Article Overview 

This article covers the benefits of keeping a personal project diary. Keep reading it to find out more. 

Table of Contents

Why You Should Keep A Personal Project Diary 
Learn by Example 
Learn by Experience 
Sample Questions 

Why You Should Keep A Personal Project Diary 

Project management delivery is based on applying the tools and techniques learned from formal training, experiences, and from self-paced education.  All training requires notes and studying to learn. Each day is an opportunity to grow as a project manager, and there are actions we can take to improve learning.

We know a project is temporary and unique with a fixed beginning and fixed end. Every project has unique people and places. Even projects executed in the same organization will be unique and can provide growth opportunities. I have found capturing my personal performance in a diary helps identify my success and my opportunities. Recording what is working and opportunities for improvement provides a map for formal or self-education.  We are not talking about the action item lists.  

Accordingly, recording lessons learned at the end of the project puts too much gap in time and perspective from the events.  Specifically, we able to adequately and accurately record the “truth” from this distance.  We submit that answer is an emphatic no.  In this way, a diary can help in many ways, though lessons learned for the project team is not the reason for keeping a diary.


1.    Education needs
2.    Updating a resume
3.    Refresher for preparing for an interview
4.    Comparing current situations to previous
5.    Identifying other personal and professional growth opportunities
6.    Improve your writing skills
7.    Base of written material from which other things can be built – maybe.

It is important to capture emotions, events, and responses as soon as one can to avoid using recollection and cloudy memories. Studies have shown that within the first 24 hours of an event, we forget up to 70% and within the next 24 hours, another 20% is forgotten.1  Our suggestion to improve clear recall, take up to 15 minutes at the end of the business day, before leaving for home, to capture what you deem critical. In addition, there is information confirming the process of writing things down improves memory retention.2 


Record daily actions, personal lessons learned, opportunities, and risks that you encounter, new ideas, questions, and thoughts concerning the current project and your execution. As a construction manager, walking the construction site and in and out of meetings, I started carrying a pocket-size notebook to document items I had to follow up on and also items for my personal diary. 

This diary is a personal and private project focused document. Yelling, cursing, strong feelings – positive and negative, actions are taken can be recorded here.  This is the ultimate safe zone and venting in this way is likely one of the better outlets, recorded without fear others will read it. Note: I yell at myself by using all caps and exclamation marks.
Use this diary to record areas where you excel as well as areas where you need improvement.  This will help you in your personal development identifying those things upon which you need to work, and things upon which you can capitalize.  In either case, as you are recording the event some ideas for improvement may come to mind. These ideas should be captured as well. Reviewing these ideas will encourage you to develop action steps. Record those action steps. Develop a plan to implement those steps.

Some studies recommend handwriting over word processors for the journal and diary entries. In fact, these exercises might improve your handwriting, however, there are studies that show an additional benefit that handwriting connects and engages the brain better.  With all the apps available for handwriting on screens, it really comes down to paper or electronic storage. I do a variation. Most times I use electronic means and print it out. 

Also, I have discovered voice recognition software. I tend to think faster than I type or write. With voice recognition one may want a private area to record.  

Learn by Example 

Record your observations of other project managers. One can learn good activities and activities to avoid by observing other project managers.  We can even include reading or watching videos on a topic as fodder for our diary. 

As a new project manager, I worked in a project department, before they were called PMOs, with thirty-seven other project managers and project engineers. I focused on the most successful project managers for mentoring, observation, and they are less successful for actions.

Learn by Experience 

In addition to observing or reading, we can learn through experience and by doing, exploring different things and different approaches.  There is nothing like doing for a person to learn.  We can mentally ruminate on these scenarios (thought experiments), but to truly see what can happen, we will need to explore and by that we mean experiment. The experiments and results can also be logged in your diary for future reference. 

Sample Questions


•    How was my communication today?
•    What communication approach was effective? What was ineffective? Why?
•    How did I demonstrate active listening today?
•    What communications did I model today?
•    Did I drive out the Why? (Keep asking why until either you or the speaker understands.)


•    How did I demonstrate Leadership today?
•    Did I pick the best management/leadership approach given the circumstances?
•    How can I share leadership, who needs to lead us based upon topic area and their knowledge? How can I determine this and when do I need to do the transfer?
•    How COULD I have demonstrated Leadership today? Did I walk like I talk today?
•    On a scale of 1 (I need major improvement) to 10 (best leader), how do I rate myself today? Why?
•    Additional items that might trigger questions about Leadership can be found in one of our previous articles: Leadership Styles and Conflict Resolution

Personal Areas

•    How was my mood today?  Did I overreact? Under react? Did I suppress the expression of others?
•    Did my mood color my day? How?  What can I do to eliminate these negative impacts?
•    Today exposed an opportunity for improvement in…
•    What cognitive biases are impacting my effectivity?
•    How well do I handle conflict?


•    What did I learn today about managing a project of this type/size today?
•    Do I enjoy this type of project? Why or why not?
•    What was my approach to the planning? What results can be attributed to the planning approach?

Professional Areas 

•    Today exposed an opportunity for improvement in…
•    Should I be looking for information/classes in __________________?
•    Are there actions other project managers are taking that I should?
•    What do I need to know to advance my career in the desired direction?
•    Who can help me reach my career goals? Who can I help to reach their career aspirations?


There are many questions you can ask yourself in order to document answers that will help you. The questions provided are just samples. You ask yourself questions all the time and you don’t always document the answers. 

Creating a Personal Project Diary is necessary to be an above-average and successful project manager, but it might help. Life’s events pass quickly, memories fade, and things aren’t remembered quite the way they happened.

And remember, as mentioned earlier in this article: This diary is a personal and private project focused document. Yelling, cursing, strong feelings – positive and negative, actions are taken can be recorded here. Recorded without fear others will read it.


  1. [1] Brain Science: The Forgetting Curve–the Dirty Secret of Corporate Training
  2. [2] You Will Remember Information Longer if you Hand Write Notes