For both time and convenience’s sake, a few years back I started audio journalling along with writing in a paper journal. What is “audio journalling”? Just recording yourself talking. This is easy with an app on your phone.
Audio journalling has some advantages:
– It’s faster than typing or writing by hand
– You can do it while you’re doing other things, like walking around or making dinner
– You can listen back to it while you’re doing other things, which isn’t possible with text
There are also some disadvantages:
– Talking is faster than writing, but listening is slower than reading. It takes longer to listen back to a recording than it would to read the equivalent in text. So with audio journalling you are in some sense trading time in the present for time in the future.
– Audio is not searchable or scannable like text. There are technologies in development that will allow us to search through audio for keywords or phrases, but this isn’t possible yet.
Tips for audio journalling
Here’s what I’ve found to work well after doing this for a few years.
Journal what you think your future self will find most interesting
Sometimes you just want to talk about whatever’s on your mind, and that can make for a perfectly good audio journal entry. But consider your future self: it’s reasonable to expect that your time and attention in the future will be at least as limited as they are now.
Once you’ve made a few recordings and listened back to them, you can begin to notice what you find most informative and interesting. When you go to make the next one, you can extrapolate out from this, try to imagine what your future self will most want to hear, and talk about that.
Personally I’ve found that a mix of facts and opinions makes for the best audio journal entry. Retrospectively, I am interested not only in what was happening but how and why it was psychologically and emotionally relevant to me at the time. A recording filled with facts alone does not make for the best listening later on. But, that is my preference and yours may be different.
Cover stable and transitionary periods
For the last few years I moved around a lot between different places, spending a few months in one location, give or take, then moving on to somewhere else. Each had its own distinct character and set of experiences, and this involved a lot of fluctuation between stable and transitionary periods. I tried to capture both in audio journals.
During stable periods I would sum up my regular activities, and go into more detail about major events or experiences. I tried to make recordings a quick but comprehensive snapshot of my experience in a place. I also made recordings during times of transition between places. For some reason I often found myself reflective in airports, bus terminals, the first night in a new city and the like.
I experienced more of this than average, but most lives contain some fluctuation between stability and transition. Try to capture both in your audio journals.
Journal both the good and bad
After audio journalling for a few years, I noticed I made recordings more frequently when I was feeling worse than average. I imagine this is for a few reasons: when things are going well, I tend to be busier with less time to journal. Conversely, worse mood probably correlates with more spare time and more time alone. Furthermore, talking through problems or stresses – even to oneself – can provide clarity and have a therapeutic effect.
The risk of this tendency is that it creates a warped perspective when looking back later. It may seem retrospectively that there were more bad times than good ones, when in reality I just journalled more during the bad times. The same would be true if the imbalance was the reverse.
So I make an effort to make a recording when things are going well, even if only for 5 or 10 minutes, to balance things out. I don’t want my future self to get the wrong idea about a particular period of my life, or the entire thing.
Give your recordings detailed and informative titles
To partially circumvent the problem of audio not being searchable, you can title a recording with words or phrases that give a good sense of what’s inside. I also include the date.
Listen back on 2X speed
This helps mitigate the “listening is slower than reading” problem. You can listen back to your audio journal entries on 1.5X or 2X speed, or scrub through to skim the contents.
Don’t overcomplicate it…
The detail in this post may make audio journalling seem more complicated than it really is – I didn’t even realize how many aspects there could be until I wrote this out. But you don’t need to be strict or detail-oriented to use audio journalling as a helpful complement or alternative to written journalling. Really you just press a button on your phone and start talking.