Keep your daily notes separate

Balancing the scales of friction where I want them

Why do I use a separate note for each day? I keep humming and hawing over whether I should go back to one big file (as I did from 2015-2020) or one file for each year (switched to in 2020), but after a while I remember why I switched to one file per day. So in the spirit of a decision journal – and to hopefully avoid this needless cyclical loop in the future – here’s why.

It cuts out a significant source of distraction: yesterday’s scribbles. Reading over the previous day, week, or months writing is useful and often generative, but it can be a real distraction when you’re trying to capture today. Like having too many tabs open, clicking on the wrong one, and getting sucked back into a rabbit hole that a prior you had left carelessly open.

It removes a decision. When I want to write something down I don’t want to think about where it belongs, the daily note offers a default home for my writing. It’s a diary, a calendar, a worklog, a sketchpad, and everything else rolled into one. It’s the next blank canvas, the day’s canvas, and behind it lies a lifetimes worth of future blank canvasses. And it’s safe. This canvas need only be enough for today, tomorrow I will have another one, the day after that another. Today’s scribbles won’t constrain tomorrow’s, nor will tomorrow’s obscure today’s.

Separating each days flock of feelings from the rest lets me set the terms of my own participation in them, allowing me to be intentional about whether I want to rove through them, or stay the path of today.

A daily canvas derisks, lubricates, improves, and preserves my writing. It balances the scales of friction where I want them. At least for now. It might achieve very much the same or quite the opposite for you.