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Learning journal

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Monday, October 16, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, October 31, 2017

(Editor's note: this post originally appeared on the blog in the CU Project Management networking group. This group is open to credit union staff in the Carolinas who have a registered web site address. Please click here to view and join the group.) 

Written by: Sandon Nachmann, Coastal CU. 

Have you ever heard that if you want to add a new word to your vocabulary you need to use that word three times in a sentence throughout the day?  Not sure if that’s true or not, but my idea of the learning journal follows the same type of logic.


Before we get into the how, let’s start with the what.   What is a learning journal...?  A learning journal is used to document something you learned today.  Pretty simple right?


Insanity is repeating the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  The problem in trying to apply that analogy to our work lives is that often times we don’t really stop to recognize the positive and negative experiences we have throughout the day.  Because of that I think we’re destined to repeat the same mistakes before we begin to correct them if ever.  If I asked you right now to tell me one positive thing you learned today, what would it be?  Maybe it was you learned that you should start a learning journal.  


What kind of things go in a learning journal?  It can really be anything.  I’ll write down things I experience firsthand, read in blog, hear on a podcast, etc.  One thing I read in a blog about a year ago that I really liked was the power of saying Thank You.  In the article he lists 7 times when you should say Thank You.  You can read more about it here (, but I will say that my favorite one was saying Thank You when you’re running late. 


As he explains in his post being late is stressful for the person who is running late and it's disrespectful to the person who is waiting.  It might seem strange to thank someone for dealing with your hassle, but that's exactly the correct response. Most people stumble in the door and say, “Sorry I'm late.”  The problem is this response still makes the situation about you. Sorry, I'm late. Saying “Thank You” turns the tables and acknowledges the sacrifice the other person made by waiting. Thank you for waiting.


Example: You walk in the door 14 minutes late.

Instead of: “So sorry I’m late. Traffic was insane out there.”

Try saying: “Thank you for your patience.”


When we make a mistake, someone else often makes a sacrifice. Our default response is to apologize for our failure, but the better approach is to praise their patience and loyalty. Thank them for what they did despite your error.


Now that we have the “what” covered, let’s get to the “how”.  How do I document it.  Initially I experimented with writing everything I learned in a blog post so that it would all be saved digitally.  The problem with that was I found myself trying to perfect every post.  Even though it was just 'my' journal, and was only for 'my' reading, everything I entered turned into a long story that I was proof reading and spell checking.  I quickly got away from that and started writing in a notepad.  It was probably more of a mental thing than anything else, but using the notepad would allow me to just start with the date and begin scribbling what I learned that day.  It flowed so much easier.


The best part about the learning journal is that it starts to become a habit.  When I first started I had to make a conscious effort to look for things I was going to learn that day.  After a couple of weeks of actively practicing it, I was easily documenting a couple of things each day.


Similar to learning one new word a day, you have the opportunity learn one new business skill everyday through repetition.  Recognizing the learning experiences becomes the habit, which is the first step.  Step two is documenting it in your learning journal, where you relive it again.  Step three is going through your journal from time to time to make sure you haven’t lost sight of any of your entries.


So, what are you waiting for?  Get to it and start journaling…

Tags:  Best practices 

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