Tools for self-survey & journaling and prompts?

I’ve been wondering about open-ended approaches for structured journaling and self-survey, as well as how one prompts doing a journal/survey entry.

A draft approach

If I were to go about it, I imagine I’d try the following…

  • Create a form using Google Forms
    • Automatic timestamps
    • Various answer types: checkbox, radio, dropdown, and free text
    • Answers recorded in a spreadsheet (CSV export)
  • Prompt logging using an online SMS service
    • Schedule SMS text to prompt myself to record
    • Include a link to the shortened URL link for the form
    • I’m more attentive to phone notifications than email :sweat_smile:
    • I can fill the form in on my phone


Is this flawed? Might it be improved? Have people done this before, or something similar?

What are the downsides? It’s not randomly timed, and it’s not going to prompt me in response to some event. It’s also a bit cumbersome to log unprompted (but I can visit an old SMS link to fill the form in if I want to log at an unusual time).

For SMS scheduling, are there recommendations? (I found – it seems there’s a lot of services out there!) Are there alternatives to SMS scheduling? (Maybe “schedule custom phone notifications”? if I can imagine coding it, it must exist… :thinking:)

What other options & approaches are out there?

Related topics

I think this might be related to @zergsTracking OCD symptoms post (I can imagine implementing those worksheets as Google Forms) and @Francesblo’s Study of my spasticity (from myelitis) planning. As a method, it seems pretty generic.

I like the idea of sms, but if the timing isn’t right it could be annoying - very much depends on project. I also really struggle with keying on a phone - keyboard is much easier; I just keep the document up but minimized.

1 Like

For the project my undergrad students at CRI (tracking mood and relation to a number of other factors), they did end up a Google Form as well (see details in their report). We didn’t employ any specialized reminder technology.

Instead, in order to boost adherence to the daily reporting, we figured out that a good procedure was:

  • having the fresh google form link bookmarked and/or constantly open in a tab.
  • adding calendar entries for the times where the form should be filled. I personally had a daily 9pm reminder in my calendar, other participants used similar times in the evening (in our case the thing should be filled before going to sleep). Using the existing calendar means you’ll get notifications through all the channels you usually get reminded of what’s to do.

That might be a pretty simple approach and is far from ideal, but it’s a simple hack that for most people doesn’t require any addition of new tools.


In this thread I suggested als checking out the iOS app Reporter, which allows the user to set up detailed surveys using different types of tracking (tagging, categories, numerical, etc), along with reminders. The data can be exported as CSV or JSON, which is nice.

The only problems are that it’s only available for iOS and is that it’s really hard to collect data between individuals with it if you plan to do a group research. There’s no way to import survey items (or at least there wasn’t last time I checked). But if you’re just doing research by yourself it could be useful.

1 Like