7 Benefits of Keeping a Project Journal

Perhaps you are like me. You have lots of thoughts darting around in your mind. If you are looking for a way to sort and organize your thoughts, let’s look at the benefits of keeping a project management journal.

Project managers are busy people, often managing multiple projects. During the course of a day, you may encounter all kinds of things–schedule conflicts, people issues, poor leadership by your sponsors, too many meetings, and scope creep, to name a few. Furthermore, we are so busy that it’s hard to find time to make sense of it all.

Author, blogger and speaker Michael Hyatt says, “…journaling is a means to an end. It helps me think more deeply about my life, where it is going, and what it means.” This is not only true for our personal lives, but journaling helps with our professional lives.

project manager keeping a project journal

Benefits of Project Journaling 

Here are seven ways I benefit from my project journal:

  1. Gain Perspective. Journaling helps me think about my projects from different angles. What is my project sponsor thinking? How are the key stakeholders influencing my projects? What are my greatest project risks?
  2. Clarity Thoughts. Clarity comes with writing. There is power is getting our random thoughts on paper (or on a digital device). It brings light to our thinking and helps us organize our thoughts.
  3. Solve Problems. One of my mentors once said, “You can’t solve problems until they are first well defined.” We benefit from times of quiet reflection and refining our problem statements, before attempting to solve them.
  4. Plan Next Steps. Journal where you are in your projects and what you’ve accomplished. Next, write out your next steps.
  5. Identify Lessons Learned. What went well? What did not go well? If you had to do the project again, what would you do differently?
  6. Grow Personally. Writing is like looking in a mirror. It helps me see myself more clearly. How am I leading? What can I do to improve my relationships?
  7. Ask Questions. As I journal, I capture questions. If I have answers, I write it out. If I don’t, it’s still helpful to see the questions. Over time, I can resolve these open questions.

What Kinds of Projects Do I Journal?

I journal my more challenging programs and projects. I particularly find value in journaling about projects that are unlike any projects I’ve managed before. And I journal projects where I’m trying something new. When I first started using an agile approach, I captured my experience.

When to Journal 

Most people have a hard time being consistent in their journaling. The key is committing to a time. I journal early in the morning when things are quiet and I’ve yet to get into the busyness of the day.

Questions for Project Journaling 

When I journal, I address one or more of the following questions:

  • What am I learning?
  • What are the greatest risks?
  • If I had to do this part of the project again, what would I do differently?
  • What can I do to improve my communication?
  • What do I enjoy most about this project?

How Often and How Much Time

I journal 2-3 times per week. It normally takes me about 5-8 minutes to complete each journal entry.

Tools for Project Journaling 

For years, I wrote my personal journal with paper and pen. A few years ago, I started journaling digitally with an Apple app called Day One. My journal synched to DropBox. For most days, I journal using my I-Mac. If I am out of town, I use my iPad. Another great application for journaling is the web-based tool EverNote.

Using Journal Tags 

I tag project posts with project tags such as “Membership Marketing Project”. Using the project tags, I can easily retrieve and review all the journal posts for a single project.

Not only do I tag the posts with project tags, I add knowledge area tags such as scope management, cost management, and risk management. This allows me to retrieve all the posts related to a single knowledge area.

Give journaling a try for 21 days. Let me know about your experience. Happy journaling!

Question: Have you ever kept a project journal? How have you benefited?

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