November 1, 2017 • 5 minute read • by Saeed
“Sometimes, only paper will listen to you.” ~ Anonymous
There is only one person who you can be truly honest with and who can truly be honest with you.
You know who that it is. It’s you.
Did you get a passive-aggressive, condescending, or downright hostile email today? Did a client or colleague go off on you for something that was out of your control? Were you just a hot mess?
There’s little value in going through experiences, both good and bad, if you can’t learn from them. So, whether you totally nailed a client meeting or stumbled your way through a presentation you were wholly unprepared for, you have to take note of the lessons you learned. By writing down what you’ve been through, noting what worked and what didn’t, and analyzing what might help you in the future, you’ll set yourself up for much greater success.
There’s no more perfect place to vent your workplace frustrations than in the privacy of your own journal. In fact, sometimes that’s the only place you should be venting your frustrations! I don’t mean to say that you should keep all negative feelings and experiences bottled up inside.
But getting some of the little, day-to-day stuff off your chest, privately, is often the most therapeutic and safe way to move past your dissatisfaction.
So, instead of firing off that nasty email, in your journal, jot down the response you really wanted to send to that colleague or client. Read it a few more times if you want, then let it go.
Here is what else you can do:
1. Find your ‘Why’
Writing requires you to think through your ‘why’. When you sit down behind a blank computer screen or sheet of paper and begin to write out what you accomplished during the day, you are forced to think through your process on a deeper level. The discipline forces you to answer the difficult questions of “why,” or “why not?” The answers to these questions are not just helpful as you move forward to repeat successes and avoid mistakes; they can be therapeutic as well. As Simon says: we have to Start With Why.This is a great way to find your passion or to find your purpose.
2. Set Goals
Keeping a journal requires you to think about goals. The importance of committing what you want to achieve to paper cannot be overstated. It is a simple process, but it pays great dividends. Writing out our goals provides the opportunity to articulate them clearly and makes their achievement appear closer. A journal serves as a permanent record of your progress. Success can be quickly forgotten. And when it is, it becomes easy to get frustrated with your pursuit. As with any pursuit, there are times you’ll want to throw in the towel despite all the invested effort and energy. During those moments, it is helpful to look back and be reminded of the milestones you’ve hit and the things you’ve achieved, no matter how small, that have incrementally moved you closer to your goals.
3. Track Your Progress
Keeping a journal naturally forces you to track your progress and to spell out your next steps. A journal proves you have solved problems in the past. Whatever types of goals you are chasing, be they physical, career, spiritual or personal, not every step in your pursuit is going to be easy. The things that are most worth pursuing never are. At some point, you’ll be required to overcome adversity and challenge. Where you will find motivation and strength is in your own written word of overcoming it in the past. This is where you’ll see the history of your own resilience. It is difficult to look back without also looking forward. As a result, when you journal, you naturally begin to look forward. And the next steps, inevitably, become easier to see.
4. Envision the Future
This is the point at which you can use the work you’re doing now and what you’ve done in the past to envision what you want to do (and can do!) in the future. In The How of Happiness , researcher and professor of psychology Sonja Lyubomirsky says that spending 20 minutes each day writing a narrative description of your “best possible future self” can help cultivate optimism and an overall sense of happiness. This exercise, which involves “considering your most important, deeply held goals and picturing that they will be achieved” is a valuable workplace exercise as well. Instead of becoming stuck in your routine, think (and write) about opportunities you see for growth. Then use this narrative to help build a road map. Ask yourself: Now that I know where I want to go, how can I get there? What resources do I need? What obstacles might I face? And who can support me in this journey?
5. Track Feedback
It may feel a little self-absorbed, but there’s no better place to keep track of the compliments and praise as well as constructive feedback you’ve received than in your personal journal. The value of this is twofold: First, it allows you to quickly remember the great things people have said about you when you need to provide a testimonial of your work. It acts as a quick and easy morale boost on days that seem harder than others. Second, it gives you repeated patterns of behavior and habit that you can work on to self improve. If you’re being praised at work, it’s likely because you did something right. This is a great feedback loop and reinforcing mechanism. Relish it! If you’re doing less well, it gives you information on specific areas you need to improve. See it as your daily debrief with your self!
6. Keep Yourself Accountable
As you script your journey, a bonus benefit is that you find accountability ― not to the written word, but to yourself. It is truly difficult to lie to your journal. Your past successes and perseverance will compel you forward. But only if you can see the record of this success, can you see how far you’ve come, how much you have left to accomplish, and why giving up would be foolish. Your journal is your story. It is your account of moving from Point A to Point B. And rightly shared, it can inspire others to do the same.
1. Commit to writing every day. The intention of sitting to write every day will compel your mind to manufacture and recognize progress. It is a bold plan. And you’ll likely miss days. But don’t let that stop you. Commit again to write the next day.
2. Care more about substance and less about style. Write for yourself, not for others. As you do, write with the truest goal of putting onto paper your thoughts and action. Don’t worry about spelling and grammar if those things tend to bog you down. Your goal is not to get an “A.” Your goal is to articulate progress.
3. Don’t be motivated by length. There are some days where you’ll be motivated to write much. Others days, only a little.
We’ve all gotten good at sharing publicly—we post our thoughts on public forums, share them at lunch across from our favorite co-workers, and tweet them out to the world. But by sharing your career experiences and your thoughts in a private space, you’re in a better position to analyze your profession, reflect upon your experiences and goals, and plan for next steps as you grow in your career. I hope you’ll start writing today!
Wait! Before you go…
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Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.
©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.