The Journal Newsletter
- Tips & Tricks
- Writing Prompts
- Article: Keeping a Professional Journal
- Submission Information
The release of The Journal 2.41, a bug-fix version with a few minor additions, was announced to the newsletter list on 16 April, 2001. If you haven’t upgraded yet, see THE JOURNAL NEWS section below for where you can download the upgrade.
The TIPS & TRICKS section talks about AllChars, a freeware program that could be useful to users of The Journal, and we have some new WRITING EXERCISES.
There is no HOW I USE THE JOURNAL article for this month, but I have included an article of my own called “Keeping a Professional Journal”.
Thank you for supporting DavidRM Software’s The Journal!
TIP: Freeware for Inputting International/Accented Characters
For users who need to type accented or “international” characters, The Journal-user Alexis Balmont-Aoutine of France recommends this software utility program, AllChars. He writes:
I’ve been using AllChars for the past 12 months and could not do without it now. I type in English but also in French, in Spanish and in Russian (I am also investigating how to enter Chineese characters)… So you see, I have constantly to enter chars for which there is no key on the keyboard.
Here is a short quote from its web site:
=======START OF QUOTE============
AllChars – Introduction
AllChars provides a quick, easy-to-remember way of creating accents like � � � � � and special characters like � � � © £ � � � ½ ¿ « » ™ � in most Windows programs.
AllChars v3.5 upwards supports macros: type a (short) name and AllChars will replace it with a (long) text.
AllChars is very easy and intuitive in usage and it is possible to adapt it to your wishes.
AllChars is FREEWARE.
AllChars works with Windows 3.11 or Windows 95, 98, NT 4.0 and 2000.
=======END OF QUOTE============
See for yourself at http://allchars.zwolnet.com/index.html
by Susan Michael
Writing Exercise – Write short prose or poetry using the following theme:transparency
Journaling Exercise – Close your eyes for a minute and imagine you are skydiving. Write about the physical sensations and the thoughts you have.
About the author: Susan Michael calls herself the “Poetry Enabler” and is active in spoken word poetry. She has facilitated several writing groups, and lead writing & creativity workshops for the Arts & Humanties Council in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Keeping a Professional Journal
by David Michael
What is a “professional journal”? A professional journal is a log of events that take place within your workday. The focus of a professional journal is tracking what you have worked on, and what you are working on. A professional journal can include your “thought processes” as you handle each day’s tasks, and even record your ideas and epiphanies as they occur during the course of work.
A large part of the knowledge we accumulate in our careers remains untapped because we never write it down. A professional journal allows us to tap that resource and learn from our own mistakes and successes. Similarly, a professional journal makes it easy to “remember” what we’ve accomplished, and this can be a valuable tool when interviewing for a new job or for a promotion at your current company.
Why Keep a Professional Journal?
Keeping a professional journal is such a simple and obvious tool, yet it is often overlooked.
In all of our careers there are problems, major and minor, that must be dealt with on a daily basis. Most of these problems are handled with little fanfare, even if dealing with the problem took considerable effort. And with the next day’s or next week’s selection of problems to face, the ones that we’ve already solved are easily forgotten.
In addition to the problems solved, there are projects and tasks successfully completed and feats accomplished. But in the progression of weekdays and weekends, problems and solutions, new directions and new challenges, the memory what we’ve achieved can fade.
By keeping a professional journal, however, you can overcome the limitations of your memory–and, often, the memories of those you work with. Sometimes facetiously referred to as a “CYA Kit”, your professional journal can help clarify who *did* stop by your desk with a request for a new feature or change to your current project.
Need to justify your request additional staffing for your department or a raise or a promotion for yourself? Want to review your accomplishments before going to a job interview? By keeping a professional journal, you can have nearly instant access to this and any similar information you need.
A professional journal is easy to start, and simple to keep going. Though it can take a bit of getting used to writing things down (or typing them in), it’s a habit that is easily acquired.
The first step in keeping a professional journal is having a place to keep it. There are numerous options, but the two primary choices are pen-and-paper and electronic.
Pen-and-paper is the traditional approach, and is also usually the easiest and cheapest way to get started. With a good pen and a spiral notebook you are up and running with an investment of only a few dollars. It’s incredibly portable and useable even when the power’s out or there’s no place to plug in your laptop.
