Your journal: a private place for reflection and planning
How do I begin? The first step is committing to setting aside a bit of time on a regular basis to investing in yourself and your professional development (PD). We’re skilled at taking care of others’ needs and supporting their success; ask yourself if you deserve anything less, and then apply the same dedication to your own professional path. Journaling supports clarity of thought and perspective and, while this may set the stage for acknowledgement of sometimes harsh realities, it can also provide a structured approach to achieving our dreams and aspirations.
Will you make daily, weekly or monthly entries? Whatever your frequency, the key is to simply begin and present your thoughts to yourself; don’t spend time wordsmithing and refining. In treating my journal as a foundation for brainstorming, I find I’m better positioned for problem solving and self-paced learning, and we can all benefit from the enhanced confidence this provides. Another logical progression of journaling is that the more disciplined among us use such reflection to map out a series of short- and long-term action plans to be checked, assessed, adjusted and celebrated over time.
Develop your journal in whatever manner best suits your approach to reflection, planning and implementation. You may choose to put pen to paper, maintain an e-journal, or e-mail your reflections to yourself for filing in a separate PD e-folder. This doesn’t have to be time intensive; while daily journaling may be admirable, it may be more realistic to plan on making entries once weekly or monthly. You may ramp up frequency according to circumstance, or choose to create additional, separate entries for specific projects or events.
Do what works for you. Focus, not on the past, but on your current situation – and where you want to proceed with your career.
You may well find that such reflection reinforces what you already know but haven’t necessarily acknowledged, with the result that you can better articulate how to achieve what you need and want out of the day or week, and from your career.
A Journal Template for You
If you’re having difficulty beginning, or would like some thought starters, have a look at my Exceptional EA Journal template, which you’re welcome to adapt to your situation. In the attached template, I’ve identified different areas of focus and then some prompts for reflection and exploration.
In considering challenges or obstacles, for example, I explore solutions and also remind myself to check whether it’s my own avoidance of something – the need to take action, enhance a specific skill, or perhaps avoidance of a difficult person or discussion – that’s preventing me from meeting a given challenge or overcoming an obstacle. This reflects my approach, and I’m an EA who is experienced enough to have learned from mistakes and opportunities past, yet still hungry for growth and inspiration. See how these thought starters work for you, and add your own.
When and Where
Journaling at home, before or after the work day, offers dual advantages of privacy and distance, which for some can equate to better clarity and perception. If you have others who are dependent on your home time, the challenge will be to aim for consistency in carving out your “journal time”.
If you rely on public transit for your commute, and are consistently able to nab a seat, the ride to or from work may become your preferred journaling time.
You may choose to keep your journal in a secured spot at your office, as a tool you use before the start of the work day, or at a given point in the week or month. If you find yourself surrounded by others in the office who perceive your early arrival as an opportunity to catch up socially or for business matters, establish boundaries. Another option is to physically remove yourself from the office for a break, during lunch, or just before departing the office; use that breather for your reflective journaling.
Your journal is not a depository for details of your employer’s business, which could imply a breach of ethics and trust. Your journal is not a place for a rant or diatribe on people in your workplace. Your journal is, however, a place to constructively vent and explore issues.
The clarity and distance achieved through clear-eyed reflection can help us become more effective in dealing with difficult matters.
Review your past entries to check progress; journaling can help us to filter out the petty, focus on the substantive and think constructively about issues at hand. Check whether you’re doing all you can to establish and maintain credibility in your workplace, and the respect and goodwill of those around you.
Celebrate the positive, and identify how best to deal with challenges. Acknowledge tasks or issues you’ve been avoiding, or if it’s time to make a change. Are there any elephants in the room? Face them; there’s not enough space in anyone’s office or life to continually tiptoe around them. Then, when you’re with your loved ones, you’re able to truly leave the workplace where it belongs.
You may also be interested in …
Journaling As Career Development (exceptionalea.com)