Career Journals- Unlocking Focus, Clarity, and Precision in Your Career

What do General George S. Patton, Ernest Hemingway, Anais Nin, Oprah Winfrey, and Benjamin Franklink have in common?  They were avid diarists.

Recent research has led credence to this practice.  James Pennebaker found journaling helped his trauma clients achieve better immune function and resiliency, adjust to college life, or find a job more quickly.  Harvard researchers Teresa Amabile and Steve Kramer found that their students yielded personal growth.  Indeed, Amabile encourages students to record six “small wins” (accomplishments or victories) at the conclusion of your work day to track your progress and make more effective decisions.

Additional benefits of work journals include:

  1. Focus for resolutions and goals.
  2. Patience and appreciation for the process of setting goals
  3. Planning- Learning to appreciate your planning, thought process, and discovering your methods for tackling projects and problems
  4. Personal Growth- Keep a record of your daily work habits, work out put, and establish reminders for important tasks *
  5. Reflexive Practice– Learning to pay attention to your actions to cultivate more efficiency and more insight into your actions

As a career counselor, I keep three different styles of career journals to enhance my performance and give me clarity about my career decisions.  Each style highlights different professional goals, including reflexive practice, productivity, and making a career change. I encourage clients to commit to the practice for at least 10 minutes for 30 days, and we have astounding results.

I encourage everyone to participate in my “March Madness” career journal challenge. I will post more information on each journal style Friday, February 28th.  Select a journal style and write for 10-15 minutes each work day for the month of March. We’ll report our findings at the end of the month.

The Reflexive Practice Journal

While my clients may have grandiose plans and ambitions for their working lives, they are less likely to accomplish their goals if they don’t write them down and commit to learning from their mistakes.  The reflexive practice journal is designed to help clients track their setbacks, small wins, and room for growth.

The Reflexive Practice Journal includes questions that address the following:

Strengths: How are you using your strengths during your workday?

Planning:  How many hours in your work day? What have you/can you get done in a work day?

Accomplishments:  What are you accomplishing during your work day? What were your small victories? * Record the small wins you have every day.

Inspiration:  What items, ideas, or people inspired me today?

Setbacks:  What setbacks did I have today?  How will I approach these setbacks? Do I need extra help or resources?

Work Environment:  What are the positive elements in my work environment (people, resources, technology, tasks, etc.)?  What are the negative elements in my work environment?  What can I do about the negative things in my work environment?


Journaling for Habits:  The Yes or No Journal

This journal style track your daily tasks, learn where you need to delegate, and discover your work input.

Step 1:  Track daily tasks.  Include scheduling, emails, meetings, and phone calls.

*Consider using Toggl or RescueTime to track your time if you want to improve your efficiency.

Step 2: Say “no” (or consider saying no) to at least one task a day.  Why? You need to track what tasks are distracting you from getting your work done.

About those “Nos”

  • Are you spending a lot of time doing menial tasks that could be delegated to someone else?
  • Are the activities/tasks you perform contributing to your growth as an employee?
  • Are you spending too much time fixing another employee’s mistakes? 

Step 4: Use this journal in your evaluations. Determine whether or not your skills are being used effectively or whether or not other employees may need more training, counselling, etc.


Career Transitions Journal

This journal style is geared toward helping clients discover whether or not a career or job change would be an effective choice for them.

  1. What do you enjoy about your current job (tasks, prestige, working hours, coworkers)? 

2.    What don’t you like about your current job?

3.    Why do you want to change careers?

4.    What personal transitions necessitate a career change (having a child, taking care of an aging parent, putting kids through college)? 

5.   What impact would making a career change have on my life? My family?  My significant other?

6.   Do I have the time and perseverance to invest in the education or certification needed for a new career?

Learn more about career journals from my interview with Paul Guggenheimer from NPR Essential Pittsburgh.



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