Generations of engineers have kept their “engineering notes” using pen-and-paper methods, filling notebook after notebook in the course of their careers. Before I created my own journaling software, The Journal, I used yellow legal pads. I filled quite a few of these with my hard-to-read handwriting and almost-illegible “screen-shot scribbles”, almost never tearing anything out or throwing anything away. And I still have them. For a slightly more “upscale” approach, there are products like daily planners. These don’t often include a lot of room for detailed notes, however.
Maybe these simple tools seem a bit “low tech” to you. Not to worry. There are numerous electronic/digital options available, whether you want it for your desktop, laptop, “palm” top or a combination. Of these, the simplest is Windows Notebook, though the 64K limitation on file size can be a problem. Other, more sophisticated, options can be found by doing a search with the keyword “journal” on your favorite software/shareware web page (such as http://www.zdnet.com) or search engine (such ashttp://www.google.com). Besides my own The Journal software mentioned above, there are a number of journaling products available. Try them all, and use the one that meets your needs.
Whichever medium of keeping a journal you decide, pen-and-paper or electronic, remember that you can always change your mind. The important thing to keep in mind is that how you keep a journal is up to you. Experiment, and keep an open mind.
Your Own Knowledge Base
So now you have your journaling materials, what do you write in it? The short answer is: Anything. The slightly longer answer is: Anything and everything.
For example, it is often important to remember how you solved a particular problem because that problem will come up again. Rather than wrestle with it one more time, wouldn’t life be easier if you could refer back to how you solved the problem last time? With a professional journal, you create your own “knowledge base” of problems and the solutions for those problems.
Similarly, when it comes time for a “performance evaluation”, it can be difficult to remember how much you have accomplished in the last 6-12 months. What could be simpler than pulling a list of what you’ve done, at a moment’s notice, from your records? With a professional journal you know what you’ve done, because it’s all right there.
Besides the above, some other common things to record in your professional journal are meeting notes, action lists, phone conversation notes, design comments, phone numbers, business contacts, and on and on. It’s your journal, for your own purposes, so if you can think of it to write down, write it down. Keep as many or as few details as you wish. Keep in mind, though, that the more specific details you include, the easier it will be to find the information when you search through it later.
Electronic journals are the easiest to search through, since nearly all of them include some feature for searching past entries. Often it’s as simple as typing in a word or phrase and reviewing the entries that are found to contain the word or phrase.
Even paper journals can be made rapidly searchable. A simple method is to write key words about the day’s entry at the top of the page, or on the outside margin. Also, an index can be created for a particular “volume” or book of entries. Using the key words written on each page, the index can be created very quickly.
Taking It With You
Something you should consider when you begin keeping a professional journal is: What happens when you and your current employer part ways? Who is the “owner” of your professional journal?
In most cases, there is no problem with taking your “work notes” with you when you leave a company. However, you have to consider any “trade secrets”, patents, and other intellectual property that may be recorded in your journal. It’s possible that your notes, if shown indiscrimiately to outside parties, could compromise your former company’s competitive advantage.
If there is any doubt, you should ask your manager or supervisor if your company has any policy regarding work notes kept by employees. Companies which rely heavily on trade secrets and non-disclosure agreements almost certainly have a policy about this. How restrictive it is, and what kinds of information it covers, are going to vary from company to company.
Even if there are restrictions, you may be able to take everything, or a good portion of it, by signing a written agreement to not release the information.
At worst, you will have to leave your professional journal at your employer when you leave. But even in that case, you will have had the benefits of a professional journal while working there, and can easily start a new one at your next workplace.
In conclusion, keeping a professional journal is a good way to keep a record of your solutions to particular problems, remember your thought processes as you worked out those solutions, and keep a list of your accomplishments for use in wage negotiations and job interviews.
At first it might take some discipline to keep your journal up to date, but stick with it. After only a short time, you’ll be used to the idea–and possibly wondering how you’ve managed so long *without* a professional journal.
David Michael has designed and developed software for over a decade. David has kept both a personal journal and professional journal since 1993. In 1996, he formed DavidRM Software to sell his award-winning journaling software, The Journal.
If you would like to contribute to the “How I Use The Journal”, “Writing Exercises”, or “Tips & Tricks” sections, or would like to submit an article about journaling, writing, or another The Journal-related topic, we would love to hear from you.
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