How to Turn WhatsApp Into a Digital Journal You’ll Actually Use

How to Turn WhatsApp Into a Digital Journal You’ll Actually Use

The problem with digital journaling isn’t that there aren’t enough choices—the problem is that there are too many. As different journaling methods (like bullet journaling, gratitude journaling, etc.) have gained popularity, they’ve spawned their own subset of journaling apps—including a recent one from Apple itself—leading the whole space to feel bloated and crowded.

Feature bloat (do I really need all these charts and tracking tools?), choice paralysis, plus the potential privacy concerns about spilling your guts to a potentially unsecured app, and you’ve got a perfect recipe for… well, not actually getting any journaling done. To get back to the basics, I’m running an experiment by using WhatsApp as my personal journal—an idea I saw from Lifehacker’s own Jake Peterson—and it’s working out pretty well.

Of course, if you already have a journaling app or method that works for you, more power to you. But if you, like me, found that you weren’t actually using those specialized journaling apps, repurposing an app you’re already using might work far better.

Making the most of your WhatsApp journal

WhatsApp is a great choice for a back-to-basics journaling experiment because it’s a pretty ubiquitous app that I’m already using every day. Plus, it’s cross-platform, so I can access it from any of my devices, and the end-to-end encryption ensures the privacy of my entries. But it’s not actually designed to be a digital diary, so I had to do a little setup to make it work like one.

Create a single-person group message

To make your own WhatsApp journal, tap the New Chat (+) icon. Your name will appear at the top of the list of contacts. Select your name and message yourself just like you would any other contact.

Credit: Screenshot by Saikat Basu

Open New Chat. Select New Group and select at least one contact from the Add Members list to create a group. Ideally, pick a friend or family member. You’ll remove them later. (Maybe give them a heads up that you’re doing this.)

Next, name the group (in this case, it can be something like “My Journal”). To finish the set-up, tap the Group title, then select the contact you wish to delete. Click on Remove, and the contact will be removed from the group.

Credit: Screenshot by Saikat Basu

And that’s it: You now have your own encrypted, cross-platform chat window that only you can read. It’s a great way to log your thoughts, keep track of your daily activities, or just send useful links and images to yourself that you’ll need later.

Tips for using WhatsApp as a journal

As I’ve been using WhatsApp for my journal entries, I’ve collected a few tips that have helped make it more useful and secure.

  1. Pin your journal at the top. WhatsApp allows three contacts to be pinned above the others.
  2. Lock your chat/journal and add a layer of privacy.
  3. Add photos to your entires. You can snap a photo and share it in your WhatsApp journal. Add a note below it for posterity.
  4. Pin the really important messages in the chat. You can keep them pinned for a maximum of 30 days.
  5. On Android, you can add the group to the home screen with the Add shortcut option in the group settings.
  6. If you’re having trouble finding a note you left yourself, remember that WhatsApp chats are searchable. You can also filter them by date via the WhatsApp calendar.
  7. Use the microphone to turn WhatsApp into a voice journal or take a video and send it to yourself in the chat.
  8. Use the keyboard to add symbols or use emojis as markers if you are into bullet journaling. WhatsApp’s support for simple formatting like italics, bold, strikethroughs, monospace, bulleted and numbered lists, quotes, and inline code should be enough for your needs.
  9. Add a Location to a WhatsApp message and use it to record a travel journal.
  10. You can also add a few close friends to a separate group and create a virtual journal club when you are collaborating on something or planning a trip.

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