In my first job with administrative overtones, my provost asked me to keep a work journal (at first) so he could see how I was working. I liked the process so much that I’ve maintained it across several years, although in various ways.
Recently, I’ve been a part of a handful of conversations that all ended in the necessary conclusion of keeping a work journal. If you don’t do this (and if you’re in higher ed, I doubt many of you do) let me elaborate on a few reasons why this is a great idea.
In an academic/professoral post, it’s very easy to get lost in fruitless “research”, in conversations with students, or even in conversations with colleagues. At face value this time spent contains importance. However, if a great deal of your time is being spent in these activities then perhaps an appraisal on the usage of your time may be in order. A work journal helps you to see these recurring instances (or days) with little activity.
We tend to think of theft only in terms of tangible items but we should ask ourselves how we are you spending our hours. Could you be robbing your employer?
Keeping a detailed work journal can help you to know when events were initiated, worked on, or completed. This can be very useful since working with other people may sometimes necessitate a reminder to them (or yourself). Remember, phrases like, “I reached out to Dr. XXX to work on this project” may be useful. In essence, this document may serve as project management and may help you recognize good work partners.
Additionally, presuming your work journal is private, notes of good and bad performances, work ethic, or ethics may be useful references for future projects.
I do not mean bodily harm.
I recently read of a fellow who was released from his work (that generally involved great freedom) because he could not demonstrate quantifiable progress. There were no identifiable instances or products that this person could point to and say “here’s what I’ve done”.
Did that person get work done? Undoubtedly, he would say that he had been very busy. However, his metric was different than that of his employers and, without evidence of some kind, he was unable to help change their rubric or reconcile their vantage points of his responsibilities.
If your supervisor leaves continuous notes of “He/She should do this to continue in progress” in your annual report and you don’t do it or don’t do it as much as would be preferred AND there’s no evidence that you advanced, how can you respond? A work journal helps to resolve this problem.
We all do annual evaluations, hopefully. These are wonderful (stay with me, here!) for the purposes of reflection and improvement. Regular self-appraisals clearly validate the efforts that a strong employee does for their institution.
When it comes to my annual evals, how can I write effectively about everything I’ve done if I have no record of that which I’ve completed. Sure, your CV, your courses, and your research may help build their own maps. However, I bet more than one of us has thought, “Oh, I should have put that in my annual evaluation.”
In a conversation, a friend had been asked to keep a work journal by his supervisors and seemed hurt–like they didn’t believe he was using his time wisely. I think I shocked him when I responded that keeping a journal could help build lots of trust (“look at everything he does for us!”) and could vindicate him if claims of inefficiency/ineffectiveness were brought forward.
In future posts, I’ll talk about how I keep my work journal.
Keeping a work journal shouldn’t feel like “another thing to do”, either. It should feel like a reasonable part of our work load. A few minutes here and there save lots of time later. Plus, this helps us to recognize not only how much we do but how we can continue to improve.