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What’s In My Day One

Day One app on iPhone

When we launched this website in the fall of 2013, we had just a handful of app reviews written: weather, calculator, calendar, and a few others.

Of those first reviews, there was one in particular that I wanted to write myself: the pick for best journaling app. The pick was — and still is, of course — Day One. I seriously love this app.

I recently shared that if there were one single app I could hope to encourage folks to start using, it would be Day One.

Journaling has so many benefits, and Day One is an app that has made it easier and more enjoyable for me to maintain my journaling habit for years and years. In my little slice of the world it’s this app that serves one of the few that can be used to genuinely change and improve your life.

What’s special about Day One is more than just that it’s the best journaling app for iOS and Mac. It’s also stands as a truly great app.

Day One is well designed and full of thoughtful details. While being packed with clever features, Day One doesn’t overwhelm. And because it’s so versatile, you could use it for just about anything — certainly more than a basic journal if you wanted.

Because I’ve put so much time and so many words and photos into my Day One over the years, I wanted to share a bit of how and why I use it. I wrote a version of this article more than 3 years ago, and as I was reviewing it I realized that for the most part my usage of Day One hasn’t changed too dramatically.

There are some new things I use the app for, particularly my weekly review time. And there are some new features to Day One that I am now utilizing: such as the Activity Feed.

In short, you could say that after many years of using Day One, the app has become all the more helpful and important to me (something I’ll mention a bit more about at the end of this article).

If you want to use our screencast tutorials to get your own Day One setup going, check out our video course, Day One in Depth.

Using Day One for Productivity Journaling

Day One as a productivity journal

There are times in life and at work where my list of things to do is pretty much never ending. Like Bartholomew Cubbins and his 500 hats, I cross of one task only for it to be replaced by another one.

Perhaps you can relate. And, if so, then you know how it can lead to a feeling that your days are wildly unproductive. (It’s not that they actually are unproductive, but simply that they feel that way sometimes.)

And but so, something which has helped me is to recognize my daily progress. There has been much scientific research done to show that when people see they are making progress, it builds up their internal motivation and increases their overall work satisfaction.

This is why, at the end of my day and/or week, I open up my Day One and I write.

Actually, it’s not so much writing… it’s more about getting things documented.

  • I start with making note of everything I accomplished in the past 24 hours. Such as: how many words I wrote during my morning writing time; any notable conversations I had; anything awesome I read; and any other tasks or activities I did.

  • Secondly, I jot down all the ideas still in my head: all the loose ends I didn’t tie up, all the things I may want to do but didn’t get to. It can be hard to call it quits for the day when there are still things which could be done. And so this entry in my Day One is my way of admitting that the day is done even though there is still work to do.

On a daily or weekly level, this “productivity journaling” helps me capture the things I’ve learned and prepares for what I’ll be doing next.

Travel Log

Because Day One can geotag your entries with a location, it makes for an excellent travel log. And then, you just open up the Map View and boom: a slew of dots showing where you’ve been, with the corresponding entries and photos right there.

This is one of my personal favorite features of Day One.

Day One Map View

Photo Memories

I have so many photos on my iPhone’s camera roll! While the “memory reels” that get automatically created in the photos app are cool, I still like to take special photos and add a line or two of context about it, to save specific memories into Day One. These include milestones in our family, special occasions, trips, and the like.

Day One Journal App Photo Memories

Paperless for Sentimental Things

In addition to photographs of people and places, I also take photos of documents.

Such as the birthday cards that my toddler boys made for me using crayons and stickers and construction paper. Or the anniversary cards from my wife. Or the hand-written letters from my grandpa. These are incredibly sentimental pieces of paper, and I love that I can photograph them and put them right into my Day One.

And, since so much of my work is done at a computer, I also will put screenshots into my Day One. For example, when this very website — The Sweet Setup — launched back in November of 2013, I took a screenshot of the home page on launch day as well as a screenshot of our traffic log after the first 36 hours. And of course wrote a few words of context to go with the images.

Reviews of Books, Movies, Meals, etc.

After I finish a book, watch an especially fantastic movie, eat at a particularly wonderful restaurant, or drink a delicious cup of coffee, I’ll often “review” it in my Day One. Usually these fun and informal reviews are just that: fun and informal.

(For the nonfiction books I read, I use Ulysses to capture and categorize all the key takeaways and highlights.)


It’s not often that a friend or family member takes the time to say something specifically kind or encouraging to me. (And, to be honest, it’s not all that often that I take the time to say something specifically kind or encouraging to others, either.)

Which is why I try to capture those words of encouragement into my Day One.

Oftentimes, in the thick of life, it can be easy to lose sight of ourselves. We personally feel in the thick of it and we don’t always see the good we are doing. And so, to be able to look back at the kind and truthful words which others have said to us can be encouraging to say the least.

Weekly Reviews

On Sundays I take a bit of time to review the past week. I list out all the tasks I got done, all the highlights and lowlights, the lessons learned, the milestones, etc. I will pull in any special photos from my photo library. I’ll review the Day One Activity Log for any locations visited, etc. And I write down any thoughts or areas of personal focus for my upcoming week.

This habit alone is one of the single greatest contributors to my personal growth and development, and one of the main reasons I love Day One.

Advantages of Day One

While many people may prefer an analog journal, I love the advantages that Day One’s digital nature brings. Not the least of which include the geolocation of entries, using and including photos, and the ability to search my entire journal.

With that said, I have two parting thoughts — one philosophical and one practical:

  • It’s quantity that creates quality when it comes to a journal. The more you toss in to your Day One, the more valuable it becomes and the more powerful the overall montage is. That you’re creating.

  • If quantity begets quality, then it means that (a) having your journal always in your pocket is a huge advantage; and (b) thank goodness for Day One’s ability to tag, sort, find, and filter your journal entries.

I’d also love to mention that here at The Sweet Setup, we have created a video course, Day One in Depth, to help you take advantage of every single feature of Day One.

Wait! There’s more….

How to Use Day One in Your Life

For a the best journaling app, you won’t do better than Day One. And if you want to discover how to use this app more regularly, and take full advantage of all its features, then we have some video screencasts that can help you.

In our course, Day One in Depth, you get 8 video screencasts that will take you line by line through every feature, setting, preference, and option found in Day One.

We’ll show you…

  • Complete walkthrough of the Mac and iOS apps.
  • How to create and customize your journal entries (from text, to photo, to audio)
  • How to find, filter, export, and more.

Plus! You will get bonus tips, workflows, and tutorials for how best to use Day One to suit your own needs: from a morning writing time to a photographic travel log, to weekly reviews and productivity journaling — Day One can do it all and we will show you how.