2024.01.19.

Letters to Myself

I’m writing emails to myself. Seems like other people do this as well. It is yet another way of journaling, but I email is special since it’s open, and I can never change it again (I mean I can change it, but you get the idea).

I just discovered that both Emacs and Vim nicely wrap text in a message-mode / mail file type. This is cool since properly formatted plain-text emails are a treat these days. On top of messing around with Org Mode, I’m playing around with the idea of using Emacs for sending emails to myself. It has a bunch of macOS services built around creating new messages, so starting one from LaunchBar is easy. Emacs will open a new buffer and I can start writing a plain-text email. Then I can send the message over to Apple Mail with the keyboard shortcut of C-c C-c.

So why do I want to send letters to myself?

Well, it is a way to write about something interesting to me at the moment. Since both Emacs and Vim wrap the line as I write, it is a bit hard to edit these messages afterward, so I’ll think a bit more about how I say things. This is a benefit since it slows me down.

Emailing myself is a way to reflect on things. It is a journal entry basically, and I have Day One for that, but I still like the aspect of sending something somewhere. I have feeling being done with it, so I don’t have to deal with it anymore. I just like getting thoughts and feelings out of my head, and sending it to myself to park it later. If an email is sent, it can’t be changed anymore.

After sending these emails, they reappear in my inbox, where I can just read them again, then move them to a folder called “Letters to Myself”. After a while, I’ll have a bunch of cool letters that my past me sent to the future me.

I should read more about this habit…

2023.12.12.

Follow-up on Apple and journaling:

I like the Journal app, even if it’s barebones as all 1.0 apps usually are. Since I mostly use default Apple apps, the recommendation feature works well for me.

It is a good base for more advanced features in the future (I guess we see nothing new until the next WWDC).

I’m going to keep Everlog around as an archive though.

2023.12.09.

2023.12.06.

2023.12.04.

Read “How I Take and Publish Notes – Jim Nielsen’s Blog”

Jim writing about his reading note publishing process:

I like to let my notes sit for a couple days (or even weeks). I find that if I come back to a note and still find it interesting/insightful that means it’s worth keeping, so I put in the work of cleaning it up and publishing it.

I don’t do this. If I see something interesting, I usually publish it immediately (like this post). On the other hand, I have a Zettelkasten site, which contains more in-depth notes that are also coming from reading notes. However, that site is so new that I haven’t really published anything that counts as reading notes there yet.

2023.11.01.

Apple and journaling

Jason has concerns about the format of Apple Journal:

Like Apple Notes, the Journal app works without the Files app. Instead of your journal entries being discreet text files or similar that can be managed in the file system, they’re built into the app itself. It might work, like Apple Notes, using a SQLite database within the Journal app container.

I’m also moving into using more open formats for journaling, although I think there is a slight difference between a journal and a diary.

  • Keeping a journal in general is a mindfulness practice for keeping track of what I’m doing throughout the day.
  • Keeping a diary is more personal on the other hand. It helps us to write about our feelings and nice or bad things that happened to us.
    • This is the reason why I like to have the On This Day notification from Everlog in the morning.

Both of these practices provide a clearer picture, bringing us closer to the state of the past than just a simple memory.

Our memories give a false image because we can only remember the good things. This distorts the past and overvalues things that were not as good as we remember.

We can’t trust our memories, but we can trust a diary/journal, since it acts as a bookmark to the past, showing what happened in our lives. It functions as a backward tickler file, bringing things from the past to us. This retrieved information helps us to better understand ourselves in the future. We can see the difference between the past and our current state clearly, which can provide a new perspective on how we handle a current situation.

In essence: both of these practices allow us to compare our present self with our past one and draw conclusions.

So back to Apple Journal…

The only thing I see myself using Apple Journal for is the missing “add a description to multiple photos” app for now.

Sometimes I want to have a short description of an event that is stored in Photos, and since both apps are from Apple, hopefully, the integration will be better than duplicating my photos into yet another app as attachments.

Otherwise, I don’t see myself migrating away from Everlog in the foreseeable future.

2023.10.31.

2023.10.23.

Append-only storage and developing ideas

There are multiple ways to develop ideas. Sometimes the best one is where you can’t change the history of an idea. It’s there as breadcrumbs to go back in time and see how an idea was developed.


Other people use email as an append-only note-taking tool and storage medium. From How I use append-only log to store information:

Choose any email client you like and basically dump all your PDFs, notes, digitized papers, files into it as it arrives from various sources. Just write a meaningful subject that you can search for later. You can use labels or folders to organize, but mostly just send it to an email address of your choice and archive it. Usually, you will not even read it again after you have saved it.

The E-mail format itself is well understood and has many features. The max attachment size of most service providers is around 20 MB. It’s more than enough. Try to use plain text for just taking short notes and messages to yourself. If you want to dump more than 20mb of files, just archive it or split into many emails or upload it to cloud storage and copy and paste the link to email.

When you need the information. It’s there. Always.

No more fiddling with the file managers, renaming. It is saved as it is.

Even if you would like to edit, you can just forward the message again to yourself with the edit and delete the original one.

You can also use it to schedule mails and track future tasks, TV shows, anime, movies or Reminder to yourself in the future. If you are working on a piece of text for a long time, you can just keep it as a draft and keep working. It will be auto-saved.

