take-time-to-reflectAt the end of the year we try to wrap as many things up as we can and start to reflect on what we’ve been doing as we prepare to power into the next year. Reflecting on what has happened, what you achieved and how you can improve is a great way to implement changes in your systems, rituals and habits to continuously improve. Once a year is ok, but to really ingrain positive new behaviours so that they become natural for you, you need to practice reflection much more regularly. While you may reflect on a goal level at the end of the year, each week or perhaps even each day, you should spend a bit of time thinking about what you did and whether you could do it better.

Why should we reflect?

Have you ever done something that resulted in a bad outcome and thought: wait a minute! I’ve made this mistake before and now I’m repeating it! Reflecting on your own experiences is a very effective way of ensuring that you learn from your mistakes and take full advantage of your experiences to improve your performance in the future. In the past people would say ‘experience is the best teacher’ however today as the pace of our work increases and we deal with an increasing amount of data, it’s easy to let your days blur past without picking up the lessons from what you experience. Building a habit of reflection into your rituals will ensure you don’t waste this valuable resource for improving your abilities.

When?

The more frequent, the less time you need to spend on it and the more likely you’ll ingrain new positive behaviours and make it natural for yourself. Try 15 min a day during your daily commute home. Or if you’re like me and sometimes using this time to plan your most important tasks for the next day, you can try once a week for 15-30mins. The key is consistent and often, in small doses to gain the most benefit from your reflection.

How?

To reflect on your experiences all you need to do is ask yourself two simple questions:

  1. What did I do today?
  2. How could I have done it better?

As you think about these two things you’ll be playing back the events of the day in your mind, evaluating how you handled each event and drawing out lessons on how to achieve a better outcome in each situation. When similar situations occur the next day, say someone criticises your work in front of 20 people in a meeting, you’ll naturally respond and handle it in a more positive way, e.g. considering the criticism as the gift of feedback and figuring out how to change that perception and achieve respect of the rest of your colleagues who are watching your reactions.

Build this activity into your routines but be careful of locking up all your time with lots of separate productivity tips. This creates component conflict! Component conflict in your systems is where one activity is interfering with another and actually reducing your overall productivity. One way of introducing a regular activity is to schedule a specific time for it every day or week. Keep the goal of simplifying your systems in mind though. If you build reflection into your evening ritual, or your commute home (only if not driving – you don’t want to be distracted!), you won’t need to schedule a time for it and you can keep your task management system simplified.

Journaling

I’ve read some articles where people write about using a journal to write down notes about their experiences and then read these notes to reflect and learn from their experiences. I haven’t tried this yet but it does seem like a great idea as it focuses your thoughts and gets you to solidify them enough to put something on paper. Reading back later can also help you build connections between different memories and thoughts. Building connections in your mind is an excellent way to increase retention of information and even if you don’t use a journal, when reflecting on what you did and what you could do better, try to connect the conclusions on what you could do better with other experiences or knowledge. This will make the lessons more readily accessible for your brain and you’ll be able to act on them the next day.

Do you have some tips on how to make sure you’re learning from your own experiences?

Advertisements