At the bottom of the long list of time management tools is one of the most overlooked keys to success: the work diary. Countless CEOs, business owners, and other great minds have used this technique as a way to stay organized and keep tasks aligned. A work diary or journal can be a helpful way to track projects, stay on top of your schedule, and record performance details.
In addition to these useful applications, the act of journaling allows you to focus on the project at hand, which boosts efficiency. Although the frenzy of owning a business can cause simple tools like this to become overlooked, the benefits of using this system are certainly worth the investment.
Benefits of Keeping A Work Diary
Gallup’s Lifestyle poll revealed that 48% of Americans don’t have time to do what they want to do, an issue especially prevalent during the whirlwind of launching a business. Using a work diary is a definitive way to keep everything organized so that you can feel on top of your schedule. Some of the ways you can use your work diary to improve organization are:
Between client meetings, payment schedules, and due dates, keeping a calendar is a must for any business owner. Experiment with year, month, week, and day calendar formats to see which best suits your specific needs.
If you feel that you aren’t accomplishing everything you need to in a day, use a time tracking tool to audit how you spend your time. Make an effort to be as specific as possible; if you send emails for 45 minutes, write a blog post for 3 hours, and take a 32-minute coffee break, precisely record each item so that when you look back, you can see exactly where your time went and how you can change your schedule going forward.
One of the most crucial elements of managing a new business is honoring the budget. Use your work diary to track every expense to ensure that you are maximizing profit. This can also help during tax season when you are writing off business expenses.
2. Project Management
As you gain clients and further your business, project management can become a balancing act. A work diary serves as a good starting point for managing a handful of clients. Excellent project management is crucial for small businesses. According to PMI’s 2018 Pulse of the Profession survey, 52% of projects last year experienced scope creep, an undertaking that uses more resources than expected –– wasting time and money as a result.
3. Highlight Wins
So often our day-to-day successes are acknowledged for a moment and then completely forgotten, while our failures and shortcomings stay too long. Social psychologist, Roy F. Baumeister, details the evolutionary reasons behind this idea in his article, Bad is Stronger than Good. As humans, we are predisposed to focus on failure so we can evolve. In business, however, it is equally important to celebrate success. Keeping a record of daily, monthly, and quarterly wins will help you see all of your positive experiences on paper.
4. Identify Mistakes
Mistakes small and large are inevitable. Keeping track of them in a work diary can help you pick up on patterns early so that you can intervene before they become a bigger issue. As an authority on CEO & senior leader transition, Dan Chiampa claims:
“The point of keeping a journal is not efficiency but to reflect and slow things down so that learning is maximized.”
Taking a few seconds and writing down the details about what went wrong can help you identify the problem and learn how to fix it. Without reflecting on these issues, you may repeat mistakes that could be eliminated early on.
Ideas can come from everywhere and anywhere, whether you hear something motivational on the radio or find inspiration in an everyday conversation. Having something close by where you can jot things down is useful for ideation. The benefits of having a “jot” journal have been realized by some of the biggest names in history. Aristotle Onassis, esteemed Greek shipping magnate, once said:
“Always carry a notebook. Write everything down. When you have an idea, write it down. When you meet someone new, write down everything you know about them. That way you will know how much time they are worth. When you hear something interesting, write it down. Writing it down will make you act upon it. If you don’t write it down you will forget it. That is a million-dollar lesson they don’t teach you in business school!”
6. Stress Relief
One of the most crippling issues for business owners is the stress and anxiety that comes with starting and running a business. In North America, anxiety has been cited as the most prevalent mental health issue. Globally, more than 260 million people suffer from anxiety disorders, according to The World Health Organization (WHO). If you find that this has become an issue in your life or business, one management tool that could help is a daily journal entry about your thoughts and feelings.
7. Personal Growth
As your company develops, you also grow as a person. In addition to managing anxiety and stress, journaling can help you practice gratitude,
positivity, and mindfulness, which will help you grow as a person. Josh Kalven, founder of Newsbound once said:
“[My startup journal] serves as an extension of my brain at a time when my mental faculties are loaded with stress and stimulation… It reminds me of the obstacles I’ve already cleared and gives me incentive to keep pushing forward. And it helps me regain the big picture when it gets obscured by all the day-to-day details.”
What Type of Work Diary Should I Get?
Digital vs. paper: the argument of the decade. There are pros and cons to both formats but at the end of the day, the best format of a work diary is the one that is actually being used.
The majority of U.S. business owners have an internet-enabled phone they carry every day. In fact, the Pew Research Center’s most recent survey found that 81% of U.S. adults have a smartphone. This makes creating and maintaining a mobile work diary more convenient than ever. A mobile diary is highly editable and has countless applications that make recording progress easy. One of the disadvantages of this diary format is anything online is susceptible to being hacked. If you have proprietary information in your diary it is important to make sure you have it password protected. Mobile diaries also require an internet connection so you will need to pack a mobile hotspot if you are traveling out of the country.
Mobile work diaries might be best for business owners who are away from their desk for a large portion of the day. Having everything you need in your mobile device ensures that you will stay organized no matter where you go.
Though digital work diaries are increasingly more convenient, there are advantages to having a manual work diary that your smartphone can’t replace. The simple act of writing down your goals and observations can help you retain information better. It also provides a much-needed break for your eyes, as the average adult spends 11 hours per day looking at a screen.
This type of journal can be used for any business owner, but it is particularly helpful for designers, writers, and other types of creatives who benefit from space for brainstorming and drafting ideas.
Printable Work Diary
Though there are many advantages to using a digital work diary, writing down your reflections and goals can be a positive experience, even if you track everything else in your mobile device.
Whether you want to create a manual work diary or just want to supplement your mobile planner, get started with these printable journal pages and keep your business on track.
Between earning new clients, balancing a budget, and managing paperwork, starting a business can be overwhelming. As you grow, you will discover the best tools for efficiency. Some methods will work and some will be a waste of time. If you find that you are lacking in organization, try keeping a work diary as you build and manage you new business.