Why You Should Keep a Work Journal
Journaling may conjure connotations of angsty teenagers pouring their emotional ups and downs out while locked in their bedrooms, but keeping a daily diary is actually a tool used by many of the world's most successful people.
From Oprah Winfrey to General George S. Patton and artist Andy Warhol, many high achievers use their journals to reveal areas of their careers in need of amplification or improvement. Should you join them?
Yes, suggests Madeline Stilley recently on Business Insider. In the post, Stilley shares her experiences with a journaling assignment she was given in graduate school. The professor asked the students to take a few minutes each day to reflect on the following questions in writing:
- What events stand out in my mind from the workday, and how did they affect my inner work life?
- What progress did I make today, and how did it affect my inner work life?
- What nourishes and catalysts supported me and my work today? How can I sustain them tomorrow?
- What one thing can I do to make progress on my important work tomorrow?
- What setbacks did I have today, and how did they affect my inner work life? What can I learn from them?
- What toxins and inhibitors affected me and my work today? How can I weaken or avoid them tomorrow?
The journal may have started as a class requirement, but Stilley reports it soon became a useful career tool that helps her identify problems, notice patterns, and brainstorm solutions.
"During the last five to ten minutes of every work day, I would begin to reflect, and without fail, a few key events would stand out that I wanted to iron out on paper," she writes. "This tool assisted me in pinpointing communication errors, enhancing relationships with colleagues, and learning to be a better listener. After the term ended, I found myself opening up the Word document every afternoon to reflect because I thoroughly enjoyed the activity. I found that it improved my awareness and decision-making."
She's not alone, according to Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, co-authors of The Progress Principle. On the HBR Blog Network, they have argued that professional journaling is an effective tool for self-reflection, helping professionals improve their focus, patience, planning, and personal growth. "We asked over 200 knowledge workers to send us a daily diary report every day throughout," they report.
"Keeping regular work diaries, which took no more than ten minutes a day, gave many of our research participants a new perspective on themselves as professionals and what they needed to improve," they conclude.
Would keeping a work journal be a good use of 10 minutes of your busy day?
JESSICA STILLMAN | Columnist
Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.