Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Can Writing It Down Change Your Life?

We have all heard that journaling is a good idea. It is something that is recommended by psychologists and religious teachers alike as a method of self examination, but does it really do any good? I would give my personal experiments with journaling a mixed review at best, in part because I am not certain I want to keep a permanent written record of some of my less than stellar thoughts.

Introductory texts teaching technical analysis, trading stocks on the basis of market activity rather than investing in a company on its intrinsic value, agree that after completing a transaction, the trader should write down what he did, why he did it, and how it worked in a formal logbook or spread sheet. Now there is some evidence that this kind of journaling can also improve job performance generally. A Harvard Business School working paper by Professor Francesca Gino demonstrates that employees who set aside 15 minutes at the end of the day to reflect on and record their daily activities will measurably boost their job performance. In an experiment involving employees at an Indian multinational IT services company, Wipro, one group of employees were given 15 minutes at the end of the day to record their activities. After 10 days the journaling employees had 22.8% higher performance than the control group.

"In the field study, we were asking people to work less," Gino says. "It's counterintuitive, because you think you want to use those 15 minutes to keep working, but it actually leads to performance."

I would like to know what was being measured and whether or not supervisors were allowed to read these journals. Unfortunately, this information came from a news article entitled, “This 15-Minute Activity Will Make You More Successful at Work” by Drake Baer. It appears that access to the paper requires a subscription to the Harvard Business Review.

Professor Gino developed the idea for this experiment from her personal practice as a business school instructor. After each class she records what happened including student comments and the points in her lecture that led to quality discussions. She then uses lessons learned from her journal in planning her future classes. In her studies, Gino has discovered this method can help increase a student’s grade point average and while seeking re-employment after losing a job.

She observes, "It's very easy to deceive yourself if you're just thinking about it, but when you write things down on paper, it's easier to identify what's helpful."

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