Your work in progress: keeping a business journal

Ever had your memory fail you with something you absolutely needed to remember? It’s a frustrating experience that plays gotcha if you’re not careful. Most of us occasionally get tongue-tied, or perhaps brain-tied is more like it. A work journal can become your new best friend.

One of my bosses once told me to keep a journal of all significant daily events. She was grooming me for making the upward organizational climb. “Write in it every day,” she urged. “You never know when you might need to review or remember something.” Forever a lover of blank, bound books, I eagerly took her advice. I admit that my words refused to remain dedicated to office events. I wrote stray thoughts as they occurred to me, inspirational quotes, and notes on books I was reading and courses I was taking.

Your business journal’s a great place to keep track of what you accomplished

If a blank page stares up at you, daring to make just one mark, try starting with a quick assessment of your day. What did you accomplish? What do you need to remember about your interactions with your clients and staff?

A business journal can be used to cover any number of things, whether a record of how you spent your business bucks, significant interactions with customers and staff, or how a particular ad campaign is going.

How about keeping a sectioned-off notebook, each with its own purpose? One section may be set up for your annual goals and plans for your business, another with quarterly goals and milestones, a monthly page for the same, and a weekly/daily to schedule tasks and meetings. You could make notes on your milestones, record when you reach them, and any significant occurrences that helped or hindered you along the way. Such journals will become complete records of your trip along your work journey. Notes of client interactions will aid you in remembering what they’re for, what they need, and what they hope for.

Recording interactions with staff can serve as reminders of their strengths and weaknesses, their successes and failures. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to record your own achievements and instances where things didn’t work out so well.

Knowing how to record something is as important as what you record. You may choose to handwrite prose discussions of your day in a blank book. Conversely, you can keep a folder with bullet list-style entries on your computer. Whichever you choose, make a habit of updating it daily – or as close as you can get to it. If you make a spot on your daily schedule, you're more likely to do it. After all, with all the busy-ness a day can entail, if you don’t have a dedicated time for something, it’s easy for it to slip away.

There are many styles of journals. Choose one to suit your style:

  1. A blank book or notebook with daily, dated, handwritten, diary-like entries. This style has the advantage of being adaptable to just about anything you want to put into it. Downside? It’s hard to go back to a specific entry without reading the whole darn book.
  2. Hard-copy journals designed specifically for business. I’ve got a Quarterly Work Journal that you can sign up for here or by clicking the blue box above or below this post.
  3. Handwritten bullet lists of things to do with checkboxes for when the item is completed. Or you can just cross the item out, although in keeping this as a journal, you may want to review things you’ve done.
  4. Computerized Word or Google journal. This one’s great for ease in finding things long after you’ve entered them.
  5. Computerized apps set up specifically for journals.

You can download the quarterly business journal I’ve designed. It contains pages set up for all the things I’ve written about. These include:

  • A page for annual goals and milestones. Your mission statement goes at the top of this page.
  • A sheet for special expenses. Not to replace your business expense sheet, but just to set off special, one-time purchases.
  • A quarterly page with goals and milestones.
  • A monthly page for tasks, milestones, and meetings.
  • Weekly/daily pages for tasks and meetings. You may want to write in impromptu meetings here too.
  • Notes pages are opposite to the planner pages. I’ve included motivational quotes to keep you going.

Each planner page has a checkbox to show whether you completed the task plus a box where you can indicate how important each milestone, goal, meeting, and task is. I grade my items according to must do (MD), very important (VI), important (I), and perhaps (P) for those tasks that I’ll do it if or when I have the time.

You might want to take 15 minutes at the end of each day to review your tasks and check off those you accomplished. Write down anything not on the list that you did. Record significant achievements.

And don’t forget to jump to the next weekly/daily page to add to your list of tasks and meetings for the next day or week. You never know – keeping a work journal just might become a favored end-of-the-day activity, one that becomes a reward with which to gift yourself.

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