Technical blog from Craig Russell.


This post details how to use Apple Shortcuts to build a lightweight journal to log events, which are timestamped and saved to Apple Notes.

Apple Shortcuts

Apple Shortcuts provide a way to automate and extend the functionality of apps on Apple devices. It’s like programming, except you don’t need a compiler, an app store or to deploy a website. It’s powerful, incredibly useful and a great tool to have in your toolbox. 🛠️🧰

We can leverage an Apple Shortcut script which prompts the user for some details when it runs, and saves those details in a timestamped note in Apple Notes.

Lightweight Journal

I wanted to have a way to quickly log when events happen, that would automatically be grouped by date.

animation showing logging two life events for the current day

What do I journal?

I use this same system for a few things:

Creating Events Quickly

I’ve streamlined the process as much as I can for creating an event. It takes only two inputs and can be completed within a few seconds:

How Events are Saved

Events are saved in Apple Notes, in a folder called Journal. As they are saved in Apple Notes, it makes them accessible and searchable across all of my devices.

I wanted to group events by date, so a new note is created for each day which had an event recorded. If there are multiple events for a day they will be appended to the same file.

Apples Notes list view, showing journal entries where each entry is in ISO-8601 date format

Apples Notes note view for 6th January, showing multiple events separated by a dotted line break

Apple Shortcuts

screenshot of Apple Shortcut for logging a life event

The shortcut itself is a set of script events which ask the user for text describing what happened, then ask the user for the date the event happened. With these two inputs, it will then check if a note already exists for that day.

For a link to the full shortcut, see “How You Can Use This” below

How you can use this, too

  1. Open Apple Notes, and create a folder for your journal. Let’s assume you call it “Journal”
  2. Download Journal.shortcut (on an iOS or MacOS device). Open downloaded file, and import into Apple Shortcuts
  3. Launch Apple Shortcuts, and open the new Journal shortcut. You need to choose the Folder for your journal in 2 places. (You need to do this even if you are already using the name “Journal”)

If importing on MacOS

Annotated MacOS screenshot of editing the new Apple Shortcut to choose destination folder in two places

If importing on iOS

Annotated iOS screenshot of editing the new Apple Shortcut to choose destination folder in two places

Lightweight journaling built on Apple Shortcuts and Apple Notes

If you’ve done it all correctly, whenever you run that shortcut you’ll be prompted for the event details, followed by the date. The created note will then be shown which is handy for adding further details, pasting in images etc…

💡 You can add the shortcut to your Home Screen for one-click triggering.

Go forth and journal ✍️