One Sentence Work Journal

You must find a way to do what excites you. That means understanding what makes you feel engaged, upset and happy.

Gretchen Rubin of the Happiness Project gave me the idea of keeping a one sentence journal. I think this habit will help you understand more about who you are and what you need to be happy within your business.

I usually write two sentences instead of just one because I like to write about what happened in my day and how I felt about it. I focus on the most emotionally powerful event. This helps me stay focused and not let the journal get too jumbled.

Download the One Sentence Work Journal PDF

Here are some of my entries:

> 12-3-09 Thursday – I berated myself with negative thoughts because I forgot to send out an email. I wished I had a cold so I could use it as an excuse not to work. (This was eyes opening. I couldn’t believe I wished illness on myself. It was at this point that I began to really develop a more positive mindset.)

> 1-15-10 Friday – I spilled tea all over my keyboard, reminding me to laugh at myself. At first I felt stupid, but then I smiled and actually enjoyed the clean up because I made a song out of it. (When I was finally able to stop taking myself so seriously and laugh at my mistakes that’s when my career happiness finally blossomed.)

> 3-16-10 Tuesday – I stared at my apple for 10 seconds to calm myself down after a client emailed me back listing all my supposed faults. The apple reminded me of a cool Monet painting. This self calming method helped me regain control of my emotions and realize the value in the email. (It’s amazing how many tools I’ve learned to bring back emotional balance when I need it the most.)

Take a moment to write down your first entry in your 1 sentence journal.

You can write about something that you loved, hated or something that bored you to death. Whatever it is, you’ll be able to look back and notice what things irked you or lit a fire underneath your butt. This journal will help you keep things in perspective.

Make it easy

The idea is to make this habit so simple that you want to do it every day. That’s why I suggest only 1 sentence a day.  We resist tasks that feel like work, but feel pulled to work that is easy and fun. You need to make this daily reflection a chance to uncover your superpowers and leverage them to do more great work.

So at the end of each work day, write down one experience, thought, or feeling that you had. That’s it. I also like to summarize my week and my month, but that’s just because I’m a bit of an over reflector.

Try this 1 sentence journal for thirty days and see how it works for you. I don’t think you’ll be able to stop. If you notice at the end of 30 days that all you do is complain then it’s time to drop this awesome habit.

Now if you notice that you are happy, more productive, and more in tuned with your emotions then don’t stop. Keep on watching your thoughts, feelings, and actions so you can use them to improve your amazingness.

Hey, if you aren’t learning anything new about yourself then it’s time to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and dig a little deeper. Because the deeper you dig the more you uncover that resistance and happiness and when you know what’s working well you can keep doing more of this great stuff.

Download the One Sentence Work Journal PDF

View the complete Take Back Control of Your Business series right here:

> Retrain Your Brain

> Chunk Your Way to Success

* Join over 1,000 people who have already subscribed to the FREE Happy at Work 10 Week eCourse. It will arrive in your inbox every Monday morning, when you need it the most. (Sign up is in the top left corner)

* Catherine of Be Awesome Online wrote a cool piece called Unexpected Strengths. We all have superpowers that we don’t realize that we have, but can help our careers feel joyful. Check it out and leave a comment if it pings your soul.

If you enjoyed this post then you will probably like these too:

> Pay Close Attention to Who You Really Are

> 10 Ways to Simplify Your Work Day


  1. Hi Karl,

    This is a great suggestion. I’ve been keeping a one sentence journal for the last four months and I find it’s a great way to identify what worked or didn’t on any given day. My one sentence journal sort of spilled into 3 or 4 sentences, but it’s still a great way to do a quick recap of the day. A mini “good, bad & beautiful”.

    Um, it’s a bit unclear which awesome habit needs to be dropped if all one does is complain in their one sentence journal. 😉 I would hope that seeing a recurring theme in the journal might help to identify what doesn’t seem to be working and inspire a plan for some changes. 🙂

    Have a great day!

  2. I’m a fan of one-liners.

    For my technical books, I found that one-liner checklists were incredibly effective. Later, in 2006, I started doing one-liner insights as a way to save quick thoughts or ideas or inspirations — basically, an “ah-ha journal.”

    Here is a random sample from one of my days:

    – “First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.” — Epictetus
    – empathy with information (beliefs, sensitive / touchy subjects)
    – transitioning from a pure talent acquisition mode to more of a talent management mindset – Brian Toland
    – Peter – crossed-expectations, drive from happiness, the future or right now,
    – find a better fit over blend or change into something you’re not

  3. Hi Karl

    I really like this idea. And I love what you shared and that you shared some of your own personal examples. Right away it gives a person an idea of what you are talking about by example, and you also exemplify how you turned around the situations to make the best out of them.

    The best part is this is fast. No long journal entries, but a one sentence that can even be done on the subway home from work or something like that, so no excuses for not doing it.

  4. Hi Evita, I tried to keep a journal, but never kept up with it. When I started a one sentence journal it felt so easy. After a few months I realized all the thoughts and feelings I was learning from. Now it’s a tool I would never want to give up.


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