I have a terrible long-term memory. With the exception of major events, I can rarely remember much beyond two weeks ago without some sort of trigger reminding me of what I was doing.
I’ve tried journaling, writing down what I’ve done at the end of the day, but this usually doesn’t work for me for more than a week at a time. I find that I tend to write long passages at time, and that after a week or so I abandon the journal in favor of getting more sleep.
What I really wanted was a log file for my life.
If you’re familiar with Linux, you’re probably aware of log files. One example is a web server: If the server can’t find a file that a user is looking for, it gives the user a 404 page, and then it records the missing page in the server log file. This log file is a text file that is appended with new lines whenever something important happens.
What I needed was a way of recording the events of my day from anywhere at any time. It also had to be quick and easy if I was going to keep up with it.
It turns out that there’s already a web service that does this, called Twitter. It’s intended for use as a communication tool to let your friends know what you’re doing. I’ve never understood why I would want this; I can’t believe that anyone but me actually cares about the minutae of my life.
Besides, if I did use Twitter as a life-log, I’d quickly fill up my follower’s Twitter timelines with posts about myself. And what if I want to log something private? Twitter would tell everyone who wanted to know. So Twitter looked like a bad option at first.
A couple of days ago, however, I found the “Protect My Updates” option in Twitter (located under Settings at the bottom of the Account page). Essentially, this is Twitter’s private mode: only people who I approve can read my updates. So I removed both of my followers (neither of whom I knew personally) and set Twitter to private. Now I’m using it as my personal life-log.
It’s really quick and easy to update: I can use the Twitter web site, text messages, IM, or one of the dozens of other methods that Twitter fans have rigged up. I typically use the Google Talk client on my Blackberry, since it’s really fast and it’s with me all the time.
And so far, this seems to help. I can now look back over the past couple of days and see the basic outline of what I did throughout the day. And the life log turned out to be useful for other things as well. I’ve written myself several notes like “Check out that URL from page 63 of The Zen of CSS.” It might also be used for tracking calorie intake and spending habits.
Overall, I recommend it. It’s a great way of capturing information that might otherwise elude your memory.
Related: Lifehacker’s article Quick Log Your Work Day by Gina Trapani.