Work Journals IRL: One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Work Journals IRL: One Size Doesn't Fit All

A few weeks ago, as I was perusing the internet in order to procrastinate work, I found myself combing through Career Contessa. I love the site, so naturally I decided to read 30 articles—one of which was “The Benefits of Keeping a Work Journal.” I’m a journal fiend, so I thought hellz ya. I’m absolutely going to start a work journal. That very night I grabbed an empty notebook I received for Easter and jotted down the questions recommended on Career Contessa:

  • What is one lesson (or lessons) I learned today?
  • Did anyone compliment or comment on my work today? What did they say?
  • What is one big thing I accomplished today?
  • Did I do anything above and beyond my basic job description today?
  • What is one way I can go above and beyond tomorrow?

For two weeks, I dedicated five or 10 minutes at the end of every work day to reflecting on my day and answering those five questions. As I went through it though, I realized I wasn’t receiving as much as I wanted to from the process. Maybe I have high expectations since I love to journal, but I didn’t feel answering those specific questions were helping me become more mindful in my career.

There’s nothing wrong with these questions, and I think for some people they’re great. For me, however, they don’t allow me to fully reflect on my day’s work. Maybe it’s because I’m in a creative field and the work I do is very time consuming, or maybe it’s just my personality. Either way, answering these questions alone actually left me feeling more disheartened than they did aware and a little bit limited in what I could place emphasis on.

I particularly had issues with questions two and four. On the days when no one told me how fantastic of a writer I was, I felt like I was failing. But the reality is that co-workers and bosses aren’t always going to compliment you. They have their own work to worry about.

With question four, I rarely could write that I went above and beyond with my job. I like to think this is because I place such high standards for myself that I expect above and beyond as my normal, but it probably has more to do with the time consuming aspect of being a writer. It’s hard to define what it means to go above and beyond as a writer when I already expect some kind of magical prose to spill out of my fingers. Quality and quantity are difficult to balance in this line of work.

The fact remains that some days it takes everything in me to get through one piece or article, and that doesn’t make me feel like I went above and beyond; it makes me feel like I’m fighting to keep my head above water. Question four didn’t give me the structure to consider all of the finicky aspects of writing.

Anyway, this work journal wasn’t working for me. Since I’m not a quitter, I decided to make up my own questions I felt would help me personally.

My New Work Journal Questions:

  • Am I proud of what I did today?
  • Did my work contribute to the team?
  • Did I meet my deadlines?
  • Was I flexible?
  • Did I abide by my career manifesto?
  • What happy/exciting things happened?
  • Did I set myself up for success tomorrow?

After answering these somewhat diligently (I admit I forgot a few days and had to make them up in the a.m.) for a week, I’ve decided these fit my work needs better. At the same time, though, I was a bit dissatisfied by what I could write down simply because answering specific questions doesn’t fully allow personal reflection of the entire day. For instance, I didn’t feel like I adequately set myself up for success the next day all week long. Instead, I felt like I was lucky just to get certain large tasks done, but it was just one of those hellacious weeks.

Overall, I like how journaling at the end of the work day has made me more aware of certain things. I tend to reflect on and over-analyze everything in my personal life, but not so much in my professional life, which is something I need to work on in order to grow as a writer.

I’ll continue to use these questions as a guide, but I’m not going to limit myself to them. Instead, I want to adopt more of a free writing approach so I can truly think about the major things that happened and get to the bottom of any problem or struggle I have. I’m a writer, so this need to say a lot really isn’t shocking. I might need to assign a time limit though.

Follow Terra on Instagram: @terrabrown3

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