Some tips on writing a reflective diary/journal

Some professional bodies are requiring managers to reflect on activity in order to maintain their Chartered Status (for example, the Chartered Institute of Marketing in the UK). However, if you’ve been a manager for over 10 years, it is unlikely that you would have been taught how to write reflectively. I starting keeping a reflective journal when I began a new job around 5 years ago and I found it immensely powerful. I learnt so much through the process.

I hope these tips are helpful to get you started.

Photo of pink journal with two pencils on top.
Source: Canva May 2021
  • There is no one ‘best’ or ‘correct’ way to write a journal. It is personal to you. Just make sure that you are writing as honestly as you can – if you don’t, you are only deceiving yourself, no one else. Write so it is useful to you and that it helps you in your process of reflection and process of learning.
  • That also means you need to keep it in a safe place as you may not want your line manager or colleagues to flick through it! 
  • Most people use a notebook of some description, whether it is a beautifully bound hardback book or a spiral bound notepad. I actually collate my journal by email as I’ve always got it to hand, wherever I go. 
  • I often write entries on my phone when I am on the tube or waiting for someone – using those fragments of time that could otherwise be wasted.
  • Some find audio recording a very useful way to get things stored quickly and there is the extra dimension of capturing intonations and emotion within the spoken word. 
  • You could even use diagrams and pictures if that helps you tell your story. I sometimes attach photos and files to my daily reflection if required.
  • Turn off the internal ‘editor’ – it really does not matter if the grammar is not perfect or if you cannot spell something – just go with the flow! All that matters is that you will understand it when you look back at your entry in a few months’ time. 
  • The most important thing is to get everything written down as soon as possible. I find that I forget so many important issues even by the end of the day, so I keep a notebook to hand to jot reminders for when I write up my diary for the day. 
  • I prefer to write where I can in chronological order, as it brings some form of order to my account. However, there is nothing to stop you from writing about key events/critical incidences only or focusing on what comes into mind first. It is your diary! 
  • If you find yourself going off on a tangent, see where it leads! Some of my ‘best’ reflections have been when I consider a theme or think widely about a particular issue that I am having difficulty with and I just let my pen write what it wants.

Do you have any tips for keeping a reflective diary/journal? I would love to hear them!

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