4 Benefits From Journaling Your Work Life

For the past two years, I’ve kept a daily journal of my work life. The purpose was to see if capturing stories and related statistics could help me be more productive and effective at work. It has done that and a lot more.

Let me say first that in journaling, the medium matters. Paper diaries have been used for centuries and some, such as The Diary of Samuel Pepys or Jim Carroll’s The Basketball Diaries, have become works of literature in their own right.

Handwritten paper journals, though, are better as places to unload thoughts than as tools for reflection. They can’t be readily searched, except by date, and can’t be analyzed in any meaningful way, such as to answer the question, “How many times did I write about travel in the past year?”

I use an online journal, which allows me to search and sort every entry, and in addition to track and trend the emotions and thoughts that accompany the journal entries. It’s been a revelation to me. Here are some concrete benefits I’ve found that journaling can offer you:

1. Marking progress – Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, in their book The Progress Principle, assert that continual, daily progress is the most important attribute in what they call a fulfilled “inner work life.” Often we think we a are spinning our wheels, when we may in fact be accomplishing many things, but simply losing track of them. Daily journaling provides the data to show you that significant progress accrues from many small steps.

2. Understanding strengths and “likes” – one (best-selling) body of thought encourages us to find our strengths. Others tell us to follow our passion. Recording and marking your daily activities based on whether they were successful and how much you like them can give you the data you need to paint an accurate picture of your strengths and identify the tasks that arouse your passions.

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3. Finding and fixing weaknesses – making a mistake does not have to be a career-defining event, but making the same mistake over and over is a recipe for trouble. Your journal can help you find patterns in mistake-making that you can fix before that happens.

4. Showing gratitude – Some studies have shown that feeling and expressing gratitude canimprove personal satisfaction with life. A daily journal is a handy place to record these important moments of gratefulness.

Google’s Chade-Meng Tan, author of Search Inside Yourself, wrote “The type of deep self-knowledge and blatant self-honesty needed for sustainable self-confidence means having nothing to hide from oneself. It comes from accurate self-assessment. If we can assess ourselves accurately, we can clearly and objectively see our greatest strengths and our biggest weaknesses…. We learn about our deepest priorities in life, what is important to us, and what is not important that we can let go.”