Work Wellness Tip: Keep a Work Journal

Let’s debunk the myth that writing in journals is an exercise reserved only for teenagers to offload their angst. Journaling is an easy habit to pick up that can benefit individuals of any age group. Working adults whose job responsibilities seem to grow everyday leaving little room for self-reflection can benefit immensely from this activity.

Work has become our life, or at least a major chunk of it. We put in extra hours at the office, attend professional development workshops, and strive to achieve better positions at our places of employment.  

We also make a lot of mistakes at work. We encounter conflict with our colleagues, miss deadlines, and let stress get the best of us. Everyone knows that mistakes are the best learning opportunities, but we can’t learn from them if we turn away and ignore them as we do with our e-mail inbox.

Why should I keep a work journal?

Keeping a work journal can help us keep track of our achievements regardless of how big or small they are (you don’t notice how much you achieve in a day until you credit yourself for it). It gives us a safe space to release some frustration or stress. It can also help us with our thought processes as we work through our work-related problems before we go ahead and act on impulse. 

Journaling is serious stuff with evidence to support its impact on your health! Here are some findings from research on journaling:

  • “Writing about (…) stressful or emotional events has been found to result in improvements in both physical and psychological health” (Baikie & Wilheim, 2005)
  • Expressive writing may lower depression symptoms in depression-vulnerable individuals (Gortner, Rude, & Pennebaker, 2006)
  • Processing a negative event through journaling has been found to improve life satisfaction and mental and physical health, compared to just thinking through the event (Lyubomirsky, Sousa, & Dickerhoof, 2006).
  • Expressive writing may improve working memory (Klein & Boals, 2001).

How do I begin a work journal?

It might feel a bit awkward at first, but once you start it’s so easy to keep going. As a beginner, keep it short and simple to make it easier to stick with. Log a few highlights and lowlights from your workday and reflect on those.

Below are some prompts from Madeline Stilley’s (2013) article that I find helpful (feel free to write these down on page one for ongoing inspiration in your journal):

  • What events stand out in my mind from the work day and how did it affect my inner work life?
  • What progress did I make today and how did it affect my inner work life?
  • What nourishes and catalysts supported me and my work today? How can I sustain them tomorrow?
  • What one thing can I do to make progress on my important work tomorrow?
  • What setbacks did I have today, and how did they affect my inner work life? What can I learn from them?
  • What toxins and inhibitors impacted me and my work today? How can I weaken or avoid them tomorrow?
  • Did I affect my colleagues’ inner work lives positively today? How might I do so tomorrow?

Don’t forget to jot down any good advice you get from mentors or creative ideas that pop into your head during staff meetings!

Have you ever tried keeping a work journal? Tell us about how you’ve benefited from journaling!  

 

References
Baikie, K. A., & Wilheim, L. (2005). Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing. Advances in Phsychiatric Treatment, 11(5), 338-346. doi: 10.1192/apt.11.5.338

Gortner, E-M., Rude, S. S., & Pennebaker, J. W. (2006). Benefits of expressive writing in lowering rumination and depressive symptoms. Behavior Therapy, 37(3), 292-303. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.beth.2006.01.004

Klein, K., & Boals, A. (2001). Expressive writing can increase working memory capacity. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 130(3), 520-533. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.beth.2006.01.004

Lyubomirsky, S., Sousa, L., & Dickerhoof, R. (2006). The costs and benefits of writing, talking, and thinking about life’s triumphs and defeats. Journal of Personality and Social Phsychology, 90(4), 692-708. doi: http://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1037/0022-3514.90.4.692

Stilley, M. (2013). The benefits of keeping a work journal. https://www.levo.com/posts/maddy-stilley-keeping-work-journal

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