"I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train." - Oscar Wilde
It seems such a mundane thing to do - a time waster almost. Writing for the sake of writing; not for monetary or possible publishing. No editing to do: typos are accepted, run on sentences are OK.
In fact, it seems like the simple act of writing down your thoughts, problems, wins, losses - basically dumping all that you are thinking about onto a piece of paper is incredibly more powerful than at first glance.
James Pennebaker, a psychologist and researcher at the University of Texas at Austin believes that regular journaling strengthens immune cells, called T-lymphocytes, while other research shows that journaling can decrease the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.
A study in the journal Advances in Psychiatric Treatment found that 15-20 minutes, 3-5 times a week was enough to help the participants in the study to deal with traumatic, stressful, or otherwise emotional events. Journaling also has a powerful effect on severe cancer patients.
When you write, that act ignites your rational and analytical left brain, which gives your right brain time to do what it does best: feel emotions, create, and build on intuition. Free writing allows you to process thoughts and clarify feelings. Tapping both sides of the brain can solve problems and put disagreements into a new light, all in a record you can refer to.
So how to do it? Like anything worth doing, consistency is key. Charles Duhigg, in his book, The Power of Habit, explains keystone habits as "small changes or habits that people introduce into their routines that unintentionally carry over into other aspects of their lives." Keystone habits are foundational habits that once become acquired, cause a positive chain reaction of other good habits which ultimately bring extreme change to your entire life.
There's a few different thoughts on this, but ultimately, it's up to you and what will work for your schedule to make it a daily routine. Focusing on your thoughts and emotions during this time will help you unlock what happened during the day and assist in processing. Others like the focus of short and long-term goals with detailed steps and look backs on the day to see how you progressed (Note: there are others who feel that focusing too hard on the goal will ultimately back fire - the idea to be to have a set of goals, back end what you need to do, schedule them into your daily calendar so you have action points, and then check back on them in monthly increments in your daily writing but NOT to daily write about them)
Most experts suggest writing either right before bed to re-cap the day and bring front of mind ideas to process and work on in the subconscious during sleeping; others prefer first thing in the morning when your prefrontal cortex is the most active and creative.
Writing by hand is slower, which can help express more ideas; hand writing also increases activity in the brain's motor cortex, which will ultimately be more cathartic and express more ideas. However, typing is obviously a bit easier and will help keep with consistency during travel or in a crunch for time. Typing is also faster, which I find has me keeping up with my stream of consciousness so I write through my problems more easily than writing by hand. When I have the means to do so, I journal by hand; but I don't let my work travel stop my routine so I also have a digital diary.
I am not the biggest advocate on keeping a journal specifically around your job. I am a huge believer that there is no longer a work/life balance to achieve for - true success in life is the melding of everything we do, the acceptance of work and life as two ingredients that make up everything we are, and the higher one moves into executive and leadership positions, the goal to make sure your career is attuned with your personal life and is rewarding and life adding is the key. Because of this, keeping a job journal apart from a life journal to me is counter-intuitive. However, I do really like and have used the idea of keeping track of the wins you do within your job on a daily or weekly level - that helps shape what you have accomplished as quite the portfolio to use for annual reviews.