Many of us have heard about the various benefits that keeping a personal journal can have on our mental health and goal setting, but what about a career journal? A work journal is specifically dedicated to your current position, where you can jot down your goals, reflections, career aspirations and map out difficult situations to effectively problem solve. Whether you choose to keep a physical journal or you prefer to leverage technology and keep a digital journal, this habit is going to help you be more effective and more productive at work. For that reason, this article is going to cover everything you need to know about keeping a career journal, the benefits of this practice and some journal prompts to get you started. 

What is a career journal? 

A career journal or a work journal is a way to self-reflect, improve how you make decisions and enhance your problem-solving abilities. While in your personal journal you may write in a way that’s unstructured and based on whatever is on your mind, career journaling takes a more ordered approach. This means that your work journal answers specific questions and prompts that are geared towards your career experience and development, rather than on your personal life. Taking up journaling at work can help you be more thoughtful about what you’re working on and how you’re doing it on a daily basis.

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A well-run meeting can foster communication and collaboration by including an agenda the whole team can contribute to. Try using a tool like Fellow! 

Benefits of a career journal 

Here are some of the major benefits associated with career journaling: 

Helps you realize your career aspirations: 

Career journaling can help you realize your career aspirations, because if you are constantly writing down what you like, what your goals are and what you would like to gain experience in, it may highlight the direction in which you’d like to take your career. This can even help you with your future job search as you’ll have a more clear idea of what you want to work towards. 

Helps you acknowledge your wins: 

When you’re working in a fast-paced position, it’s often difficult to acknowledge all of your accomplishments, because you’re always moving on right away to your next responsibility. Writing can help you slow down enough to notice your wins, no matter how significant or small they may seem. 

Increases the likelihood that you will reach your goals: 

Your work journal can also increase the chances that you will reach your goals because it helps eliminate brain fog by staying on top of things. In constantly writing down your goals and tracking your progress, you remind yourself on a daily basis what needs to be done in order for you to hit your goals. In contrast, if you’re only going over your goals in performance reviews, you’re not often reminded of what it is that you need to be working on. 

Enhances self-reflection: 

Writing in your career journal enhances self-reflection because you’re thinking about how you feel about the work that you’re doing on a daily basis. Actively and intentionally engaging in self-reflection means that you’re going to be constantly striving towards being a better version of yourself in your job. 

Can help you through difficult situations: 

Career journaling can also help you work through more complex or difficult situations. In writing out different approaches that you can take in problem-solving, you enable yourself to uncover the most appropriate response or way forward to address any situation that comes your way, rather than reacting in the moment. 

How to create a career journal in 5 easy steps 

1 Decide the why 

Start by thinking about the reason you’re taking up a work journal. Is it to keep you organized? To track your goals? To keep you motivated to stay consistent? Choosing what kind of things you want to focus on in your career journal is important as it will set the tone for what you’re writing about, based on what you want to focus most on at work. If there isn’t one particular reason, that’s okay too- jot down a list and brainstorm the few reasons why you think it’s important for you to start journaling and what you want to get out of it. 

2 Choose a medium 

Next, you want to think about the medium you’re going to use to keep your work journal. With Fellow, you can use the Steams feature, which organizes your ideas in a way that is customizable to your liking. From personal to-do lists to team OKRs, Streams are digital notepads where action items and ideas come together to inspire your productivity. You can easily copy meeting notes, projects accomplished, action items into a personal or shared stream with your manager, fostering transparency and trust. You can use this to note times you showed your initiative, leadership skills, involvement in certain tasks, wins and obstacles that you were able to overcome. 

3 Set reminders to journal 

Make sure to set reminders to engage with your work journal. Like any other new habit, career journaling will take some time and practice before you remember to do it without a friendly reminder. Setting your reminders is a great way to think about the frequency at which you want to journal. Whether it’s once a week, at the end of each day, or every morning, make sure to choose a level of engagement that you can actually commit to, so that you feel good about this new productive habit. Pop it into your calendar so that you never miss a work journaling session. Even 5 minutes at the end of the day can be enough for quick notes, or a longer session to go into detail about your week. The beauty of journaling is that there are no right or wrong answers! 

4 Create a format 

You’re also going to want to think about what kind of format to use for your career journal. Brainstorm what kinds of sections or subheadings you would like to include, such as lessons learned, wins, obstacles, goals for the week, goals for the month and goals for the year. Using the same format is going to allow you to track your progress with the organization and identify areas you’d like to improve on. It will also highlight what you enjoy working on, what new competencies you want to gain and what career direction you’re interested in moving in. Creating a format will also help with those days where you’re not really sure what to write, as you’ll already have a template to simply fill in. 

5 Review your progress

Choose a frequency at which you want to review your progress. Whether this is bi-weekly, monthly, or quarterly, this is a way for you to measure what you’ve accomplished. Reviewing your progress really depends on what you were working on in the first place, which is why it’s important to think about the “why” behind your work journal from the get go. Whether your progress is learning a new skill or simply sharing your ideas more in meetings, it’s important to look at how far you’ve come because this will further motivate you and realign you on your next steps. 

Career journal questions and prompts 

Here are some questions and journal prompts that you can try as you begin to incorporate a work journal into your day. 

  1. How are you feeling today/ this week? 
  2. Rate your stress level on a scale from 1-10 and explain why.
  3. What did you most enjoy today/ this week at work? 
  4. What did you accomplish at work today/ this week?
  5. Was today/ this week successful at work? Why or why not?
  6. What is something new to you that you’d like to try? 
  7. Who might be able to help/ support you achieve that? 
  8. What is one area you could improve on at work tomorrow/ this week?
  9. Did you make any big decisions today/ this week? Document your thought process and how you think it went.
  10. Who is someone that went above and beyond today/ this week? 
  11. Who are you thankful for at work right now? Why?
  12. Who is someone (this can be anyone) you admire or aspire to be like? Why? 
  13. What do you think is preventing you from doing your best work? How will you overcome this tomorrow/ this week?
  14. What is one thing you’re doing to look after your mental health while at work? 
  15. How are you going to choose to spend your breaks at work today/ this week? Why?

Parting advice 

Career journaling is a great habit and practice to adopt. Not only does it help you with your productivity and efficiency at work but it also helps you be more self-aware. When you’re aware of your thoughts, feelings and actions, you can choose to learn and grow in the direction of your career aspirations. You’ll notice that you achieve your goals with more ease and engage in problem-solving more effectively. Moreover, it’s good for our mental health to engage in these kinds of practices so that we can check-in with ourselves and recognize how we’re feeling.