How To Improve Your Life With A Personal Performance Journal

Every night before I go to bed I look back at the day and plan for the next one. I started to write a journal because I read that many great man in history did the same. Marcus Aurelius, Ben Franklin, and Mark Twain. Recently I changed my journaling style. It was a small modification but it had great impact. I call it the performance journal.

“Journal writing is a voyage to the interior.” – Christina Baldwin

Old school Journal

Before I go deeper into the performance journal, let’s take a step back and look at a normal journal. As I explained, I started journaling because some of my role models did or do it. But that wasn’t the only reason. Writing a journal has many benefits. Such as: Stress release, mindfulness, and increase in creativity. Just search on Google and you will find great articles and studies on the topic. Here are two I like:

I did exactly what such articles suggest to do. I sat down for 15 minutes and wrote what came up into my mind about the day. It was as simple as that. But it was also messy. I wasn’t satisfied with it. I could see the obvious Problems and obstacles. But often it distracted me from the real Problems.

By: Walt StoneburnerCC BY 2.0

Performance journal

I came up with the idea of some improvements by marking all entires for meeting a certain person. I tried to find the relationship between the person and my happiness. I had an epiphany. With the marks I could see the relationship.

The next weeks I experimented with markers and annotations. I came up with following 3 step process.

Step #1

Take every night 15 minutes and write about your day (like with a normal journal.) I suggest that you write in a chronological order. It structures the entries. I find the structure very helpful.

Step #2

When you’re finished go over it again with a red and a green marker. Mark everything bad, negative, annoying, or exhausting with the red marker. Mark everything good, positive, or refreshing with the green marker. I recommend annotating the marks.

Step #3

Once weekly, review your entries. You will find some patterns; good or bad ones. The bad patterns are very likely problems, obstacles, bad habits, or interruptions by others. Solve the Problems! Work around the obstacles! Replace your bad habits with good habits! Avoid interrupting people!

The good patterns are very likely things that bring you joy, tasks you are good at, or good habits. Find ways to amplify the good patterns!

I think that step #2 is the key point that differentiates a normal from the performance journal. A normal journal entry is non-judgmental. Step #2 forces us to judge. In step #2 we consciously think about every sentence.

“Writing is the only way I have to explain my own life to myself.” – Pat Conroy

By: Erin KohlenbergCC BY 2.0

Key benefit of a performance journal

A personal performance journal shows us our weak points. It shows our problems, obstacles, and bad habits. When I realize a weak point I work on it. I hope you too.

A normal journal is great for looking back. A personal performance journal is a life improvement tool!

Personal experience

The last weeks I was unsatisfied with my job. Something was wrong. The performance journal helped me to realize what it was. I hate testing. I’m not good at writing automated tests in Java. I realized that I have to put effort into getting better at it. I did that. When I write tests now it doesn’t feel like torture. Sometimes I enjoy it.

I also realized that I don’t get along with my work seatmate. We are good friends and colleagues but our friendship distracts me from work. If we sit together, I will discus the smallest code bites with him. I had good discussions but few work results. I changed my workstation. Now, I sit in a small room with another colleague. He is calm. I like it. The change increased my productivity a lot.

I had to put conscious effort into the problems to realize the root causes. I found more things I have to change to improve my life. I think you can improve your life as well with a performance journal. Just try it out!

Deo volente,

Gaius Wolf


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