Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Keeping a diary can improve your performance

Diary of the Wright Brothers' father.
If you're like me, your first thought is: exactly when am I supposed to write in a diary? 1:30 - 2:00 a.m.?

Plenty of smart, exceptional people have kept diaries, and they must know something. What's interesting about the lists of famous diarists, however, is that they all seem to have been of previous generations.

Is there something about our 24/7 information barrage and never-ending connectivity with the office and everyone else -- and, of course, television -- that robs us of quiet time for reflection?

Today you can keep a diary on your computer, of course, using any number of specialized programs. And you can split hairs and decide to keep a journal,  not a diary. There's a distinction.

Let's assume you've found a few minutes between your conference call with India and your handball game. Why do it?

Teresa Amabile, a business professor at Harvard, and psychologist Steven Kramer have come up with a few reasons: (1) focus, (2) patience, (3) planning, and (4) personal growth.

Citing their research into the journals of more than two hundred creative professionals, they point to a pattern that reveals the single most important motivator: palpable progress on meaningful work:
On the days when these professionals saw themselves moving forward on something they cared about — even if the progress was a seemingly incremental “small win” — they were more likely to be happy and deeply engaged in their work. And, being happier and more deeply engaged, they were more likely to come up with new ideas and solve problems creatively.

Although the act of reflecting and writing, in itself, can be beneficial, you’ll multiply the power of your diary if you review it regularly — if you listen to what your life has been telling you. Periodically, maybe once a month, set aside time to get comfortable and read back through your entries. And, on New Year’s Day, make an annual ritual of reading through the previous year.
Perhaps I should set the alarm for 1:30 a.m.

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