LIFE HACK: The perfect way to keep a journal if you’re a super busy person.

woman speaking smartphone

Two words: voice memos.

It might feel like you’re dictating orders to the personal assistant you don’t have (if you do have one, get them to keep your diary!), but isn’t that what journaling is kind of like anyway?

Most of us keep a diary at some point, but inevitably, not for long. Because honestly, who has the time? I keep a semi-regular notebook, where I make lists, write down thoughts, spew out my feelings. Every few pages, there’ll be a note: “Unpack this later.” “Come back to this.” “Don’t forget to write down that lovely day before you forget about it.” I never do, though, and my notebook is a scrappy mess, which overflows onto half-finished notes on my phone.


Then recently, a friend suggested something. “Just do a voice memo.” I wasn’t sold, because what do you do with the recordings? But she had a good point: what do you do with your written notes? Nothing—they’re just for you.

She keeps to-do lists, gives herself reminders, chats through ideas, and checks in with herself on how she’s feeling. A daily state of the nation on the inside of her brain, on who she is and how she’s changing, just like a written diary.

woman speaking smartphone


Like Joan Didion writes in her constantly quoted 1968 essay, 'On Keeping a Notebook':


"I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were."

But no one says this has to be done with a pen. We keep everything else on our phones, why not, in Didion's words, "the people we used to be"?

A new to-do list is making us very stressed. (Post continues after audio.)

The best thing about voice memos is you don't have to make time to write (or type), you can chat to your phone while you're getting dressed or walking around the park. If you're bathroom is soundproof enough, you can even shout from the shower.

The mental benefits of journal-keeping in any medium, are well-proven. According to psychologist Barbara Markway, it's one "one of the most useful things you can do to combat stress and anxiety." Free therapy, basically.

The main thing to remember is our diaries are for ourselves. You're not doing a podcast, it doesn't have to be perfect. As Didion points out, "We are talking about something private, about bits of the mind’s string too short to use."

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