Zettelkasten Forum

Revisiting Daily Notes

Prompted by Maggie Appleton’s recent update to her post on Daily Notes Pages, I was fondly remembering a time when I had a teeny little script that appended a single line of text to a kind of log. I didn’t want to use Day One for the kind of fleeting note that might trigger something else but as likely might not. So I returned to my original thought and repurposed it to work with The Archive.

I borrowed ideas from Better Journaling with The Archive (and BitBar). I don’t have Keyboard Maestro and I didn’t want BitBar, but the principles are absolutely sound, so I adapted them to create a single script:

# Open a daily journaling note
# Create the note if it does not exist

DAY=`date +%Y%m%d`


if [[ -f "$NOTE" ]]; then
    open "thearchive://match/${DAY}"
    echo "# Journal Note" >"${NOTE}"
    echo "Date: "`date +"%d %B %Y %H:%M"` >>"${NOTE}"
    echo "Tags: #journal" >>"${NOTE}" 
    echo "" >>"${NOTE}"
    open "thearchive://match/${DAY}"

The script runs from an Alfred workflow. The first time on any given day it creates the note and opens it. Next time, it just opens the note. And as brunoc noted, because the note has a specific tag it is easy to find all such notes and see whether there is anything there I need to act on.

I’m pretty sure that this could be more elegant, probably by testing for the absence of the note rather than its existence. Another nicety would be to capture some input and append it to the day’s note without even opening it. The previous little script might offer a start for that. But hey, it works as intended and that’s good enough for me right now.


  • Hi, @Jeremy

    It takes a certain mindset to become a daily journaler. Journaling daily is a superpower. We're not talking about the classic prepubescent diary filled with mental confusion and anguish. We're connecting wild, uncontrollable thoughts to zettel/notes via writing and doing this with regularity.

    Maggie and Andy write about the power of 'programming attention' using daily journaling as a tool. Using the tool of daily journaling in this way is a brain-throttling metaphor. Is it possible to 'program attention' towards what will make us happy and fulfilled? Maggie makes an argument for making this as frictionless as possible.

    Maggie has found it tricky to blend daily journaling into her PKM.

    Mixing up your notes on Heidegger's “The Question Concerning Technology” and your reflections on whether your mother is gaslighting you might lead to uncomfortable context collapse. It could easily be distracting when search results turn up both academic claims and uncharitable rants about your significant other.

    I have tried both having my daily journaling within my ZK and external. I settled on having it external because I use the daily opportunity for a quick review of what is in my current "inbox."

    Jeremey, you've set the wheels turning in my head. I'm going to create a Keyboard Maestro macro that, with a simple keystroke, will place me in a blank note (no template) for quick and immediate idea capture. I won't use this for regular journaling.

    My journaling template continues to evolve. It is full of static prompts, pointing to project reviews, unfinished to-do items, yesterday's and last year's journal entries, my gratitude journal, ZK stats, ZK review links, and space for ideas. My journaling template has grown too elaborate!

    I love the idea of quick capture but think daily journaling is best kept corraled separately from a PKM.

    What do you think?

    Will Simpson
    “Read Poetry, Listen to Good Music, and Get Exercise”

  • @Will said:

    I love the idea of quick capture but think daily journaling is best kept corraled separately from a PKM.

    What do you think?

    I agree that daily journalling is best kept separate from ZX, and I now use Day One for that. No prompts or anything, just a regular commitment to make a note of things that happened during the day. Some of that is indeed filled with mental confusion and anguish, but not much. More a simple outboard, searchable memory of what happened when.

    My Daily Notes Page is more a replacement for the little scratch pad I keep next to my keyboard; a place to capture very quick notes that, as I said, might or might not lead anywhere. I use The Archive to store that because it is always open and makes it easy to review those notes and eliminate things I no longer need. Once all of a day's notes have been acted on, whether into a ZK note or something else, I can delete the whole note.

  • I don't think there is any downside to having your journals in your ZK.

    With proper setup the ZK is self-scaling. So, there is no need to separate anything out of your ZK other than conceptual.

    I don't think there is any harm in having even your task management within your ZK. I like having a different app for the different visual and conceptual context. But that's all reasoning.

    I am a Zettler

  • I keep a journal thanks to @Will and I separate it from my Zettelkasten, because :

    • Ideas go into my Zettelkasten. So, an idea not could take the form of a daily note, why not ? This idea is interesting. I could use a daily log to develop ideas, inspiration, what I learn today and so on. It has potential, yes !
    • Daily log, tasks go into my "organisation" notes folder, with any lists and other ressources like ideas for birthday gifts, my passwords logs, migraines journal. I keep memories too.

    @sfast said :
    With proper setup the ZK is self-scaling. So, there is no need to separate anything out of your ZK other than conceptual.

    I agree, this is the whole point. If you consider the Zettelkasten like a "knowledge vault" or like a "daily companion", like a personal assistant, it can change what you think acceptable, adequat to put into it.

  • @Jeremy, you've inspired me to create and share a Keyboard Maestro macro that, with a keystroke of ⌃S, a freeform Idea Capture Note is quickly created if one hasn't been created for today. I'm calling this an Idea Strom. If there has been a storm already today, ⌃S brings up the current day's storm log.

    The note is populated with the usual yaml frontmatter and has the tag that puts it in my "proofing oven" and into my review cycle. It will be refactored or deleted as appropriate.

    Zettel from Muse - Keyboard Maestro Macro

    @Jeremy, I still keep a 3X5 card by my keyboard as a scratchpad for all the random to-dos and momentary reflections on the weather. My name is Will, and I'm an addict. I'm addicted to dopamine. The micro hit I get feels soooo good when I use a Uniball .07 pen to put a checkmark through a scribbled to-do item physically. I look at the card's record at the day's end, and either it puts a smile or a frown under my beard.

    While I've tried keeping a journal and task manager directly in my ZK, I've not been comfortable with the results. I feel much more comfortable using separate (and frankly better) applications for the task of journaling and task management. Most importantly, I've found ways to integrate and have two-way communication between these apps. I view them all as "My ZKM Tool Chain."

    I don't think, within his zettelkasten, Niklas Luhmann kept his journal or his task manager or his contact list, his shopping list, or anything else but his work on a unified social theory.

    Will Simpson
    “Read Poetry, Listen to Good Music, and Get Exercise”

  • I suspect I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but if you want a good app for journaling, task management and calendaring, try NotePlan. (It cann also handle a ZK, although I like The Archive much better for that).

    Apologies to anyone who's heard me say this a million times before :blush:

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