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3 Journaling Habits to Help Your Career

A woman writing in a journal.

If you’re aspiring to start a journaling practice, there are myriad benefits to what can be a quick 5-15 minute activity. In addition to waking up your more creative side, keeping a journal to track your professional goals may also help you to increase personal and professional accountability, focus, and goal awareness.

Try one of these easy-to-pick-up journaling habits to keep a written record of your goals as well as your progress, and be sure to check in on both throughout the year.

Write (at least) one sentence a day

While the prospect of a blank page can be daunting, there's a low-pressure and time-saving solution that you can try: a one-sentence-a-day journal.

If you’re wondering what you can achieve with just one sentence a day, you may be surprised.

Setting a limit of one sentence a day may actually serve as an effective way to challenge yourself to boil something down—a moment, a thought, a memory, a win, an obstacle—to its essence. Single-sentence journaling can also offer a powerful vehicle for remembering something joyful or understanding why you reacted or felt a certain way about a particular part of your day.

And don’t forget, the only rule here is that you should put your thought into a single sentence—and even that rule is flexible! The sentence can be about anything you want. Sentence-journal about getting a promotion, reaching a project deadline ahead of time, a tough conversation with your supervisor, something you’d like to learn, or maybe how you felt after you realized you sent a job application with typos.

If you find that you have more to say than one sentence allows, let yourself write! And if, on the other hand, one sentence is all you can muster, that’s okay. The important part is that you’ve written it down. You may end up returning to your entry later in the day with a different perspective or insight that you’d like to document, which may in turn change your behavior the next time around.

Take 15 minutes to be grateful

Something that you may not do on a regular basis—but could benefit from—is taking 15 minutes to write down five things you are grateful for.

It may be a simple act, but there is plenty of room to be as detailed as you’d like. The Greater Good Science Center at the University of Berkeley offers a few tips to guide you in your gratitude journaling practice:

  • Write regularly, whether that means on a daily basis or once a week. Just be sure to be consistent in your practice.
  • Treat positive elements in your life as gifts to treasure. This can help to ensure you appreciate what you have and don’t take things for granted.
  • Being specific about what you’re grateful for can help nurture and deepen a gratitude practice.

Evidence from one gratitude research study from psychologists at the University of California, Davis and the University of Miami show that those who spent ten weeks documenting gratitude felt more optimistic and more positive about their lives than those who wrote about annoyances or simply logged daily events. Other studies from leading researchers support that when we take the time to reflect on what we’re grateful for, we may lower stress levels, increase self-awareness, and feel happier and more focused. And of course, all of this is beneficial to charting a successful path for attaining our professional goals.

Use bullet points

When it comes to the details of how you plan to get through your day and achieve your goals, staying organized can be a real game changer.

While there are many apps out there to digitize calendar, time, and project management, you could opt for an all-in-one, hand-written approach to recording tasks and accomplishments with a bullet journal.

Here’s the basic premise:

  • Grab any blank journal.
  • Set up three types of logs—monthly, daily, and future—and track and check off daily tasks, events, and notes with brief bulleted sentences.
  • At the end of each month, assess which incomplete items are still important and move them to the next or future month.

It may sound complicated, but bullet journaling is a very flexible system of tracking long-term, short-term, and daily goals. If you’re a list-maker, this method will be right up your ally.

While there are general guidelines, you have the freedom to take the format in any direction (layout, color, notations, etc.) that suits your personal style and preference. Make it fun for yourself and forego the parts that aren’t as enjoyable.

Pro Tip: Since this journaling habit encourages you to check off bullet points every day, use it as a tool to track successes on the job. You could even create a specific Work Accomplishments Log to catalog and reference these wins when you’re ready to make the case for a raise or that next professional transition.

Whether it’s one sentence a day, a weekly list of five items you’re grateful for, a daily bullet list, or a more traditional journal, writing down your goals can keep you motivated and grateful for your successes and help you remember lessons learned once you’ve accomplished what you set out to do.

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About the Author | Yoona Wagener is a freelance writer and WordPress developer who believes in the value of nonlinear career paths. She has experience in academic publishing, teaching English abroad, serving up customer support to software end users, writing online help documentation, and mission-driven nonprofit marketing and communications.

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