Note-taking isn’t just for work. You’ll benefit personally from establishing a “running conversation” with yourself. It’s an opportunity to become more aware and intentional about what you’re doing.

I currently have two such conversations going.

The first is a “morning pages” journal where I reflect on what happened the previous day and think about the day ahead. I have a little ritual around these. Every day starts with a 20-minute meditation. Then, I make a cup of (decaf) coffee and write a journal entry. It’s good to do this when the house is quiet.

Journal entries have a standard structure:

  1. Freeform thoughts about the prior day and the day ahead—whatever is on my mind.
  2. A list of three things I’m grateful for.
  3. A list of three things I plan to accomplish today.

It takes less than ten minutes to complete these entries. Writing about my life helps me reflect on things differently than if I’d just thought about them. After all, writing is a way of thinking. This practice just applies it to the self.

As a side benefit, it also gives me a record of my life. I’ve been journaling for seventeen years. As a result, I can examine a significant portion of my life: successes, frustrations, mistakes, lessons learned, etc.

I recently heard someone say they’re using AI to extract insights from their journal. I haven’t tried this yet, but it’s such an interesting proposition — like having a personal biographer! (That said, I’d want to ensure the model isn’t being trained on my personal information.)

The second “self-conversation” is more recent. I’ve started using Apple’s Journal app to write down random thoughts and observations throughout the day. I also take photos of what I’m about to eat or what I’m doing.

The idea with this journal is to be more intentional about things. I’m framing it like sharing on social media, but for an audience of one: “future me.” While my morning pages journal is now an established practice, this running commentary is still very much an experiment. I still haven’t fully built habits around it. But so far, it’s helped me be more mindful.

A journal need not be a single, monolithic thing. With computers, you can have different journals for different purposes. The point is being more intentional and thoughtful about your life. Writing is a good way to go about it.

Cover of the book ’Duly Noted’ by Jorge Arango
To learn more about using notes to extend your mind, check out my book Duly Noted.