How I built a super-charged daily journal using Notion

Subtitle
The journey of how I built a customized journaling system that makes it easy to reflect on my day and stay connected with friends and family.

I was drawn to journaling at a young age as a way to reflect on and remember my day, since I often forgot what I had done only a week before. As someone who found writing difficult for many years, I didn't think journaling was something I could make into a habit. That was until I learned about an app called Five Minute Journal. The app changed my perspective on journaling by breaking an entry down into a series of small prompts like “I am grateful for… three amazing things that happened today…etc.” This straightforward style made it easy to start and stick with journaling.

The entry template from Five Minute Journal
The entry template from Five Minute Journal

Around the same time, I discovered Notion, which I started using to track projects, tasks, and various other things. One thing I added to Notion was a database to help me remember all the people that I want to stay in touch with (inspired by this article from Derek Sivers). My hope was that if I checked this database periodically, I would remember to reach out to friends and family who I had not connected with for a while.

My original people database in Notion
My original people database in Notion

The problem was that I rarely checked this Notion database, so it wasn’t very useful. I realized that I could solve this by integrating my daily journal with my database of friends and family. To integrate the two, I first needed to switch to Notion as my journaling tool, then connect it with the database of people using Notion’s relation functionality. Fortunately, recreating the journaling experience was quite simple using a customizable template in Notion.

Filling out my daily journal entry using the Notion template I made
Filling out my daily journal entry using the Notion template I made

I still had one last challenge… I needed to move my previous journal entries from the Five Minute Journal app into Notion. Importing entries from the last 1.5 years would have taken hours of tedious work had I done it manually. Fortunately, around this time the beta version of the Notion API was released. The API allowed me to upload entries automatically using the data exported by the Five Minute Journal app.

With my new Notion journal, the people database no longer went underutilized. As part of my journal entry, I include those I see or call each day, which automatically updates the corresponding item in the people database. In addition, my improved Notion journal makes it easy to see how long it’s been since I’ve last been in touch with someone either by phone or in person (see image below).

Updated people database that now contains additional fields to know when I was last in touch with someone
Updated people database that now contains additional fields to know when I was last in touch with someone

I’m really happy I made the switch to using Notion. The habit of reflecting every day has made me more grateful and lets me appreciate both the novel and everyday experiences that make up my life. Integrating my journal with the database of people I care about helps me prioritize staying connected. Ultimately, my journal allows me to better appreciate what makes life feel rich and joyful.

If you are interested in using this system yourself, I’ve created a Notion template you can get for free by clicking the link below.