Keeping an appraisal journal – a journal where you note down all major achievements and positive feedback can be a life-changer.
The human mind is a strange thing. From day to day, we tend to focus on the problems and frustrations, and forget to appreciate the positive things. After a few years, we have forgotten most of the negative and remembers mostly positive events when thinking of the past.
In our daily hustle, we tend to not notice gradual improvements. Again, only focusing on what’s left. Let me give you two examples from my own life.
In 2005, I got some serious health issues. I hurt my back as a teenager. Then, in my mid-thirties, I all of a sudden found myself having extreme pain in my neck and shoulders, and splintering head aces. My day-to-day life consisted of visitings doctors and the chiropractor, taking pain killers and trying to hold on to my job.
After a couple of years, I was totally down. I had no energy left, and could not see any progress. One day, while visiting my chiropractor, I broke down and started crying. I told her how I felt, that I could not see any progress, nor end to my sufferings.
She then sat down and started to read from her journal. She detailed how I was feeling in past visits, and how much painkillers I had been taking.
During every visit for almost two years, she would ask me the same questions: “On a scale from one to ten, how have you been feeling since last time?” and “What’s your daily dose of painkillers?” I realized that what she was asking me during every visit was not small talk. She was taking notes after I left.
The progress was slow but steady. By taking a look at the notes, we knew that things were going in the right direction.
…and in health
Seven years later I had been back working full time for a number of years. As I was preparing for my yearly assessment with my manager, I was feeling utterly frustrated. I felt that I had delivered very little that year, and was preparing for a tough meeting. I was mentally prepared to defend myself.
As the meeting progressed, I was saying how frustrated I felt due to my lack of delivery. After a few sentences, my manager was smiling and asking me “What are you talking about?” Then she started to list my deliveries. Shure, there was some unfinished issues, but we both knew that this was due to external circumstances.
In my eagerness to get things off my list, I had spent the past year attacking the next item on my list as soon as I had completed the previous one. That short, but rewarding moment when I was able to bask in my successful achievement was forgotten. What I was remembering was the hours and days spent in more or less frustration over wasted time in meetings or unforeseen technical problems that hindered progress.
What goes into my appraisal journal
I have the task of updating my appraisal journal as a part of my GTD Weekly Review. Then I will make notes of deliveries and other important milestones in the last week. Just as important are positive feedback. This could be things like an email from a happy customer, or a quote from a meeting.
Want to learn more about GTD? Read Getting Things Done (GTD) – What is it?
The benefits of keeping an appraisal journal
There is plenty of documentation on the benefits of keeping a journal. It does not matter if you write by hand or keep a digital journal, but you will remember more if you write by hand. The most important thing is that you are able to find your notes when you need them.
Since I started to keep an appraisal journal I find it handy in a lot of different situations. Not only is it a good tool for preparing for my yearly assessment. I use my notes when I create project summaries or for finding out when new software was rolled out in the past.
If I feel that a project is stuck, or that I have not been productive lately, my appraisal journal might give me a different picture.
There is another, equally important lesson I have learned. After I started to keep an appraisal journal, I see the value of written positive feedback. This has made me more willing to take the time to give written feedback myself.
I use Evernote Premium* for my appraisal journal. That way I can look it up anywhere, even without an internet connection.
Here are more of my blog posts about Evernote:
*Disclosure: By using the above link, I will get three months free Evernote Premium if you sign up for the Evernote Premium plan. Please trust me when I say that I do not get paid for product reviews, and will newer promote products that I have not tried myself.