Journaling. For many, it conjures memories of homework assigned by grade school teachers. But keeping a journal actually has a lot of awesome benefits for adult professionals, especially admins.
A journal is a great place to capture ideas, work through your thoughts, ideas, and experiences. It helps you answer questions about what’s going on in your life and why. It helps you stay organized. It’s a means for tracking your professional accomplishments and failures. And it provides a productive outlet for venting about how you feel.
Yet starting and keeping a journal can be difficult. It’s hard to find time in an already busy schedule for one more thing. But it’s a little easier if you have a plan and the right tools for incorporating journaling into your life.
1. Choose a Journaling Method
There’s no right or wrong way to keep a journal. You can journal by drawing, jotting down quick lists, or writing more traditionally. You can write it on paper, use a digital tool, or some combination of the two. What’s important is that the method works for you, and it’s something that you’ll stick with.
You may need to try several methods before you settle into the one that fits your personality type and organizational preferences. Think about how you normally capture notes or ideas now. Is it with pen and paper, digitally, or a combination of the two? Based on that answer, identify your method(s). Give it a try. Then, after a month, evaluate how it worked. Tweak it from there.
2. Put Journaling Tools to Work
There are a lot of paper and digital journaling tools available, and there are pros and cons to each one.
Theme-based, spiral-bound notebook
- Pros: It’s fun and easy to carry around.
- Cons: You can’t move the pages around, and it’s not easy to section off.
- Pros: It looks great and may have sentimental meaning.
- Cons: You can’t move the pages around, and it’s not easy to section off. It’s also heavy, so it’s not easy to transport.
Disc-bound notebook (e.g. Levenger or Staples Arc Notebooks)
- Pros: You can move pages around, create sections, and change the cover.
- Cons: You need a special paper punch to add non-disc bound, pre-printed pages. You can make your own page inserts, but it’s easier to purchase them.
Ledger-size paper, coil-bound notebook
- Pros: This is a great option for brain dumps, mind mapping, and notes! To create one, go to the copy store and ask for 50 to 100 sheets of ledger size paper with a heavy cover on the front and back, and a coil bind on one edge. With this tool, you have more space than a regular journal.
- Cons: It’s not convenient to tote around. You’ll probably need to keep it in your desk and carry a portable journal to capture ideas.
- Pros: You can record audio as you take notes on dot matrix paper that comes with the pen. Then you can upload it to your computer to listen to the audio section by section. This is a great tool for capturing ideas on the go audibly, in print, or both!
- Cons: You need special paper for this tool, and it requires a sizable investment in the SmartPen.
Evernote, OneNote, DayOne, and Pocket Apps
- Pros: These apps are great ways to capture ideas, articles, notes, and organize them digitally with tags and categories. You can also post notes to social media.
- Cons: Requires a computer, smartphone, or tablet, which might not always be readily available.
I actually use all of these tools for different types of journaling I do. There’s no need to limit yourself to one single tool or method. Test out some of these tools and incorporate the ones that work into your journaling habit.
3. Commit to Journaling
Journaling doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Set aside 5-10 minutes each day to create a list, write down thoughts, draw a picture, or make notes. Sometimes that’s enough. But you can always use this information to expand into a longer journal entry when you have time. Doing this helps you clear your head and process information in a productive manner. You may also want to consider carrying a portable journal so you can quickly make notes on the go. Or, if you’re more of a tech person, try an app.
Think of a journal as your own unique art form. Nobody is going to grade you on your journal. You don’t need to share it with anyone else. You just need to follow these steps, start writing, and transform your ideas into action items!
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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity, and Become a Procedures Pro: The Admin’s Guide to Developing Effective Office Systems and Procedures.