timestamp: one good habit to have

4 Jun

Whenever I write in my journal or draw in my sketchbook, the first thing I would do is scribble a small timestamp. For the journal, it would be date/time/place while for the sketchbook, it would only include the date.¹

I would use my watch to get the time, but if I don’t have it on me, my iPhone or a nearby clock would do. Should it be the unfortunate scenario where I’m unable or too lazy to get the time, I would make a rough estimate based on the time elapsed since I had last checked the clock. As long I know it happened at a particular part of the day, like early in the afternoon or late at night.

The approach also applies to the date as well, but rarely would I guess the date and leave it at that. I can’t stand to have an entry off by a day or two. (When I went to visit my relatives in Korea, I wrote KR+17 next to the timestamp in my journal as not to be confused what timezone I was basing the date on. I guess my temporal home is the Pacific Standard Time.)


I can’t pinpoint any particular person or event that caused me to have this habit of creating a timestamp, but one theory I have is that it must had developed from writing my name and date on my countless school assignments. (And no, I don’t write my name down in my journal and sketchbook every time. I still remember how to spell mine.)

As for the time, I must have begun adding it when I needed to clarify the entries written 11pm and 1am (i.e. the next day). It’s more out of a personal preference.

Writing the place is a recent innovation. As I began writing in my journal outside of my house frequently, I thought it would be nice to include where I was whenever I wrote. A spatial point of reference if you will.


While writing the timestamp came out of habit, there are two reasons why I have enjoyed doing so.

First, it helps me to put the entry in a time-related context. So while I have the hindsight to see how ridiculous or profound I was, one quick look at the timestamp and I could determine at what part of my life I was at, like being in high school or college. Like skimming through a yearbook, flashes of the past would pop into my mind and I would remember some unmentioned events that happened or unwritten thoughts I had when I wrote the entry. Like listening to surround sound speakers and catching those subtle riffs and whispers.

Second, I get to enjoy traveling along the memory lane with the help of the nostalgia-powered mental teleporter. Strange and yet pleasant how a string of numbers can evoke a glimpse of the past.

It’s convenient that blog entries, tweets and other social media fodder have the timestamp automatic and down to the second, but writing a timestamp in my own handwriting feels more personal and satisfying. Like I’m a Time Lord.

While I have my share of bad habits like poor time management, which I hope to will correct soon, I’m proud of having this good habit that had stayed with me since elementary school.

¹The reason why I only include the date in my sketchbook is that I might add more sketches throughout the day and to have each one with a specific time would interrupt the visual flow. As for the place, it doesn’t seem important enough to include. Maybe it’ll start happening down the road when I start drawing people and places more often.


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