Yearly Recaps: A Monthly, Contextual, Plain-Text Journaling System

While I regularly maintain a daily journal, and do so in plain text (while also keeping a concurrent journal in the Momento app on my iPhone for the search and tagging features), often I find that I never actually read any of the old entries. Which is fine, as I mostly just like the habit of recording the information. Recently, I developed a system that is proving to be immensely useful.

Yearly Recaps

Most often I’m trying to place my past in context. Did I start biking to the grocery store last summer or the year before? Was that trip to Utah really just last year? Those are the kinds of mental reminiscing tasks I’m often looking to resolve with journaling.

I started a new plain-text file called Yearly Recaps. The format is simple: I list the year, followed by each month, with bulleted lists for the big events that month:




– Kickstarter funding successful

– bad allergies

– Days Of The Dead artist table in Louisville


The entries are intended to be simple, and just cover the things I might was context for in a year. No thoughts, no daily task recording. Just the big chunks. Months are in standard order, years are listed with the most current year at the top.

The Key: Having It All Together, In One Place

This started out as simply an outline for me to gain some context over my past. I just wanted to see it all written out, in order, in one place. As soon as I started building the entries I realized how powerful this was for me, and that it was going to become a core tool in my journaling system.

I used to spend every Sunday evening doing a weekly recap, where I would review my daily entries and summarize them into a weekly recap. I used those to go back and populate the earlier months in my Yearly Recaps file.

The Weekly Recaps were intended to be the readable summaries, but these monthly summaries have proven to be far more useful. In a sense, the Yearly Recaps are just monthly recaps with typically one or two entries per week. But having them collated in one file for easy context is key.

The Structure

Currently I have just one file for all the yearly recaps, but I’m starting to think I may split them up into one text file per year, as it can be tough to navigate to the desired year. I could use the search functionality in my apps but I get lazy and just end up scrolling.

I’ve found this Yearly Recap system to be the most useful journal I’ve kept yet. I refer to it constantly, and really enjoy the mental Zen it brings having my jumbled memories of the past in a coherent order.

I still journal daily (mostly a mundane recording of the day’s events), but I use and refer back to the Yearly Recaps on a far more regular basis. It’s become an essential tool to keep my head together.

The System

And as far as the system I use: I’ve been gradually moving my note-taking, journaling and to-do lists to a plain-text system over the years. I’ve discussed some of my automated journaling techniques in previous posts. These days, I primarily rely on Dropbox, the Drafts app and the 1Writer app on iOS, and nvALT on the Mac.

Drafts is used for appending daily recaps to a plain-text file stored on Dropbox (with all sorts of automation going on with Hazel on the Mac). 1Writer is used for editing on iOS and nvALT for editing on the Mac. The files are all stored and synced via Dropbox.

The Yearly Recaps file is a manually-edited file so I do most of my editing of that in 1Writer.

I should probably do an entire post on my plain-text journaling system, I just realized I’ve only hinted at some of the advanced methods I use to organize things, but not the process of actually recording things. I’ve got it quite streamlined these days.

One-Page Printable Yearly Calendar

I like to see the Big Picture. Most calendars suck for that. I also have idiosyncratic wants. Here’s the list of criteria:

  • The weeks starts on Monday. I started experimenting with this a few months ago and love it. Weekends are chunk and belong together visually.
  • The days are continuous. We live an endless stream of days. The calendar should reflect this experience.
  • It fits on one printable page. I want something I can print out on regular paper, and not have to deal with cutting or assembling.

I found this near-perfect solution to my desires, but being near-perfect, I wanted to make it perfect. So I did.

Continue reading “One-Page Printable Yearly Calendar”

The Inertial Mind

One insight I’ve had lately regarding meditation sits (and other habits in general) is how often I’m not so motivated to sit, but once I do I find myself quickly getting into the mood, and then I do not want to stop. This then repeats for the next activity I am resistant to begin, and the cycle repeats. I then began to notice this in pretty much all aspects of my life: exercise, art, writing. The activity didn’t seem to matter, it was the shift to a new one that was the crux of the resistance.

It made me realize that the mind is an inertia machine — it prefers to keep doing whatever it is it is currently doing. Helpful or detrimental, it doesn’t seem to care or recognize the difference. The mind just prefers to keep doing what it is doing right now. The insight here is to just commit to getting started, and putting 5 minutes/reps/sentences/notes/brushstrokes/etc into action.

Perfectionist/procrastination advice of “just get started” comes to mind here, as does the idea of tiny habits and mini habits.

You don’t need much time to shift the mind over to the next thing it will get attached to, but the shift is where the struggle happens. It’s as if we have this impetuous child within, as if we do not evolve our personas but rather accumulate upon an ancient core that cannot be matured, evolved, ignored or reasoned with. We just need to understand how it functions, and find ways to work with it. The real key here is that it will never “go away”. We will never “get past” these struggles. Once we learn to accept and work constructively with these ground rules in mind, the easier it is to get past them.

It’s easy to think to yourself “I am lazy” and explain these behaviors away. But I don’t think there is any “I am” in these behaviors. I think these are artifacts of the structure of mind/brain/body. Once we realize these are impersonal, external to the self, and permanent, functional “hard wired” aspects of Mind, we can stop identifying with them and start looking for solutions to work around them. Work with them. Use them, instead of fighting them.

These struggles to sit in meditation, to exercise, to create — they are not signs of personal flaws, weaknesses or limitations. They are signs that the system is working normally. A bicycle only maintains balance when in motion; this is not a flaw, but an unavoidable and intrinsic aspect of the design. There is only one solution: start pedaling.

Run a Photoshop Action from Applescript

Handy info for running Photoshop actions via Applescript on your Mac. I used this so I can send an image to Photoshop via the Acquire iPhone app (my “scanner”), and then have Drafts save a text file in Dropbox that Hazel picks up and tells Photoshop to run my default scanned sketch Photoshop Action on the artwork image.

Call a Photoshop Action from Applescript

Play & Control iPhone Audio on Mac


So you want to send the audio from your iPhone to your Mac, and be able to control the playback functions on the iPhone from the Mac? Airfoil and iKeyboardRemote will do the trick. Read on for how to do this, and why you would even bother.  Continue reading “Play & Control iPhone Audio on Mac”

Misdirected Enthusiasm

Enthusiasm is a strange thing. I never really paid much attention to it in the past — when it came, when it was gone. I always assumed enthusiasm was attached to specific projects, tasks and goals, and you were either in the mood or you weren’t. I’ve since changed my perspective on that.

Continue reading “Misdirected Enthusiasm”

Export All Photoshop Layers to Individual PNG Files

A very handy Photoshop script to export Photoshop layers to individual PNG files over at Graphic Design Stack Exchange. The script you want is the newest version, the link is in this comment.

Yes, Photoshop has a built-in script that does something similar, but this one will name each of the exported files with the name of the layer they were generated from.