Simplification of Notes and Journaling


In the last year my philosophy on note taking and my weekly journaling has changed. My primary text editor has been vi or vim since I was able to use a unix based desktop operating system or install vim on Windows. A number of years ago I discovered vimwiki, which I found to be a really cool tool. I have years of wiki files saved broken up into categories. One frustration I have run into, is that I use several desktops, operating systems and sometimes I use other text editors which include many different vim based editors and some that are not vim based. I have also run into issues getting vimwiki to always work properly if I am using a fork of vim. So at times I would just search for the wiki file that had the information I wanted and open that one file. After thinking about making things simpler, I began to question what advantage it was to have vimwiki in my work flow.

What I started to do in the last year, was to keep all my notes in a single file. I started this file with information I found myself either newly documenting or needing to recall regularly. I am keeping the file tidy and I am using markdown. I have been slowly migrating documentation from my wiki files to this file, either when I need the data or when I have time to migrate. The benefits a single text format file using no additional tooling has is that I never have to spend time installing plugins on new computers or servers. Sometimes more tools/plugins are a barrier, we just eliminated a barrier, making our workflow simpler. Also, everything is in one place, a single file that I can easily share to where ever I need it. Just the tools on the operating system and within my text editor are all I need to find and retrieve anything I need within the file, or add to the file when needed.

I have at times used the diary feature within vimwiki as well, which I have sometimes used for stretches only to drift away from using it time and time again. I decided to do something simpler Plain text journaling using just the utilities my operating system provides. I keep a basic directory for each year and 12 files within the directory for each month of the year. I like this method a lot better than having a diary entry for every day of the year. I use the cal command to put a calendar for the month at the start of each monthly file and then I break sections out in weeks. I used this to keep a basic todo list and some notes on things I am working on that do not belong in my notes file.

I first came up with this idea because I have always kept open a text file on my desktop to type or paste whatever I am working on. At work I found I was using a text file for the entire year with all kinds of random things I had worked on. Most of this was stuff I needed to know in the relative short term, but did not need long term. It occurred to me that this was an excellent way for me to document the stuff I do need in the long term as well. If I kept these long term notes better formatted and my journal files better formatted I could utilize the tools that come with my MacOS/BSD/Linux installations. I have all the CLI tools right out of the box to find and manipulate all that data easily, no hoping that the plugin I had been using was still being maintained and works with the vim editor I chose. My journal and single wiki like file is backed up regularly, both by TimeMachine and Restic, I keep a copy saved to iCloud and I also use Syncthing, meaning I have the latest copy right at my fingertips.