A man sitting at a desk writing in a diary

Unlock Your Potential with a Work Journal

Sometimes we can feel scattered and unproductive in our work lives. It's difficult to find a source of calm and control but that's exactly what you an achieve by keeping a work journal.

There are different flavours to writing a work diary. Some professionals keep a track of their achievements. Others use it to watch their workload by noting their outstanding tasks and projects. Work journals can also provide creative inspiration. For creative roles, it can help to keep notes of ideas throughout the days and weeks. Use the notes to synthesise new and improved ideas.

Professional journals can help keep you focussed on your goals. Looking for a promotion? Hoping to take on more responsibility? Trying to transition into a different part of the business? Setting goals to move your career in the direction you want is a good first step to achieving what you desire. Writing detailed notes and comparing them to your goals makes sure you stay on track.

It's hard to notice small wins on a day to day basis. Looking back a year, two years or even five years can open your eyes to the progress you've made and be the reward you need to continue.

Keeping a work journal can change your life.

How to start a work journal

There are many approaches to starting your work journal. Let's look at some of our favourites.

A man wearing a suit in a corporate office

Scorecard - Celebrate the daily wins

Using a work journal as your personal scorecard is a great way to get started. This technique is an easy one and definitely our favourite. Make a note of your daily wins and achievements.

This could be something simple like crossing off a long-standing task from your todo list. It could be as facile as emptying your email inbox. It could be reducing your distractions and getting into a flow state for an hour. It could be something significant like closing out a large project or finalising a sale to a major client.

If you're short on personal wins, you can also include team wins and achievements.

Our tech team likes to celebrate delivering new features to please our customers. Our marketing team likes to celebrate posting new content. Our customer support team celebrates helping a customer overcome a problem.

This is good for morale and fosters a great team culture. If you're in a managerial position, this could also be the growth of a team member. Anything that takes you from where you are to where you want to be is a victory.

What does this do for you? Focussing on positives improves your mental wellbeing. Collecting a list of wins will also make it easy to talk to your boss about your performance during your review. Looking for a raise or a promotion? Your professional diary contains all the ammunition you need to convince the higher-ups of the value you bring to the company. Summarise your best achievements and present them to your manager. You'll no doubt remind them of some of your major victories that they had forgotten all about.

How it works: at the end of every day, open up your work diary and write 1 to 3 sentences with the daily achievements. At the beginning of every day, check the previous day's wins. At the end of the week, review your week's achievements.

Time estimate: 5 minutes per day

Verdict: This is a nice and easy way to get started that will highlight the positives.

Emotion tracker - Don't let stress overcome you

Stress is a major factor for most people in the workplace. Pressure from colleagues, managers, clients, external stakeholders. You name it, everyone around you can stress you at times.

If you often find yourself stressed at the end of the day, this technique is for you.

Writing down your emotions is a great way to process them and not let them overcome you. You might have feelings of anger towards colleagues. It wouldn't be productive or professional to express them directly. Write them down. Acknowledge the anger and negativity you're feeling. Process those feelings and then reconsider the situation with a calmer perspective. Humans do not make good decisions when angry. Responding to criticism, for example, is best done after hours or even days.

It's not only anger that you can process this way. Stress also tends to dissipate with time. Stress is caused by feeling out of control of a situation. In your work life, this might literally be the case. A project is delayed because a contractor didn't finish the work on time. There were staffing issues in another department that had a knock-on effect on your task. Maybe your manager simply didn't give you enough time to complete your work.

In these cases, there's not much you can do to solve the problem. Take a step back and write down the details in your professional journal. It becomes clearer what you can and cannot do to avoid the stressful situation. If you've done everything you can, that might be enough to reduce the stress immediately. It can also help you realise what else you could do to improve the situation.

The client is complaining that the project is delayed. Has anybody from your team called them to explain the circumstances and justify the delay? Maybe not. Your manager is unhappy that the project is over-budget. Create a breakdown of the costs to show them how that happened and how you can avoid it next time.

The key takeaway here is: take a step back. Your work journal helps you to do that.

