Read and Repeat

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Jotting down your actions can lead to future success.

I’ve never been a diary person. Sure, I had a journal as a child but I never chronicled any event longer than a couple of weeks. When I went to college, I told myself, this is it. I will keep a journal for all four years of school. I think I made journal entries for the first couple days of freshman orientation. After that, it was class, lab, study, and work. Journaling quickly fell to the bottom of my to-do-list.

Years later when my husband and I were expecting our first child, I didn’t kid myself with keeping a pregnancy journal. I knew better. Besides, by then I was more of a scrapbook person. I’ve accumulated hundreds of photos over the years and I prefer to document life events in both virtual and tangible scrapbooks. However, there is one exception. I do track the details of a few major personal and professional events in reports or more informal records. The purpose of this is to capture valuable information, in real-time, that may prove helpful in the future.

At Work
For example, I remember returning to the office after I held my first national conference. I was ecstatic that after months of planning and organizing my first national event, the meeting ran like clockwork. Our valued stakeholders and partners arrived, actively participated in discussions and presentations, and were eager to implement many of the conference recommendations. I held a meeting with my team when we returned, to review our initial goals for the conference and discuss how well we met our performance standards. The results of our discussion were documented in an After Action Report. We referred to this report before we planned subsequent meetings to maximize strong points and improve any weaknesses.

At Home
Likewise, when I set goals for myself for the year or specific events, i.e., new job or family road trip, I find it useful to note some of my steps along the way. For example, when looking for a new job, did I utilize the alumni network, use social media, or send out cold emails to employers? This information proves to be useful. Afterwards, I can look back at the sequence of events and gauge the effectiveness of my actions. While everything is fresh in my mind, I note what worked well and what needs improvement. The next time, I find myself in search of a new job, I refer to my notes and focus on the actions that were successful and repeat those steps.

Though not journaling, developing your own informal After-Action Reports, or notes to document successful actions, can help you get a leg up on the competition or at the very least by-pass previous missteps.


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