• Lisa Safran

Do You Journal for Work?

When I first started my career, I recall sitting in an occasional meeting with one of the executives of the company. She was a big shot in marketing at Doubleday Publishing, and I was a writer for the in-house creative team. Every time I saw her, she had a red leather notebook with her where she would capture a few notes during the meeting. I assumed it was just a few because the book was so small and she always had the same one with her. Or so I thought.


About a year into my role at the company, this high-on-the-org-chart executive invited me to a one-on-one meeting in her office to thank me for my work on a direct mail package that had now become the new control package. (In the world of direct mail, this was a big deal.) She had her little red notebook open on her desk, and began to read accolades about my work. I was humbled. I was pumped. I was also shocked because I noticed that on her bookshelf was an entire row of little red notebooks!



There are many benefits to keeping a work diary or journal. In my experience through the years, it has helped me to:

  • Enhance productivity

  • Increase focus

  • Be actionable

  • Remember details

  • Think through ideas

  • Be more reflective (less reactive)

  • Grow as a writer

Unlike the publishing executive who introduced me to the concept of work journals, I prefer a less uniform approach in the style of books I choose. My notebooks are all different: a navy blue leather one with metal snaps, a pale purple Moleskin with matching elastic bookmark/strap, a laminated floral spiral-bound. My one consistent criteria: the style must evoke a feeling. Upon purchasing the journal, I need to feel the excitement of it being the first day of school, the awe of stumbling on a simple beauty among the ordinary, or the happiness that stems from my love of physical books.


As a professional writer, I also use the activity of keeping a work journal as a vehicle for perfecting my craft. On a tactile level, paper journaling creates a connection between mind, hand, pen, and paper. This four-point configuration gives me a type of freedom that I don't experience when typing on the computer. In some ways, a paper journal is more forgiving and less forgiving, both at the same time. On screen, a mistake is simply deleted. On paper, a mistake is crossed out or footnoted but forever captured. Mental process in continuous flow. (Not to say that a work journal should be a brain dump of anything and everything that crosses your mind. Keep your personal journals for that.)


A work journal can allow you to think, organize, reflect, and act. There's great satisfaction in making those things part of your daily ritual.

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