5 Ways that Journaling Can Make You Happier at Work

Powerful leaders from John Adams to Andy Warhol and Oprah Winfrey have taught us an important truth: devoting time to journaling fosters values of focus, patience, self-discipline and personal growth. Although it might seem to be an insignificant habit, writing down our thoughts and experiences can help us plan for the future and generate the need for more introspection and self-reflection. Sometimes it’s the simplest changes that can make the biggest difference to our levels of happiness.  Here are 5 great ways that journaling can make you happier at work.

Use your notebook to list attainable goals at the start of each day

Research has shown that failing to meet goals and expectations can negatively impact your motivation and desire to succeed in the future.  Oftentimes, we set ourselves lofty goals to try to self-motivate, but when we inevitably fail it has the opposite effect.  At the beginning of each day, write in your notebook a list of four or five attainable things that you want to accomplish that day.  This will give you clarity of purpose and a physical reminder of what you must get done before the day is out.  When you’ve finished, your notebook will act as a statement of accomplishment for everything you’ve achieved that day, sending you home in a cheerful mood.

Keep a record of ideas that come up throughout the day

It’s not unusual to get a stroke of genius or find the big solution to a problem while working on something entirely different. Keeping a journal can help you keep track of ideas that surface during the day, most often at a time when you are preoccupied with other work tasks. Writing down these ideas throughout the day will allow you to get back to them later. You’ll find that jotting down ideas will inspire further creativity that will leave you filling up that journal in no time. 

Write down advice from colleagues and mentors

A journal is the perfect place to write down insights that are shared by friends and colleagues at work. People in your career can usually relate to the situations that you are experiencing and are often able to provide relevant and meaningful advice. Don’t let these pieces of wisdom go to waste – take a few moments to write them down and preserve them for the long-term. This method also provides an opportunity for you to value the importance of listening to good advice and appreciating the input that those around you have in your daily life.

My journal, my planner

Most people have a journal and some sort of calendar – be it on the computer, a desktop calendar or reminders set on the phone – that serves as a planner for daily meetings, activities and other important dates and tasks. By creating a journal that doubles up as a planner, the danger of forgetting all your important planning information at work on your desk is eliminated. Although it might seem difficult to incorporate a daily or monthly planner into a journal, it can be both organized and practical. Leave a few pages blank at the beginning or end of the book and dedicate these to important dates and calendars. Print out a monthly calendar or draw one in and feel free to make checklists and note important dates throughout the journal. Keep track of these by using sticky notes or index ties. This post has some great tips for turning your journal into a planner.

Make a physical list of positive things you’ve accomplished that day

Once our jobs become routine, every day starts to blend into the next.  We come to work, do what we must, and leave.  We don’t give ourselves time to reflect on the positive aspects of what we’ve achieved or experienced, and instead find ourselves with a negative opinion of our working lives.  One way to solve this problem is to take a couple of minutes at the end of each day and use your notebook to detail the positive things that have happened or that you’ve achieved.  This will allow a positive attitude to gestate in your mind, making you happier.

About Marcus Clarke

Marcus regularly blogs at psysci, a psychology, science blog that examines the latest research and explains how findings can impact and improve people’s lives.
  • Takeshi Enomoto

    Thank you for an inspiring article. I translated this into Japanese. I would like to ask your permission to share the translation in my blog.

  • Tori Wufsus

    This article was so helpful. No matter what your job is, you can always set goals if you want to improve. Similar to Takeshi’s question, may I have permission to share this article on my work’s website?

  • Honore

    I especially like the idea of listing accomplishments at the end of the day! Too often we focus on the undones…thanks for this different perspective! Great article!

    • Most people have a journal and some sort of calendar – be it on the computer, a desktop calendar or reminders set on the phone – that serves as a planner for daily meetings, activities and other important dates and tasks.

  • Isabel Barrera

    I use my bullet journal at work and personal life, and it has helped me a lot. Still, there are periods of time where it is hard to keep focus on my tasks, but at least I can visualize all things I have to do. I loved the idea of writing accomplished tasks too, so one can feel some progress, even in those hardly productive days. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c9ffaddbe4b62221dc9f33c4b02a9bc6b3636eb6a15941eb91a3ea122d8f135a.jpg

  • Lisa Fuller

    I’ve joined the bullet journal community quite simply to reign in everything I feel like I’m dropping from day to day. I’ve always been a visual learner and this is no exception. Seeing it all in front of me is not only a reminder for my forgetful brain but holds me accountable. Once it’s written down it’s either getting done or migrated to tomorrow! Thanks for your offerings in this post. I’m making it my goal this fall to be more active in this community over my morning coffee. 🙂

  • Janey04090

    I’m beginning my first bullet journal and I’ve learned some basics from these articles. Thank you.

  • ariellauthentic

    I use emacs ORG mode and Outlook to track items, to-dos, meetings, trainings, holidays, time off, sick days etc because the information has to be shareable inside the company and externally with customers.

    My laptop is at every meeting, and the data is digital ASCII text so it can be archived, transportable and server-centralized for hand-offs to replacement resources when the company shuffles people between projects. The content can also be easily imported into other documents.

    It’s also to create an easy-to-query liability record of what we noted and acted on from customers, when, under which circumstances etc. for when there are audits or legal action. Writing to paper would break encryption/submission/search/review/sharing/invites/Webex information/transfer/transparency workflows.

    Digital content can also be automatically backed up when saved locally and synced to a server. Paper is not. Lose your
    journal in an airport on a biz trip, and then what do you do? Recite the scope of your project that happen to fit in that journal page count from memory?

    It would also be a terrible security risk to have any information on paper, that can be easily physically stolen. My laptop is locked, encrypted, etc. Paper would not be. During security audits (which can qualify consulting firms for government contracts), companies can fail their audits if there is too much paper, too many spiral notebooks, with notes, accessible at employee desks.

    In short: journal for your personal benefit, but never put actual company information in there, and question your work-life balance if your personal journal is full of work activity. This might be harder to avoid if you’re an entrepreneur where life-work blurs anyway. But if you’re an employee at a corporation with data retention, security, PII, health data, government or military contracts, and/or NDA agreements, please don’t journal in a paper notebook. Please please don’t use paper.

  • Helen Heinig

    I love using my bullet journal to help me itemize my priorities for the day. Lists sometimes make it hard to focus on exactly what I need to do, but it helps me feel positive about what I am getting done and looking ahead to the next tasks. Thanks for this perspective on different ways I can view my organization style.