You might be keeping a personal journal that chronicles your daily life and helps you remember what you’ve done and where you’ve been -but did you know that keeping one for work can also benefit your career? Keeping a work journal can help you sort out problems at work and nail down areas in which you’re having a lot of success. In some ways, then, a work journal is like a mentor who helps you see the bad and good and thus helps you work toward a better version of your work self.
1. Create some structure
Instead of starting with a blank page and filling it in after a busy day at work, create a template that includes some key questions or areas to cover. That can include any lessons you learned that day, compliments or comments you got on your work, something you accomplished that day, and what you can do the next day to accomplish even more. You can also include a "visions" or "inspiration" section, in which you jot down ideas you have for your future, or paste in photos or quotes that inspire you. And of course, you may want a section in which you vent about frustrations on the job.
Use any journal you like, or create a document that lists all sections, and then print out multiple copies of that page and place them into a three-ring binder. Naturally, you’ll want to write the date on the top of the page you’re working on for that day.
2. Have it travel with you
Bringing the journal back and forth with you from home to the office has a couple of benefits. First, it means you won’t feel pressured to write in it when you’re in the middle of a busy workday -but you’ll still be able to jot down ideas as they come to you. Second, it cuts down on the possibility that other people in the office might get a hold of your precious journal. You don’t write cover letters or resumes and save them on your work computer, so why would you leave a notebook filled with your personal reflections in the office? Make a habit of storing it in your briefcase or work bag, so it’s there for you when you need it.
3. Set goals for regular entries
If you commute home via public transportation, you have the perfect setup for writing in your journal regularly: Do it while you’re on your way home. If you drive or you don’t have that built-in reflection time, find another time in which you can enter in some information on a regular basis. Maybe it’s while you’re waiting for dinner to finish cooking, for example, or just before bed. Don’t sweat it if you’re not able to write in the journal every single work day, but do try to make it a regular habit.
4. Take stock every six months or so
Since the purpose of the journal is to use it to get better at your job and to understand your strengths and weaknesses, you’ll need to actually use it to that purpose from time to time. Every three to six months, make a point of looking back at your entries. Take note of patterns in the entries. Maybe you find you’re continually hearing negative comments about your performance from a particular co-worker. Is there something you can do to change that dynamic, or to improve your performance?
Perhaps you find, to your surprise, that nearly every day is a bad one, which could tell you that it’s time to start looking for a new job. And speaking of finding a new job, your journal is the perfect resource for finding out information about yourself that you could share during a job interview. After all, all of your strengths and weaknesses will be clearly laid out on those pages.
If you’re still having trouble sticking to the program and entering information into your work journal, try setting an alert on your phone or writing it down on your calendar. With a little effort, you’ll soon have a very valuable record of your work life.