I am a fan of the bullet journal method. Handwritten text is immutable. The same goes for emails. Once you send it, it becomes immutable.

I don’t know if other use emails to store all their digital content in emails like me. But it’s a pretty neat trick.


Here’s how Steve Jobs used email to write his Stanford commencement speech:

In January 2005, John Hennessy, the president of Stanford, asked Steve to give the commencement address to that spring’s graduating class. Steve agreed.

On and off for the next six months, Steve took stabs at writing his talk. He emailed stories and memories to himself. He asked friends, Apple colleagues, and the screenwriter Aaron Sorkin for their thoughts. In the end, however, he wrote the speech on his own. Even three days before the event, Steve was unsatisfied with his talk. He sent it to a friend, warning, “I’ll send it to you, but please don’t puke. I never do stuff like this.” He was still refining the speech the morning that he gave it. Uncharacteristically, Steve read from the lectern, rather than memorizing his text (as he did with Apple keynotes) or speaking extemporaneously from a few scrawled notes (as he did in nearly every other talk).

Steve was happy with the speech—he emailed himself a copy a few days after giving it—but he generally deflected the praise that he received for it. “I bought it on CommencementSpeeches.com,” he joked to one person. The commencement address has been viewed millions of times online and is included[…]


These use cases are similar to how I use email threads to develop ideas in the GTD capture phase, where I’m leaving notes for myself within an email thread. All I have to do is send a reply to my own address by replying to an email, so Apple Mail keeps the message in the same thread.

One of the benefits of using this method is that I can still see the email as part of the thread, but my notes will be kept private.

This is helpful for various purposes, such as making code review comments or jotting down ideas by replying to email notifications but changing the recipient to my own address, which acts a bit like the poor men’s version of HEY’s sticky notes

I also have another app where I keep journal entries called Everlog. I’m thinking about applying the same append-only storage idea there and never editing my Everlog entries after I added them. It is also an append-only app, where entries shouldn’t be changed afterward, only deleted. I can always add a follow-up to an entry but I should never change it, so I can see how something was developed over time.

This is why I like to use Drafts for capturing and drafting ideas. I can easily edit them while I’m working on the idea, but I shouldn’t change them too much after I share them with their destination app (except when I continue working on them).


Related posts

Zettelkasten Note

My Notebook System – ratfactor

This year is going to see my journal/log’s 10th anniversary and 100th notebook.

I read the whole article and took a lot of notes which inspired me to think about how I can consolidate my capture (logging) habit a bit more into one place, but still keep multiple capture tools.

After finishing this essay, it feels like Dave accidentally invented GTD for himself in a different form based on a stream of captured ideas that are moved up in the chain to have projects and next actions.

The part at the end where he writes about weekly, monthly, and yearly recaps feels very GTD-esque.

I actually tracked my time in a notebook like this before. I had a timestamp of when I started and when I ended a session of work. I have a long history of working in sessions, as I used to do a lot of freelance work, which requires time tracking (a session means that I focus on one task for a more extended period of time). My only question is how Dave transcribes his notebook entries into his digital system? I did it by hand, and it was awful.

Anyway, this is an excellent write-up of a fantastic system that I’m going to use as inspiration.

2023.02.16.

2022.05.05.

Can paper still be a storage format?

I watched a video from Patrick Rhone where he mentioned that paper is still the best medium to store text-based information in the long run. We have books from thousands of years ago still available. Nobody knows how long the best digital medium will last, but we have already seen how durable paper can be.

Classics are survived hundreds of years. Of course, it was reprinted and stored in multiple places, but digital information nowadays is too tied to its format. For example, what will this blog look like in 20-30-40 years?

I try to use open standards when it comes to archive things, but still, sometimes it’s not enough. I lost the early music I made, photos, and blog posts (although I found some on archive.org) because I wasn’t paying attention to back them up, or it was easy to delete them accidentally.

Meanwhile, stuff I printed years ago is still okay. My parents even have old family photos, which are existing since at least I was born 35 years ago.

Paper can be a long-standing format to store information (or at least be a tertiary backup) if we don’t use it actively. Almost all digital storage formats are rotting away quickly (except some forms of optical media and tape), which means that we, a computer, or time will corrupt them. On top of that, we can accidentally delete anything from it, or ransomware could encrypt it, so we have to back them up. I use optical disks (more precisely 25 GB archival grade BD-R discs) to archive information because it’s made for cold storage. However, I still have to keep a reader around, which is an already a fading technology.

On the other hand, paper is a simple, free-form medium that can store limited types of information. I can print text and photos on it, and that’s it. If I want to keep it long-term, I can store it inside hanging folders or simple boxes which protect and organize it.

Sure, it can be damaged, but any other digital storage can be. If we take good care of it, it can give us a nice warm feeling when we stumble into an old notebook or a photo.

2021.12.21.

2021.05.10.

Weirdly, I do this “interstitial journaling” for years now, without calling it anything. Although I don’t track tasks in it, just for the current session; those get captured in my GTD system.

What I don’t do habitually yet is the mindfulness journaling aspect, which could be another excellent use for Craft in an outline format. I like how Roam formats daily notes, which can be reproduced in Craft as well, but Day One and Drafts are so much quicker for capturing quick posts. I could look into how Craft can be automated, but I kinda like that Day One stores the location, weather, and so much more enhancing my journal.


Seems like this a recurring idea of mine.