This is a guest post by PR Columnist, Alison Kenney.
You’d think that in our over-sharing world with accommodation for more than 31 million bloggers (Source: Blogging.org, 2012) and hundreds of millions of social media status updates (my own estimate), keeping journals would be the norm. But I’m not sure it is yet. (Given the private nature, it’s hard to tell.)
In addition to being an outlet for your observations and frustrations, journals can be very useful tools for professional development, which is why media from Harvard Business Review to Inc. to Forbes have covered work journals recently.
In the HBR blog, author Teresa Amabile asked her graduate course students to keep a journal and one student continued the practice during throughout her career:
Teresa’s former student, Sarah Kauss, recently wrote that the journal she was required to keep in the MBA course Managing for Creativity led to a daily practice that she has found invaluable as she traveled a career path from consultant to entrepreneur. (Sarah’s company, S’well, makes and sells unique insulated drinking bottles.) At first, Sarah rebelled at the idea of keeping a journal:
At the time, as a busy MBA student, this seemed uncomfortable and time-consuming. I needed to be working and networking, not taking time to write about perceptions and feelings. Or so I thought. Professor Amabile’s assignment introduced me to an entirely new type of journaling that has helped me in both my personal and professional life.
Sarah highlights the first three benefits:
Journaling about work has given me the focus to identify my strengths and the activities that bring me the greatest joy. Surprisingly, the least glamorous tasks of my professional career to date have been some of my career highlights. I have gleaned many lessons about where I can be most engaged and therefore most successful in the workplace. Journaling has also given me patience and sharpened my ability to plan. Although it can seem that I’m making only baby steps of progress — and, yes, sometimes going sideways or even backwards before moving forward — my journal is an independent arbiter (and a silent cheerleader). There will always be more progress to make, but for me it is important to know that I am moving closer to my goals. I am always encouraged to look back and know how far I have come in a year’s time, and how major obstacles seem to become minor speed bumps in hindsight. This record gives me great patience and perspective when new challenges come my way. Even now as a very busy entrepreneur, I can’t imagine not taking a few moments at the end of each day to record in my journal the progress made and my hopes and plans for the next phases of success.
If that isn’t enough of an endorsement for starting a work journal, consider some other benefits. For instance, keeping a work journal can help you:
Develop new perspective – writing about an experience at work “keeps you honest” and taking the time to describe an event in writing often allows you to uncover other perspectives.
Identify problems – a work journal can serve as a log to help you spot issues that you may be too busy to notice otherwise.
Track progress toward goals – by referring back to written goals and comparing daily progress a journal will help you track your progress
Notice patterns – are your work disappointments the same each day? Do you rejoice in the same successes? These patterns may serve to point out strengths or weaknesses you weren’t aware of.
Jot down inspiration/ good ideas – journals are good repositories for ideas – be they notes, photos, quotes, or whatever jogs your mojo.
In addition, Forbes cites these six reasons for keeping a journal: log good ideas, learn lessons, list good advice from mentors, vent (in a safe space), collect compliments and envision the future.
In the PR world, work journals could serve as note keepers on work-related activities from managing a client’s expectations to jump-starting a new campaign.
In this Business Insider article, Madeline Stilley writes about the questions she asks herself at the end of each work day:
- What events stand out in my mind from the work day and how did it 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 impacted me and my work today? How can I weaken or avoid them tomorrow?
- Did I affect my colleagues’ inner work lives positively today? How might I do so tomorrow?
She also recommends asking yourself “what’s going well?”
In a presentation at the Solo PR Summit, Mary Ellen Miller and Amanda Littlejohn recommended a work diary as a way to keep track of peak events. They referenced the book, “Do more great work” by Michael Bungay Stanier and suggested that a work journal serve as a place to work out the exercises in Stanier’s book to help guide you through the process via brainstorming, reflection analysis of actual observations.
It might be obvious, but logging journal entries seems like a great activity when you’re looking for work. This Jobacle.com post shares some ways that journal entries go beyond spreadsheets for tracking contacts and statuses to help provide insight during a job search.
What do you think? Should you keep a work journal?
Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on LindsayOlson.com. You can find her at www.kprcommunications.com. Learn more about Alison Kenney.