The Career Mistake You Can Fix In A Minute

Photographed by Maria del Rio.
By Elana Lyn Gross

We’ve all probably fallen into this trap: concerned with accomplishing all the tasks on our to-do lists, we forget to stop and look at the bigger picture. We forget to think about how we can go above and beyond, consider what we’ve accomplished, or even check in with how we’re feeling at work.

As Kate White would say, we forget to drain the swamp.

One of the best ways to make sure you’re regularly reflecting on your career? Keep a work journal.

In their recent Harvard Business Review article, "The Power of Small Wins," Teresa Amabile and Steven J. Kramer discuss the concept of what they’ve termed the “power principle.” The authors asked professionals to keep diaries at work, and after studying them, identified the power principle, which states:

“Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work. And, the more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive in the long run.”

The authors wrote about how managers could effectively use work journals and the power principle to motivate employees, but I think that you can use their findings to motivate yourself by making sure that you’re regularly reflecting on — and celebrating — your progress and small wins at work.

Keeping a daily journal on office life and career progress is imperative to keeping track of just all the little things, which can also reflect on larger, long-term goals.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. Sitting down and staring at a blank page at the end of a long workday can seem like one more thing to cross off of your to-do list, unless you come prepared.

Related: Why You Should Stop Working For The Reward

To begin your work journal, it may be helpful to write the answers to these five questions daily (or weekly, if you prefer):

-What is one lesson (or lessons, if you have many!) that I learned today?

-Did anyone compliment or comment on my work today? What did they say? (Bonus: This makes it easier to remember your accomplishments when you want to ask for a raise or promotion!)

-What is one big thing that I accomplished today?

-Did I do anything above and beyond my basic job description today?

-What is one way that I can go above and beyond tomorrow?

Even if you can only fit this in once a week, this exercise will help you reflect, focus, and consider the big picture in regards to your career.

Next: Make Your Work Trips Even Better

More from Work & Money


R29 Original Series