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Keep a “Three Things” Work Journal

work journal

Have you ever gotten to the end of a busy day and realized you could not at all articulate what you did for the past eight hours?

I’ve felt this myself, and it’s come up from attendees of recent MGR360 training too. One person said, “I was productive all day, but I have no idea how to tell my spouse what I got done!

This is especially prevalent for managers and leaders, whose work is often highly varied, nebulous, and done through others.

Keeping a work journal is an excellent way to prevent that feeling at the end of the day. It can also help you stay on task, prioritize, and reflect on challenges and wins.

There are many different ways to keep a work journal. Thomas Edison kept a famous one, consisting of pages-long to-do lists and logs of thousands upon thousands of tasks and experiments. Here’s a sample page from one:

The First Page of Thomas Edison’s “Things Doing and to Be Done” List, 1888

I find that a much simpler approach works best for me. Here’s how to try it yourself:

At the beginning of every day, write down the three things you want to accomplish that day. Then make sure you accomplish them, checking them off as you go.

Then, at day’s end, you’ll be able to point to those three accomplishments and enjoy a sense of achievement—something that’s crucial to work satisfaction. It’s also cool after several weeks or months to have a running log of the priorities you took care of day by day.

You can also share the idea with your employees (though you definitely don’t want to force this practice on them).

Good luck! What three things will you get done today?

Picture of Alicia Thrasher

Alicia Thrasher

Alicia is cofounder and CEO of Manager360. Previously, she brought her leadership, vision, and strategic oversight to many executive positions, including leading programs for eBay/PayPal, Google, and Anheuser-Busch. She is the coauthor, with Joel Trammell, of The Manager's Playbook: Make Exceptional People Management Your Competitive Advantage.

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