Reflection in 15 Minutes with Bullet Points

 

I encourage my clients to find a way that works for them to reflect. This means setting aside some time to THINK. I get a lot of resistance, and understand that finding the time to reflect is difficult in their busy schedules. The thought of spending time alone can be tough too, considering most of them (like most leaders) are action-takers. The idea of being still to reflect can be a bit disconcerting; it may not feel like anything is happening (but what if thought were considered “action”?).

The reality is that action without reflection can translate into being blind to what really needs to be done for ourselves and for the organization. We may be going down the wrong path. And by the time we discover this, it is too late. My colleague Steve Roesler calls this “Prognosis without Diagnosis”.

Learning to be proactive by looking back before we take the wrong turn is crucial. It means intentionally finding ways to slow down. It means that in our crazy-busy world, we have to regularly reflect on our actions and the reactions of others. How? It`s not as hard as you think. Instead of feeling like you have to spend large amounts of time reflecting, start by fitting a few minutes into your schedule every day.

Block out the time, every day; it takes discipline to make this a practice. Don’t let the thought of finding a large chunk of time stop you. Finding thirty minutes or even an hour may be too tough. Try blocking out fifteen minutes on your calendar for the next few months. Some find that first thing in the morning works, others may prefer lunchtime or the end of the day.

Turn off the electronic gadgets, including your computer and cell phone. Close the door and let anyone who needs to know that unless there is an emergency, you are not to be disturbed.

Ask yourself the right kinds of questions. Questions are a great way to get started. Open ended questions are the best thought starters. Some questions that you might use – or you can create your own:

  • Did I follow the path I intended to in the last 24 hours? Why or why not?
  • What path do I want to follow in the future?
  • What makes the path important to me? To others?
  • What have I noticed in others` reactions to me today?
  • What actions do I need to make to follow the future path?

Write down your answers. You can be efficient here. Don’t let the thought of “journaling” get in the way. Get a small notebook and answer your questions with bullet points; large notebooks and never-ending prose are unnecessary. I realize actual writing with a pen is out of fashion, but doing it this way will allow you to think through your answers.

Stay accountable: If you are self motivated, this won’t be a problem. However, you may want to discuss your answers with someone. For many leaders, having a “reflective partner” will help with accountability; the right partner can spur creative thinking. Consider scheduling time with a friend, colleague or your coach to discuss your reflections.

Stick with it: After a while, your “reflective practice” will become a habit – like eating or sleeping. And you’ll see the results – better observations and presence, decisions and clarity.

Fifteen minutes and bullet points! Is that so hard?

 

I am a former executive in a Fortune 100 company. I have owned and operated an executive coaching firm since 2003 called Aspire Collaborative Services LLC. We partner with great leaders to help them become even greater at developing, improving, and sustaining relationships with the people who are essential to their success. This blog is for leaders and those who help them to be more intentional about relationships at work. My top personal values include respect for others, kindness, compassion, collaboration and gratitude. I work very hard at practicing my values daily and when I don’t succeed, I practice some more. I am married with two wonderful daughters and two spoiled pugs.

11 comments on “Reflection in 15 Minutes with Bullet Points

  1. Congratulations on reaching 200 posts!

    I appreciate this encouragement to block out time to reflect. It can be so hard to unplug and find uninterrupted time. I agree with you, though, about how important it is. Thanks for providing a great set of questions to consider.

  2. Thanks for this post. I’ve started working on writing something on how to create a reflection practice. The one thing I hadn’t thought of before is the “reflective partner”. I love this idea. I’m wondering if you could expand a little bit on what you think are the qualities someone would look for in the right reflective partner?

  3. Becky, thanks for your kind thoughts. I know how busy your life must be – which is why I suggest blocking it out on your calendar. Best wishes!

    Tom,for some, “thinking out loud” is helpful, as well as having a friend, colleague or a coach to work through your thoughts with. The best “reflective partners” listen thoroughly and ask great, open ended questions. They don’t judge and they don’t try to be “helpful” with lots of suggestions about what you could be doing differently or better.

    Sonia, hurray and congratulations! I’d love to hear about your great results at some point in the future!

    Dorothy, how kind. Thanks for the bookmark.

  4. Great post, Mary Jo! I truly believe a daily reflective practice is a must for leaders and everyone, for that matter! I am pinging back to this post from my own on the subject. Thanks for the thoughtful questions and guidelines here.

  5. Great post, we are so eager to quickly problem solve that we forget to actually think. I had a great boss once tell me – the biggest mistake executives make is that they don’t allow time for reflective thinking, they do it on the way up, and it’s often what makes them successful, catapulting them past other more reactionary players, but the higher up they get, the less they have time for the very thing that made them successful in the first place.

    Lisa

  6. Dear Mary,

    I cannot agree more to your suggestion. In today’s world we do need some time set aside for self reflection. Especially now, I need it more than ever. I used to be very driven and focus on all that I do. Unfortunately, as I got older, my personal or career objectives have been a blur. From time to time, I do perform some sort of “reflective practice”; however, I found it very hard to stick with it. May be is fear that prevents me not to look back. I do believe your suggestion will help, but is it a key to perform this “reflective practice” daily? Can it be weekly?

    Sincerely,
    Jason

  7. Jason, every day is important to make your reflection a habit. Find someone who will hold you accountable, and focus on the benefits you are reaping.

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