3 Reasons Why You Need a Happy File


During the past year, I’ve learned the importance of having and maintaining a happy file at work, and I’ve found it so beneficial that I will always make it a priority to keep an updated happy file.  You might be thinking, What is a happy file? A happy file can be an electronic or physical file (I have both!) that includes information such as “job well done” emails from bosses, colleagues, or supervisors, successful performance reviews, notices of raises or merit pay awards, lists of job duties and responsibilities, published articles/products, completed reports or official documentation, and any other positive information about your job performance.  Below are 3 Reasons Why You Need a Happy File:

1. Past Successes

Your happy file includes documentation of your work successes and showcases your track record of completed projects, events, and products.  Without a happy file, you may not remember the exact timeframe or specifics surrounding each job achievement, and you may not also remember the well-earned praise you received for these accomplishments.  When you file these past successes in your happy file, you are able to not only 1) look back over a certain timeframe, reflect on how much you have actually accomplished, and feel proud of your performance, but also 2) have tangible evidence of your work experience to showcase for future jobs/promotions/cover letters/interviews.

2.  Present Achievements    

Your happy file is also an outstanding way to keep track of your current achievements and keep you motivated to press on to complete those tasks with excellence.  In the middle of a year-long project with no end in sight? Turn back to your happy file for the email from your boss in which she states how she knows you are qualified and the perfect person for this project.  Given a lot of “other duties as assigned” recently? Look into your happy file and check out your last performance review where your boss praised your ability to adapt and work well under pressure and varied situations.  Make sure to keep filing into your happy file those emails and documentation as you receive them so that you can find the oft-needed focus and drive to press on during present challenges and tasks.

3.  Encouragement for the Future

Last but certainly not least, your happy file is an awesome way to find encouragement for the future.  Whether you’re uncertain if you can tackle your new promotion’s responsibilities, you’re debating whether or not you have the skills or experience needed for a new job posting you’re interested in, or you simply need a little extra motivation to remind you why you love your current job, your happy file is a great source for all of the above and much more.  Tailor your happy file to work for you –whether that’s a brightly colored physical folder, a simple archived email folder, a special folder on your desktop, or a 3-ring binder with laminated page protectors (I may or may not have all of the above), and make your happy file useful for you.

In the comments below, please share:

1. If you use a happy file, what do you use it for?

2. What you like most about your happy file?

3. Tips for others wanting to start their own happy file

Christina Smith is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Stephen Yoder

This is a great idea. I work with a very challenging population and this can really help me focus on the victories and not the defeats. Thanks!

Christina Smith

Hi Stephen! Thanks so much for reading and commenting – I’m so glad this will help you stay positive! Keep up the great work!

Metz Hairig

Excellent article.You tural for a special management positiondealing with the “larger ” organization combining Human resources, consultation, revewing organizational goals etc… I can go on and on… You are a gem Christina. Keep the good work.! Your employers better be aware .. Companies would fight for a team member like you…

Mark Hammer

There is actually a research literature on the benefits of reminiscence, with respect to buffering against stress, and enhancing life satisfaction. A “happy file” would appear to be a dependable tool for such beneficial reminiscence.

Christina Smith

Hi Mark! Thanks for reading and commenting – that is so interesting and I think a happy file does help decrease stress and make me feel more satisfied!! Thank you for sharing!

Terrence Hill

I don’t call it a “happy file” but I have been tracking my accomplishments using a free system call “280Daily” (https://280daily.com/) where I have up to 280 characters to describe my accomplishments for that day. I can even capture pictures. This file is a handy way to keep track of accomplishments as they happen. Another one that I have tried is iDoneThis (https://idonethis.com/). Someday, organizations will have systems to capture accomplishments/results and feedback from stakeholders on a continuous basis. This will be the new face of performance management.

Christina Smith

Hi Terrence – thanks for reading and commenting. Those two systems seem really helpful and great ways to capture accomplishments and records – I will have to try them out. Thanks again for sharing!

Steve Ressler

We at GovLoop have a “virtual quote wall” which is both a Slack channel where we share great quotes & we keep it as a google doc. Great for when we need a reminder of the great community we serve & great for testimonials when needed for projects.

Christina Smith

Hi Steve! Thanks for reading and sharing those great ideas – I’m going to see if we can do something similar in my department!

Tamara Schaps

I work in college career development and there are lots of ups and downs. Whenever I receive a kind email thank you from a student/alum who got a job offer or who successfully negotiated a higher salary after we practiced together, I file it away in my “Warm Fuzzies” email folder. These messages remind me of the good work being done and my role in helping students become excellent at managing their careers. I think everyone needs a happy file and will definitely be sharing this article with my network. Thank you!

Christina Smith

Hi Tamara – thanks for reading and for your helpful comment! I love the name of your email folder – “warm fuzzies!” That is so fun! Feel free to share this post as you would like – thanks!

Esther-Catherine Alexander

I’ve always called it my achievement file, and sometimes my “atta girl” file. It includes letters, e-mails, memos, and handwritten sticky notes from bosses or customers who were impressed or affected by my work and a list of major accomplishments for each job I have held over the past 40+ years. Whenever I go to a job interview, I take copies of relevant letters, e-mails, or memos to leave with the employer. I also review the accomplishments before the interview and select key related ones to include in my answers during the interview. Then, there are the days when I am feeling abused and unappreciated. A quick review of the file helps to remind me of all the good I have accomplished over the years. It is always a day brightener!

Christina Smith

Hi Esther! Wow – sounds like you are a pro at using and enjoying your happy file!! Thank you so much for sharing. I especially appreciate the tip for reviewing the happy file before job interviews – what a great idea. Thanks for reading.

Cathy Kittle

I’m a big believer in a Happy folder. I give everyone of my new team members a bright yellow folder when they start with us. I decorate it with star stickers and write “Kudos” on it. I tell them that every time they get a thank you email to put it in the folder. I start them off with a thank you card telling them the skills sets I saw in them and wishing them a bright future with our team. I started my own folder 22 years ago and I still look through it on tough days when I need to remind myself why I love being a public servant- it got me through some challenging times (layoffs, political changes, difficult bosses, etc).

Christina Smith

Hi Cathy – thanks for reading and sharing! My Happy File folder is also yellow! 🙂 You sound like a great leader, and I love that you start each of your team members out with their own happy file folder and thank you note. Thanks again for your insight.

Sarah Ehinger

Absolutely a “happy” file is a must. I have one I call my smile file and in addition to the things you mentioned above it includes some photos and notes from work experiences that made me laugh. If I am having a particular tough day or week, I often grab the file and thumb through it to help keep my perspective centered. It’s often difficult in government to see the accomplishments in the day to day, but keeping a happy file can help you reflect on where you have been and were you are going and why the day to day helps you get there. Thanks for sharing the concept with everyone!

Christina Smith

Hi Sarah! Thanks so much! Including photos and funny notes from work experiences is a great tip to be added into the Happy File – I’m going to have to do that, too! Keep up the great work!


I actually created these for my kids! I call it (for example) “Carly’s Book of Greatness” and it includes all those cute school certificates, honor roll ribbons, sports team photos, mementos from big events like science fairs or special camps, etc. Both are now in high school and the binders are overflowing. They are a wonderful trip down memory lane, and I bet they will come in handy for college applications too!