In 2017, I only had one New Year’s resolution: to document a highlight for each and every day that year. Not only did I managed to keep the resolution, I’m still doing it to this day, and I can’t see myself ever stopping!
Tracking my daily highlights for over a year has been a really interesting experience and I’m pretty proud I’ve been able to “not break the chain”. It’s also an idea I think more people could benefit from, so in this post I’m going to try to give you a bit of a rundown of the what, why and how of daily highlights.
What is a ‘daily highlight’?
Basically, at the end of each day, I take stock of everything that happened that day, and I chose a specific moment or occurrence that was the highlight. That is, the best part of the day.
What does that look like exactly? Well, it could be anything! Something simple like “biting into a mushroom burger”, or silly like “noticing a woman whistling to herself as she walked down the street”, or specific like “capturing the flag twice in a single game in ‘Overwatch'”, or vague like “having a weird conversation with colleagues”, although I generally try to make it as specific as possible. To help with this, I will often write some extra notes to give a bit more context to the situation, so it’s easier to remember and understand when I come back to it.
Sometimes, if I’m struggling to think of something, I use the prompt “What moment from today do I wish could have lasted longer?” That’s not exactly what I’m looking for, but it makes for a good starting point if I’m stuck.
Conversely, some days I know my highlight immediately after it happens, and will write it down straight away. Even on those days, I will review the day at the end, to make sure nothing else came later to trump what I already wrote. If there was something, the original highlight usually just becomes a note of the usurping highlight.
When multiple highlight-worthy events happen in a day, I nominate one as the primary highlight of the day and make a note of the rest. This allows me to keep each highlight fairly specific, rather than writing something broad or vague to try and cover everything.
Why do this?
Documenting a daily highlight for the whole of 2017 was an idea that I had somewhat in the heat of the moment, late on the last day of 2016. But it was a culmination of a number of thoughts that had been bubbling in my mind throughout the year.
Earlier in 2016, I had been reading a number of articles about the benefits of journaling, and it intrigued me. But I didn’t want to commit to such a high level of detail and it seemed pretty time-consuming, so I put that thought on the back burner.
Also around this time, a friend of mine began meaninglessly documenting the event of her day on her digital calendar. She wasn’t writing down highlights, so much as just blocking out how she’d spent her time that day in a very broad sense. When I asked her why, she didn’t really have any sort of explanation except that she’d started and didn’t want to stop.
These two ideas together served as the inspiration for my daily highlights resolution. I decided to draw a line somewhere down the middle: not full-on daily journalling, but not just recording events without meaning.
One of the aspects of journaling that most interested me was its use as a memory tool for later reference and reflection. Recording a highlight each day gives me a date-stamped list of memories that should be easier to recall, and make it easier to remember when things happened. My memory is not the best, and I hoped writing things down like this might help me to improve, or at the very least give me a tool to lean on when someone asks me what I did last week.
Writing down a daily highlight also forces me to take a moment each evening to reflect on the day. It’s a step towards a more mindful way of living, appreciating the good part of each day, rather than just focusing on the things that didn’t turn out.
The most enticing aspect of my friend’s time-blocks calendar was the potential for statistics. With all that data on how she was spending her time, she could work out what she was doing often or rarely. The only problem with this is because everything she did was recorded, it’s hard to derive any meaning from it. By recording a highlight each day, the value of the event is intrinsic: they are all the best part of the day. Therefore it’s easy to know what you want to do more (or less), given the statistics.
Another side-effect of daily highlight tracking that I didn’t really foresee was the way it encourages me to get out and do stuff every day. If it’s nearing the end of the day, and I haven’t done anything highlight-worthy, I feel a push to try and do something exciting. That said, the reverse can also happen when a clear highlight occurs earlier in the day, muting my motivation to do anything to compete.
How do you do it?
Being date-based, I decided that a digital calendar would be the perfect way to document my daily highlights and keep them organised. So I created a new calendar in my Google Calendar setup, just for this purpose.
With this, I also set up a daily task on my phone with a reminder notification at the end of the day. This is to make sure that when I go to bed, I remember to jot down a daily highlight, if I haven’t already.
For each highlight, I create an all-day event, with a headline summary of the highlight as the event name, as well as an optional location and any further notes I may need for context in the body of the event.
Using this system gives me a lot of functionality and flexibility for little to no effect. For example, I get cross-platform access and cloud synchronisation, meaning I can add and view daily highlights from any of my devices, although I mostly use my phone.
That said, it does have some shortcomings. For example, being in a Google Calendar, it’s hard to get at the raw data, making things that I’d hoped to do, like statistics, much more difficult. For now though, it’s the simplest and best way I’ve been able to come up with, and is what I would recommend to anyone interested in adopting the practice.
Some interesting statistics
After (over) a year of highlights, I have plenty enough data for deriving some interesting statistics, so below are some stats that sum up my 2017:
- 45% of highlights were at home
- 25% were at work
- 4.5% were travelling between work and home
- 16% were at one-off locations (i.e. places that only appeared once)
- 20% of highlights involved watching TV
- 14% involved video games (mostly playing, but also watching)
- 13% involved doing my job
- 12% involved having conversations with friends/others
- 10% involved eating
- 9% involved music/dancing
- 4% involved shopping
- Less than 1% involved alcohol
- 79 days (22%) had multiple highlights
Hopefully this post has made clear what I’ve been doing, and why. And maybe it’s even convinced you to take up the challenge of documenting your own daily highlights. If anything is unclear, or if you have any questions or thoughts about any of this, leave a comment below, or drop me a note via the contact page.