none or many per day.
  4. When I go back to a Daily Note or Zettel (to refactor/review) I add word(s) to the Aliases portion of the YAML. Immediately, Obsidian populates the Unlinked Mentions in the Backlink(s) Pane. From there, I make connections/links as circumstances warrant.
  5. Repeat #1 thru #4.
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I put mine into my system, originally in DEVONThink now in Obsidian.

Only enough to make sure I’ve remember what I was thinking at the time or until I feel I have enough into my system. I may or may not make links to other things because I have a well defined place for those random things. I have found that in the conversion from DT into Obsidian I am making more links for my random cool thoughts because it’s so easy. I rarely did that in DT.

Yep, all the time. When I review these lists of ideas and pssibilities (which I do at least once a quarter) I often find that I need to add more stuff to something or even delete a few that are no longer relevant. And cool ideas spawn more cool ideas.

nope, I cast a wide and broad net. I figure that I’d rather have too much to choose from than to have the idea and then forget something that will prove useful, entertaining or lucrative later.

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Thank you very much @Daveb08 and @OogieM for taking the time to detail your systems and takes. I’m clearly still too picky about my own “permanent notes” system (by comparison to project notes, where anything goes) and I’m losing a lot value by refraining from putting half-formed stuff in there. Lots of food for thought, I clearly have to evolve this (and also schedule more diligent review)! Much appreciated! :pray: