Setting Up a Personal Journal Database

For the last four and a half years, I have kept a diary recording my daily thoughts and activities of note. During this time, I also have been posting frequent records to more 21st century data stores: to Strava, using Google (Calendar, YouTube, Search, Maps, etc. which data history can be accessed through Google Takeout), and for a while and probably again in the future, a fitness activity tracker.
What I am missing, however, is a way to easily (read DIGITALLY) access information, like is written in my diary, for use in analytics of myself.
And today that is exactly what I created.

The need for a personal database came to me as I woke up this morning, and my first thought was that I could use Microsoft Access to setup and record this data through a form. However, for my use I can assume that almost every day I will have access to wifi/data on my cellphone, but there will be many days, such as my trip to Europe coming up in the next two weeks, when I won’t have access to a computer, and even when I do it can be inconvenient to turn on my computer, open programs, then finally enter data on a computer.

So, desires:

  • Accessible anywhere where smartphones go
  • Availability to setup entry forms to input data
  • Ability to export data as csv
  • Long-term stability, ease of use

All of these are pretty common, and there are a hundred or more ways we could setup this database. That said, let’s just focus on those obvious to me.
So, options:

  • Microsoft Access with an app like View MS Access DB
  • Setup a web database, perhaps using Microsoft PowerApps
  • Microsoft Excel (online through Office 365) with an entry form (a hidden feature)
  • Google Sheets with a Google Form
  • Memento Database App on Android, or similar database app

My choice: Google, because they already own my life and I expect their compatibility, ease, and functionality is good and will only be improving with time.

Data Description:

Title: Personal Log

Which is, also, part of the soundtrack

Begun Stardate 95945.7, Stardate 71810.2, Stardate -268539.576 (Next Gen by linear reg), or Stardate 2018.126 (alternate reality) depending on series and fan-made estimate.

“The progression of stardates in your script should remain constant but don’t worry about whether or not there is a progression from other scripts. Stardates are a mathematical formula which varies depending on location in the galaxy, velocity of travel, and other factors, can vary widely from episode to episode.”

Right, so using stardates in my database, not a good option.

Columns/Information Recorded

THERE WILL BE NO HOURS OF ACTIVITY RECORDED! I hate surveys where questions ask, “How many hours of exercise” then “how many hours of each type of exercise” and so on: usually those answers are inaccurate, and take forever to enter.

  • Password (a short answer field that must be matched to move on)
  • Timestamp (auto)
  • Day of Record (day information applies to)
  • Who Am I? (A silly question meant to have silly answers, but will make my genuine answers more obvious, in case a friend sneaks on and enters information, and may help me identify the culprit. Use of the ‘other’ entries will track culture influences, eh?)
  • Primary Location
  • Overall and Current Mood Scale (1-5)
  • Activity Level (multiple-choice)
    • Activity Type checkboxes (cycling, elliptical, outdoor work, etc.)
  • Illness/Injury (yes/no flag)
    • Checkboxes for illness type
  • Healthy Diet (yes/no flag)
    • Dietary Notes Box
  • Sleep (3 levels: good (>8.5), mediocre (7 – 8.5), bad (<7)
  • Daily Notes and Observations (short paragraph for recording significant events, etc.)

Additional Information collected (non-mandatory)

  • Practice Guitar (yes/no)
  • Practice Language (checkbox of possible languages)
  • Ongoing Challenges (10 or so checkboxes, ie “poor sleep,” “relationship difficulties”)
  • New Book Started (short answer)
  • New Band, Cool Movie, etc. (short answer)
  • Hobbies (10 or so checkboxes ie “beekeeping,” “photography”)

Outstanding Worries:

There’s only one really, right now: security. Technically anyone searching the internet could find my form (I believe, still not 100% sure about sharing nature of google forms). They would need the password, but it’s not exactly bullet proof (just a short pin with a fairly obvious answer from the hint).
I’m curious to see how useful these questions will be, and how I will update them over time. Look for an initial analysis sometime next year!
Assuming, of course, that I actually use this tool.
Total Project Setup Time: 2.5 hours (mostly brainstorming information to record)

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