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…

2023.11.01.

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.

2023.10.27.

The Handcrafted Artisanal Web – nadreck.me

I’m still a big believer in having expertise in something and sharing that with your peers.

The future is returning to an artisanal web, where you cultivate your niches and small communities, where maybe you don’t become a millionaire and a star, but you do feel a sense of belonging, and maybe make enough to get by.

But having enough money is what people forget to realize. You can get a nice online side business up and running relatively quickly if you have an interesting “product”. Making that a full-time job is yet another step, but you can still stay a niche without losing your soul.

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.

2022.01.31.

I collected my reading notes and highlights from “Digital Zettelkasten: Principles, Methods, & Examples” by David Kadavy.


daunting projects to compete with little dopamine hits

How can I increase the dopamine hit of completing a project?

When you have a digital Zettelkasten, there’s a third option: do small things with small notes, straight from your phone.

When we have a small amount of time, we can do small things with our notes, even on our phone.

A lot of small steps can take us very far.

Yet instead of these tiny actions adding up to essentially nothing, they feed your curiosity in a productive way and drive your projects forward.

GTD takes us closer to our goals with small steps.

We have to set up small next actions when we are tired, so we can do a lot of small things which gives us some form of baseline success.

Instead of using my brain power to try to remember things, I’m using it to write better articles, newsletters, and books. I finally found a bicycle for my mind.

We have to use the brain for doing creative stuff, not remembering things.

Yes, we should rethink educational curricula centered around memorization, but looking things up is at some point a waste of working memory. That’s brain power that could be used to think creatively, rather than to try to grasp a bunch of facts just retrieved.

Instead of looking up information that we have to understand, we can use the energy of the brain for creative things.

Sometimes ignorance is more comfortable than learning, because learning means we have to go through the work of changing.

Learning is harder than ignoring facts.

It’s not so easy it’s boring, and it’s not so hard it’s a slog.

We can create new permanent notes with Craft inline of another note, which can be extracted out into a new note.

Some examples of fleeting notes, from my own Zettelkasten:

Uses of fleeting notes:

  • highlights from books
  • highlights from articles, blog posts
  • our ideas

Yes, Henry Ford’s assembly line went quickly by eliminating waste, but the cars had to be designed first – a process that wasn’t so easy to speed up.

It’s easier to automate a system than invent it. That’s a long and hard process.

As you read, make fleeting notes.

Once you’ve exported your highlights, review them and highlight, once again, the parts of those highlights that are the most interesting.

Look at the highlights of your highlights and re-write the interesting ones in your own words.

I’m taking notes as I read, I don’t rewrite them afterward.

Associative thinking promotes a positive mood, so it shouldn’t be a surprise how fun this task is.

It feels good when we find a connection between two Zettelkasten notes.

Now take only the most interesting ideas from the literature notes, and turn each into individual permanent notes.

Next, I have a link back to the literature note from which I wrote this permanent note. That looks like this:

We can link permanent notes from literature notes, so we can see in backlinks where it’s coming from.

If you try this process and it feels boring to you, it may be because the material you’re reviewing doesn’t feel relevant, doesn’t interest you

It is a warning sign if we are bored while writing our Zettelkasten. It means that we don’t care about the topic, or we know it well already.

The main con of Folgezettel is it’s unnecessary in a digital Zettelkasten. Folgezettel is most advantageous in a paper-based Zettelkasten, because it allows you to easily arrange paper based upon how a sequence of notes follow one another.

Having a series of notes (or outline of notes) can be helpful in a digital Zettelkasten too because we are forced to stop and think about where a new note should fit in the outline.

create keywords based upon patterns you see, which inform theories you’re working on.

Having an index is the same as having “Table of Contents” notes.

2021.05.04.

Think with paper and store conclusions digitally

  • There is quite a big difference between paper and digital tools, but they can complement each other nicely.
    • You can use paper to get an order in random ideas by doing doodles, wireframes, mindmaps, diagrams, or what have you. Because of its tactile feel and freeform nature, paper is a better tool for organizing your thoughts.
    • Digital tools make information easier to search, so they are great to store the results of your thinking that you unraveled using paper.
      • Unlike paper, digital tools are rigid, so they are not the most optimal way to support thinking.