What do Leonardo da Vinci, Beethoven, Charles Darwin, and Marie Curie have in common? They all kept journals.
Throughout history, people have used journals to express their feelings, organize their thoughts, and reflect on life, the world, and whatever else happens to be on their minds. And, while most journals remain private, some have gone on to become renowned literary works, such as Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations.
Numerous studies have documented the benefits of journaling. But, when we think about journaling, we typically regard it as a personal activity that’s entirely separate from work. On the contrary, there’s a specific type of journal that can have a profoundly positive impact on your professional life and career: a work journal.
Keeping a work journal can provide clarity, structure, focus, motivation, and other work-related benefits. So, in this article, we’ll be exploring.
- What a work journal is
- The benefits of keeping a work journal
- How to create and maintain a work journal
- A free work journal template for you to use
Let’s get started!
What Is A Work Journal?
As alluded to above, a work journal differs from a personal journal in that it’s strictly focused on your professional life. In other words, as the name suggests, a work journal is all about your work. So, what exactly does that entail?
Like a personal journal, it's an open-ended space for you to document your thoughts, plans, actions, goals, etc. This can take the form of a classic notebook or a digital file of some sort (more on this below).
To guide the journaling process, it’s common to use question prompts and templates to structure your approach. And, on that note, here are two general categories into which you can divide your work journal entries:
- Forward-Looking – relating to plans, goals, inspiration, and motivation. These types of entries are best in the morning (so you can address the upcoming workday).
- Reflective – assessing past/present situations to gain insights, perspective, and identify areas you’d like to improve. These types of entries are best in the evening (with the most recent workday freshly behind you).
Now that we’ve established what a work journal entails, let’s discuss the benefits of keeping one…
The Benefits Of Keeping A Work Journal
In addition to the cognitive benefits of journaling — which include mindfulness, memory, comprehension, communication skills, self-discipline, and creativity — a work journal can directly impact your career in the following ways.
Clarity, focus, and perspective. Our busy work lives can feel like a constant balancing act, juggling meetings, memos, reports, deadlines, etc. And, while you probably have a weekly planner already, journaling can help you take a step back and see the bigger picture of it all — which, in turn, facilitates…
Organization and prioritization. Continuing on the above, when you gain clarity at work, chaotic schedules will become more straightforward to manage. You’ll have a better sense of how to prioritize your action items, increasing organization, efficiency, and productivity. Proactive planning to achieve your career goals. A work journal isn’t just a place to think about your current role and responsibilities; you should also be pondering your future and the overarching direction you’re heading. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, but a journal helps keep your long-term career ambitions in focus.
Mitigate stress and other negative emotions. There’s an inherently therapeutic aspect of writing down your thoughts — especially if you’re having a hard time with something. Using a journal to write about the unpleasant thoughts/feelings you’re having at work can help you cope with them.
Now that we've reviewed the benefits, let’s talk about how to keep a work journal!
How To Create And Maintain A Work Journal
To start a work journal, the first question you need to ask yourself is: “Do I want my journal to be digital or good ol’ fashioned pen-and-paper?” The question seems simple enough, but it’s actually a very important consideration.
To some, there’s a certain satisfaction that comes with writing on real paper (as opposed to typing on a computer). The tactile sensation of writing just feels better. Plus, it can be easier to sketch diagrams and simple images on the fly.
However, keeping a digital work journal on your computer allows you to access it more conveniently, add media (e.g. photos, videos, links), and enjoy the editing capabilities of a word processor. You can also use journaling apps for increased organization and additional features. At the end of the day, it’s just a matter of preference.
Next, you’ll want to select some thought-inducing prompt questions to include throughout the journal as a guidance mechanism. Here are some examples:
Forward-Looking Prompt Questions
- What’s the most important thing I need to get done today?
- How would I prioritize my to-do list this week?
- What would a great day at work look like today?
- What potential challenges should I be prepared for this week/month?
- What’s my 30-60-90 day plan?
- What are my 1, 3, and 5-year career goals?
Reflective Prompt Question
- What did I accomplish at work today/this week?
- What areas have I been strong in at work lately?
- What’s an area I’ve been struggling with at work lately?
- What are some ways I could improve at work?
- How have I been feeling at work lately and why?
- What’s something I’m grateful for at work?
Incorporating questions like these into your work journal will provide a consistent framework to help you channel your thoughts in a productive way.
Work Journal Template
If you’d like a quick-and-easy template to structure your journal entries, I’ve got you covered! Here’s a link to a simple work journal template on Google Drive.
After you click through the link, just hit File > Make A Copy > Organize to add it to your own Google Drive!
More Career-Boosting Tips
A work journal can be a highly valuable tool for improving both your performance and satisfaction at work. And, while we’re on the subject, there’s plenty more to be said on the matter! For more tips to help you succeed at work, check out the following resources:
- How To Stay Motivated At Work And Improve Productivity
- How To Be Productive When You’re Bored At Work
- How The Pomodoro Technique Will Improve Your Time Management
- How To Get A Promotion At Work
And, finally, to learn my unconventional strategy for landing great jobs without applying online, check out my ultimate guides on Value Validation Projects and How To Get A Job Anywhere Without Applying Online!