Who do you picture when you imagine someone writing in a journal? A 15-year-old with a lock on her diary? An artist with a calligraphy pen? Or did you imagine yourself, scribbling away at your work desk? If the third image hit the mark, you’re already a step closer to building a rewarding professional habit – keeping a work journal.

Besides the many benefits of writing itself (from kick-starting creativity to improving self-esteem), Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, co-authors of TheProgress Principle, suggest that work diaries can improve focus, patience, planning skills, and personal growth. While studying the journals of over 200 knowledge-workers, they realized that crucial productivity benefits came from self-reflection and acknowledging everyday wins in the work diary.

So, how do you get started with journaling? There is no right or wrong way to go about it. You can look to journal-writers like Oprah Winfrey, Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, and Thomas Edison for inspiration, along with these simple tips:

  • Decide between paper and digital, and stick to it. Switching between the two can make a mess of your fledgling journaling efforts. If you like paper, choose a notebook that you’d actually write in. If you’re going digital, use a word processor or choose from the many journaling apps and platforms online.
  • Take out 15 minutes at the end of your work day. Find a quiet time and place for journaling so that you can keep interruptions minimum. That means no impromptu meetings, errands, emails, phone, or WiFi.
  • Use writing prompts, or not. If you find a blank page intimidating, stick a note on your page with some writing prompts. Basic prompts could include the good things that happened at work over the day, the not-so-wonderful things, what you want to tackle over the next day, and ideas to save for later. If you find a blank page liberating, start with the first thing that comes to your mind and let it flow from there. 
  • Be honest. It’s just you in there, so don’t worry about sounding good, correct, or even polite. Express your feelings and reflect on incidents that affect you. This will help you leave your turmoil, disappointments, and emotions behind on the pages, and face the next day without any baggage.
  • Resolve conflict. Your journal is a great space to tackle workplace disagreements and dilemmas. As you write it down, you’ll find yourself de-stressing and even coming up with ideas to fix things.
  • Review regularly. Looking at older entries with a fresh pair of eyes can bring insights that you would have missed the first time around. It also helps you spot patterns that you may want to leverage or manage.

As journaling becomes a daily practice, you’ll find it easier to recognize daily wins, brace for speed bumps, acknowledge peer contributions, and maintain perspective. That’s worth spending 15 minutes a day on, right?

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