When most of us think about keeping a journal or diary, our minds are often transported to the potentially embarrassing things we used to scribble before we went to bed back in our middle and high school days. However, nightly journaling is actually one of the best ways to organize our thoughts, catalog our experiences, and measure our progress. As strange as it sounds, when applied to our professional lives, the practice of keeping a brief but structured journal can actually be extremely valuable, and help us become more conscious decision makers.

Not only does taking a few quick minutes to recap at night help us come to a solid point of closure for the workday, but it also provides a number of other tangible benefits as well. While there are numerous ways to go about keeping an effective daily business journal, this short guide should help you learn the fundamentals, and help you understand why it very well might be something that you should be doing.

How to approach business journaling

The best way to keep a business journal is digitally, as a running word processor document. It can be formatted however you feel most comfortable, just make sure that each day is clearly marked, and chronologically organized. 

By doing this, it’ll allow for easy use of both your word processor’s “search” or “find” function to look for key phrases, as well as a logical way to read through your thoughts relative to when you had them. Since this content will purely be for your personal use, don’t worry too much about presentation, as long as it’s organized.

As opposed to simply having a free-writing session, in which you simply spend a few minutes writing about your day, it’s highly recommended that you keep a standard set of questions that you ask yourself and respond to, in every entry. This helps make the process quick and easy while allowing you to structure your thoughts in a manner that will ensure you come up with something concrete and beneficial every time you write.

While there’s a wealth of questions to draw from that could provide value, the list below should give you an excellent depiction of how well-thought out and repeatable questions can turn a quick journaling session, into a growing database of real-world information, and actionable thoughts.

“Journaling is like whispering to one’s self and listening at the same time.” – Mina Murray

Answer these 5 questions everyday in your business journal:

1. Who Did I Deal with Today?

You don’t have to list everyone you spoke to, but make sure to mention new potentially important contacts, and any interactions that had major implications for your business. Listing numbers and email addresses for these people while writing can be beneficial as well, though not necessary. Interesting personal facts  such as birthdays, hobbies, and family news are a great idea as well.

This question is designed to help you keep an accurate account of the numerous people you’ll do business with, which can go to great lengths to help you prepare for future meetings or in dealings down the road.

2. What Did I Get Done Today?

Answering this question not only allows you to positively reflect on the successes you had that day, but more importantly, also forces you to hold yourself accountable if you gave an effort less than your best. Not being able to have a good answer here isn’t a good feeling.

3. What Did I Struggle with Today?

This question is critical in defining the things you should focus on in order to become a more well-rounded executive or business owner. If you notice a trend in similar areas, you should be able to figure out exactly what skills you should look into developing.

4. What’s One Thing I Learned Today?

The business world is always evolving and changing, and it’s a guarantee that your specific industry is too. As a result, even the most intelligent, talented of senior executives and business owners should always be looking to learn new things, and take in new ideas. By consciously answering this question each day, you can rest easy knowing that you’re progressing along with the world around you.

“A personal journal is an ideal environment in which to ‘become’. It is a perfect place for you to think, feel, discover, expand, remember, and dream.” – Brad Wilcox

5. What Do I Want to Accomplish Tomorrow?

The best way to end a business journal entry, and your workday in general, is to close it out with a clear and actionable list of what your goals are for the next day. This practice allows you to get up, get to work, and get straight to that list – and any productive business owner or executive should understand the value of an organized check list.

Maintaining Your Business Journal

As you could probably imagine, taking just a few minutes of your night to maintain a business journal can lead to the creation of a great deal of useful information. While the concept might seem a bit silly at first, having a personal database of information on key clients, a running tally of your most important thoughts, and giving yourself a chance to reflect on each day’s performance isn’t a ridiculous idea in the slightest bit. 

You don’t have to invest a lot of time into your journal. Just make sure to dedicate at least 5-10 focused minutes each night, and you’ll see a huge difference in your life. 

Do you keep a journal? If you do, share your thoughts below on how you think it’s helped you!