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A Learning Journal: Your Map to Continuous Development

With the world changing each year at an increasingly faster pace, there are times when many of us think and feel as if we are treading water and are not learning new behaviors to increase our leadership effectiveness. When we look back over the past year at our accomplishments, we can’t clearly define what behaviors, skills, knowledge, and traits have helped us achieve our goals.Keeping a Learning Journal

One key trait extraordinary leaders have is the desire and ability to continuously improve and learn, allowing them to adjust to the changing global economy. Learning for them is ongoing and incremental. Sometimes our behavioral learning is so slight that we really have to carefully investigate what we have truly learned.

Why Should You Journal?

A learning journal, when implemented on a consistent daily basis, can help you capture your learning by creating a time to be self-reflective of each day’s experiences. However small and seemingly unimportant these experiences are, these experiences can connect you to a specific learning that took place. These experiences can also make you aware of your learning by knowing that at the end of a day you will take time and energy to add to your learning journal.

By writing down and tracking your progress, you are able to review your progress at any point in time. Journaling is a great tool when you may be questioning your learning progression. Journaling can not only help you focus on your strengths, but can also help you determine what limitations you are currently working on that can have a positive impact on your overall performance. As a result, you will begin to see trends on how you best learn and develop so you can incorporate the right learning opportunities into your day.

As the days, weeks, and months of journaling come together you will be able to identify behaviors in your work performance and personal life that work and don’t work for you. As your capacity builds, you will be able to take on new and bigger challenges which provide the development situations you need to increase your leadership effectiveness.

Getting Started

Journaling is a daily commitment which need not take a lot of time. Like any habit, it will take 21 days before it becomes a natural occurrence.

There are many methods you can use to implement the journaling process. For some of us a dedicated time each day to journal fits our personality and preferences. For others having a small note pad or PDA to jot down our thoughts and feelings about an experience immediately after the experience occurs works best. The key is to keep trying and adjusting your method of journaling until it works for you.

Three Great Journaling Tips

  1. Remember your journal is about you and your personal development, not the people you work with or live with. It is about you, the only person who can control your own thoughts and behaviors.
  2. Be alert to your feelings during the day. What made you excited, inspired, challenged, frustrated, fearful, angry, etc.? These feelings are a clue to a potential learning moment.
  3. Since your journal is written by you for you, don’t worry about spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. Keep your journaling short so it is easy to review. All that matters is that you can read it later to see your progress and trends, and plan for the future behavioral changes that you wish to make.

Questions to Ponder

Throughout the day and while you journal, here are some questions to help you become aware of your learning each day:

  • What experience was challenging today and what feelings did you have during the experience?
  • What specifically did you learn during this experience, such as new knowledge, a new skill, or a new technique?
  • Did you notice a behavior linked to your feelings, either positive or negative?
  • If your feeling was positive, how can you use this positive behavior more in the future? If your feeling was negative, how can you adjust your behavior so that next time your feeling is more positive?
  • What did you learn today that you can expand upon to make you a more effective leader in the future?
  • What next steps do you plan to take to implement this new learning in the future?
  • Who can you ask for help with these next steps?

Final Thoughts about a Learning Journal

The leaders who advance today are the ones who stay ahead of their competition. They take control of their own development and embrace continuous learning. Remember the only cost involved with journaling your learning is your time and energy. Therefore, why wait? Start journaling and learning today to increase your leadership effectiveness!

Image by Richard Mallinson via sxc.hu.

About the Author

Beth Armknecht Miller, of Atlanta, Georgia, is Founder and President of Executive Velocity, a leadership development coaching firm accelerating the leadership success of CEOs and business leaders. She is also Chair to two Vistage groups. She is certified in Myers Briggs and Hogan leadership assessment tools and is a Certified Managerial Coach by Kennesaw State University. For more information, visit www.executive-velocity.com or read the Executive Velocity Blog. Follow Beth on Twitter @SrExecAdvisor.

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