Here's Why You Should Keep A Work Journal

We’ve probably all fallen into this trap: we are so concerned with accomplishing the many tasks on our to-do lists that we forget to stop and look at the big picture. We forget to think about how we can go above and beyond, consider what we’ve accomplished, or even check in with how we’re feeling at work. As Kate White would say, we forget to drain the swamp. One of the best ways to make sure you’re regularly reflecting on your career? Keeping a work journal. There are a lot of benefits involved!

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, The Power of Small Wins, Teresa Amabile and Steven J. Kramer discuss the concept of what they’ve termed the “power principle.” The authors asked professionals to keep diaries at work and, after studying these diaries, they identified the power principle, which states:

“Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work. And the more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive in the long run.”

The authors wrote about how managers could effectively use work journals and the power principle to motivate employees, but I think that you can use their findings to motivate yourself by making sure that you’re regularly reflecting and celebrating your progress and small wins at work.

Keeping a daily journal on office life and career progress is imperative for keeping track of just that.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. Sitting down and staring at a blank page at the end of a long workday can seem like just another thing to cross off of your to-do list, unless you come prepared.

Instead, it may be helpful to write the answers to these five questions daily (or weekly, if you prefer):

  • What is one lesson (or lessons, if you have many!) that I learned today?
  • Did anyone compliment or comment my work today? What did they say? (Bonus: This makes it easier to remember your accomplishments when you want to ask for a raise or promotion!)
  • What is one big thing that I accomplished today?
  • Did I do anything above and beyond my basic job description today?
  • What is one way that I can go above and beyond tomorrow?

Even if you can only fit this in once a week, this exercise will help you reflect, focus, and consider the big picture of your career. 

Elana Lyn is a career advice and lifestyle blog with more than 50,000 views per month that covers everything from how to ask for a raise to the best workout classes to take in NYC. Almost 100 women from a wide range of industries have been interviewed in the Career Profile series. The blog has been featured in TIME, Fast Company, Business Insider, Mashable, Refinery 29, The Huffington Post, Brit + Co., Alley Watch, Ivanka Trump, and more.