When I was younger, I kept a diary – you know the one with a small lock and key on the front to keep others (namely my mom) out of my thoughts. I very rarely used it and until returning to full time employment and the pandemic, journaling was something I just couldn’t get behind. Over the years I’ve tried and failed at several attempts to write out my thoughts only to get a few pages filled in and then nothing more for months – sometimes years. Now journaling has become a daily ritual allowing me to keep my life in order and engage with my thoughts.

According to Schriveiner.com “The modern diary has its origins in fifteenth-century Italy where diaries were used for accounting. Gradually, the focus of diaries shifted from that of recording public life to reflecting on the private one. Leonardo da Vinci filled 5,000 pages of journals with ideas for inventions and clever observations.”

Journals and diaries have been used for centuries for travel, private thoughts, recording history and nurturing artistic endeavors. In that vein I keep a journal for just about everything – finances, fitness journey, personal thoughts and work.  This may be obsessive but it’s a good way of setting goals and keeping myself on track.

I’d taken for granted how essential a work diary is to my mental health was until the other day when I was having a conversation with a coworker. She was frustrated by an exchange with her supervisor and having a difficult time regaining her calm.  It’s not the first time this topic has come up and I suggested she keep a work journal where she could write out her feelings, collect her thoughts and reflect before coming to a rapid conclusion. Especially one that could jeopardize a career she’s worked hard for.

I’ve used up to 5 different journals for work. That system has helped me separate different responsibilities and standing meetings. For instance, I use one journal for one-on-one meetings with my manager, another for team meetings, another for project management, one to have handy to write out my feelings and one for inspirations I get throughout the day. Do I use all of them at one time? No. I don’t use all of them on a daily basis either but each one serves a unique purpose and helps keep my work life organized. I can actually keep track of items I want to discuss in meetings or cross out those that have lost their importance or have been completed. A journal (or five) helps me maintain control of my work day.

That same co-worker shared my suggestion of using a work journal in a team meeting which focused on empowering us. To my surprise it was met with negativity from our Director who contended that not only should we be sharing our conversations with each other on the department Slack channel but we should feel comfortable enough with other to share our concerns directly. But what if you don’t? What if you fear retaliation in some form or having your words turned against you – no matter how well intended or carefully you’ve expressed yourself? What if you’re not yet comfortable or confident sharing your thoughts and ideas? Sometimes writing everything down can clear your mind, help focus on the real issue and proceed to communicate with confidence and clarity.

For me, journaling is a safe, healthy space where I can express myself and reflect. It protects my privacy – which is sorely lacking in a world where everything seems to be shared online. Whether it’s a few lines or a few pages, writing that daily journal entry helps me stay focused, calm and in control in a world that’s been turned upside down.