Let's not just focus on the negative though, there are positives too! Do you enjoy working with a colleague from another department? Write it down. Are you feeling energised by your new project? Write it down. Do you like the new program that your team is using? Write it down.

There might be a way to express these pinches of gratitude with your team, or there might not be. Regardless, making a note of the parts of the job that you enjoy can only help. It makes you realise what you enjoy doing and what you don't. Then you can focus on the best parts. If your workplace is not very flexible, that might be a sign that it's time to move on. The grass isn't always greener, but in this case, it might just be.

How it works: at the end of the day, take notes on how you feel. Positives and negatives. You can separate them, or keep them all together. Go into as much detail as you like about what caused those emotions. Review this weekly or monthly and take action. Maximise positive factors, minimise the negative.

Time estimate: 10 minutes per day + 10 minutes at the end of the week/month

Verdict: This takes a little more time, but it can do wonders for your mental health and relationship with your colleagues.

Goal journal - keep your eyes on the prize

Focussing on one or two large, long-term goals can be an effective approach. The previous techniques focus on small wins and small improvements. This approach focuses instead on long-term aims and pushes you towards them.

Long-term goals include getting a promotion, getting a raise or finishing a project. Maybe migrating to a new system, expanding your team or growing your responsibilities. For salespeople, it could be landing a large client, or achieving a certain close rate from the leads in your sales pipeline.

Whatever your goal is, you need to define it early. The best goals are measurable. Instead of "land a large contract", you could opt for "land a contract of €100,000 or more". For a marketing professional, instead of "increase conversions", it might be better to go with "increase conversions by 15%". The great thing about setting specific goals is that it might not actually be realistic to hit them. There might not be any €100,000 contracts for you to land, or a 15% increase in conversion rate might be impossible. But setting those goals and moving towards them will still have the desired effect.

Measure your progress. It might not make sense to do this on a daily basis. Measure your progess weekly. Compare with the previous weekly check-ins to see how far you've moved in the right direction. This can highlight areas for improvement. This can also give you a sense of how much longer it might take.

How it works: journal every week about your long-term goals. Write down what progress you've made. Consider how you've worked towards the goal since your last update. Review your entries to see how you can improve to reach your goal faster. Self-reflection is not always easy, so take your time and be honest when analysing yourself.

Time estimate: 20 minutes per week

Verdict: It's difficult to assess long-term skill development, making this technique challenging. Combine this with the daily win scorecard described above for better results. This technique can lead to great accomplishments when done well.

Freestyle it - go your own way

There's no right or wrong way to keep a professional journal. Whether you choose one of the techniques above, or you choose to do your own thing. The best advice we can give you is to get started.

Of the diarists (yes, that's the name for someone who keeps a diary!) we've spoken to, one of the biggest challenges they face is actually starting the process. Whether you keep a physical book to write your daily journal entry into, or use an online tool, just do it!

Everyone's journey of professional development is different. Find the way that makes it easy for you. Consistency is key. It can be hard to form a new habit, but doing so will boost your career progression.

A woman wearing a suit sitting at a desk and writing in a journal

How to use Forever Diary for your work journal

Choosing Forever Diary for a work journal has several benefits over a physical diary. First off, you don't have to carry it with you. Access on your computer or your mobile phone, it's easy and always ready for you. No need to worry about your pen running out of ink!

Safe and sound. Forever Diary encrypts your entries so that nobody has access except for you. No more prying eyes to protect your journal from!

Organise better with labels. Labels let you group and categorise your entries. Create labels for wins and losses; for good days and bad days; for projects you're working on. Make the most of the cool functionality that labels bring and organise your entries better.

Never forget to make your daily entry. Use the reminders feature to get an email every day to remind you to update your entry. Many approaches to professional journals demand daily activity. With reminders you'll never forget again.

Succinct summaries. With the highlight field, summarise your day's activities into one or two sentences.

Help us shape the future. We work closely with our users. Listening to and acting on feedback is what makes Forever Diary so unique. Help us to shape the future and get the features you want. All you have to do it get in touch.