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You Need A Job Journal. Here’s Why.

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*Cue your classic “In my day…” voice here*

Unlike the teens of today, I didn’t post my many angst-filled thoughts and passive aggressive song lyrics on social media for all to see (and likely, not really care about). I spent hours after school on LiveJournal – an online blogging website where I could document the important issues of adolescence, like tough shifts at Subway or the woes of my mother being my band director.

I thought a diary was something uniquely for teenagers – that once you were an adult, your entire life would come together and eliminate the need to write about your thoughts and feelings. Ironically, the answer to every adult problem I’ve encountered seems to be journaling. Want to lose weight? Log your food and exercise. Can’t sleep at night? Keep a sleep journal to see what sort of activities are contributing to the problem. Want to live a more fulfilled life? Document everything you’re thankful for in a daily gratitude journal.

This got me wondering, “Why don’t I ever hear about work journals as a solution to better job performance?”

I know, I know… adding another to-do to your daily list can seem unbearable. However, journaling comes with many benefits that can help you take your career to the next level. For starters, it helps you identify patterns and habits you may not have otherwise known existed. My husband used to have a great quote by Will Durant hanging in his office that read, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” You can’t truly understand those habits if you aren’t actively tracking them.

Journaling also uncovers your stress triggers and other negative emotions. For example, I realized one of my biggest triggers is the feeling of being pulled in a million directions by different people clamoring for my attention. My longtime solution has been to give into everyone else’s needs while subsequently ignoring my own. Through journaling, I discovered this particular problem and found fixes that work for me, like checking email at set times, turning off certain text / social media notifications, and setting clearer boundaries and expectations with myself and the people in my life.

Lastly, studies have shown writing down your goals significantly improves the odds of reaching them. So at the minimum, a workplace journal is a great method of keeping your career ambitions consistently in front of you.

Don’t think you can squeeze in the time? Here’s how you can keep an insightful job journal in just 20 minutes / day: 

STEP 1: Divide your journal into 4 categories: Time Tracking, Career Goals, Let It Out, and Successes and Lessons

STEP 2: Write your banner career goals for the year in the Career Goals section so you’re looking at them each day and always able to recite them off the top of your head.

STEP 2: Each hour of the work day, write what you did under the Time Tracking section. This isn’t limited to what you accomplished – include everything you actually did. That’s right, go ahead and include “ranted to my co-worker,” “cried in the bathroom,” and “procrastinated on social media.” You need to know both the good and  the bad habits, right? Use an online time tracking app like Toggl to make this step even easier.

STEP 3: As feelings pop up, write them down in the Let It Out column. A great prompt to follow is “When EVENT happened, I felt FEELINGS because REASONS.” Example: “When Barbara called me out in the management meeting, I felt hurt and disappointed because I thought I could trust her to be honest with me instead of going behind my back with her problems.” This section will help you identify stress triggers and work frustrations, allowing you to work more proactively and purposefully.

NOTE: Be smart with this section by not writing down anything you wouldn’t want someone else to discover. Unless you’re great about taking your journal home with you every night or locking it up, that possibility always exists. It’s fine to write things down when you’re feeling stressed, upset, betrayed, overwhelmed, etc., just make sure you don’t have anything in writing that could jeopardize your job.

STEP 4: Write down what you learned at the end of each day in the Successes and Lessons section. Prompts include things like “What went well today?” “What could have gone better today?” “What’s today’s key takeaway?” or “How did today make me a better employee?”

STEP 5: At the end of the week, take 30 minutes to review the week. Think of it as a bigger picture Step 4. What did this week teach you about yourself and your work habits? And how can you make the next week even better?

Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, habits don’t change overnight. But incorporating a job journal into your daily work routine is a small step that, compounded, will lead to big results.

Do you keep a journal at work? Tell us your best practices by commenting below!