8 steps; committing to and reflecting more effectively
How do you make the time to reflect and how do you commit to reflecting?
Two great questions put to me by the wonderful @SiobhanHRSheri via Twitter.
In my experience, we make the time to reflect and use this as an opportunity for personal growth and to plan ahead, once we’re committed to it. The commitment to do this comes off the back of seeing, believing and experiencing the value that reflection brings and then making the time available to do it more often. But, how do you bring this enlightenment about?
The short answer is that it depends very much on how much someone wants to reflect and why and what stops them from reflecting currently and addressing those reasons. The long answer involves looking at several elements which form building blocks that need to be aligned in order to make time to, or overcome a lack of commitment to, the time for reflection.
So what are those building blocks? The following represents the building blocks, based upon the experience of my coachees, I see to reflecting and making the time to do so…
1) Deciding you want to make the time to reflect and starting the journey to commitment
In the words of Margaret J. Wheatley “Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful”
The starting point to effective reflecting has to be to decide that you’d like to be able to reflect and on what. This will in turn help you to decide that you’d like to have the time to do it and then to commit to it.
Ask yourself the questions;
- What do I want to get from reflecting?
- What would it mean for me, those that work with me and the outcomes I seek, if I were to spend the time reflecting on ‘it’?
- What impact will it have on the way i feel, the way i think and what changes could it bring inside, and outside, of work?
Once you’ve answered these three sets of questions, you’ll be in a much better position to know whether it actually seems worthwhile enough for you to bother making the time to reflect.
Still not convinced, here’s a short blog highlighting the benefits of reflection on learning; whilst this is only one benefit it does make for compelling reading.
2) Enhancing your commitment levels to making the time to reflect.
Having looked at the benefits of reflecting, now its time to think about committing to it. Ideally having considered its impact on you, our job is already half way complete. However, if you can identify a time when you reflected and it aided your performance, confidence or clarity, you’ll reinforce it’s benefits and increase your commitment levels to an even greater degree.
One of the blockers I have seen to people taking the time out to reflect is how the perception of others towards you reflecting, fits with your identity and the way you wish to be viewed by the outside world. If you have perceptions that others will view you negatively, if they see you ‘pausing for thought’, this will in turn undermine your commitment to reflect. To prevent this, ask yourself:
- How could reflecting, positively impact on how others view, think or feel about you?
- How could reflecting negatively impact on how others view, think or feel about you?
- What would those that know you best say?
By doing the above, you should begin to ensure that you ‘square’ being seen as a reflector, with the identity you hold for yourself and you want others to see of you. Essentially what you’re looking to achieve is complete peace of mind that if others ask about or see you nipping off for coffee to reflect you are happy to share what you are doing. Anything less tends to mean you’ll let other things override this valuable time at the drop of a hat.
Think about how you’ll benefit from becoming a reflection advocate and over time articulating to others, the benefit you find from it.
3) Making the time to reflect – it’s all about small steps…
Once you’re clear in your own mind that you want to have time to reflect, I’d recommend identifying how much time you’d like to allocate per week. Here, it’s important that you’re realistic and choose an amount that’s a step on from what you’re doing already. 5 minutes, where you have previously completed none, is a great start.
Once you’ve identified how long, identify when in your week you’ll be most open to reflecting and believe you’ll be most effective, for example, when are you likely to suffer the fewest distractions.
Now, make a date with yourself to reflect and think about what you can do to make that time happen; set deadlines for time around it. Tell people what you’re doing and agree that it is time not to be disturbed. Most of all, accept that you’re likely to have times that are more effective than others as this will help set realistic expectations.
4) Making the time you reflect productive
So, you’ve thought through the benefits and committed to taking time out to reflect. Now you need to make that time as productive as possible in order that you’ll continue.
In order to do this, ask yourself;
- When have I most readily reflected?
- What were the circumstances that surrounded that positive reflection?
- What environment would help me to reflect even more effectively?
- How did I reflect and what made it so successful?
- Who else do I know that takes time out to think about who they are and what they do and how do they do it?
- Having considered this; What will I do and what is my starting point?
Here’s a few ideas to get you started:
- Reflect on what you want to achieve for 10 mins at start of every day.
- Only look at your Emails at set times during the day; email surfing is a major killer of reflection time.
- Reflect at the end of each day on the following;
- What did I/we achieve today and how did I/we bring that about?
- What will I/we do more or/less of tomorrow?
For more ideas click here there’s some great strategies outlined.
5) Keeping your comittment to reflect
Finding the time to reflect may be a ‘big’ step for you or it might be just about enhancing the time you take already and keeping that level of commitment. Whether you are or aren’t taking the time out already;
- Decide how you’ll celebrate taking the time – recognising the progress you’re making in finding time will mean you’re more likely to repeat it.
- Find a quote, phrase or picture that reminds you of the benefits of taking time out to reflect and keep it in a place you’ll see regularly.
- Think of someone you can tell about the time you’ve set aside and how it’s enhancing how you think and feel and increasing your productivity as a result. Telling others means that you’re accepting it and reinforcing it’s benefit. The added bonus is that you just might start to change your localised culture and create an environment in which reflection is the norm and that means you’ll feel even more comfortable to do it.
6) Free up the mental space to reflect
Once you’ve identified the what, why, how, where and when, the first actual step to effective reflecting may well need to be creating the mental space in which to reflect. Think, when was the last time I ‘just’ sat there in silence and my mind was able to be still? Can’t think of one? We live in an overly stimulated world and a key part of making the time to reflect is for that time to be beneficial. If you can’t focus your mind on one thing at a time, you’ll reduce your reflecting productivity and stop making the time for it.
Before setting yourself on a course of full on focused reflection, I’d recommend finding a quiet space and reading this blog for; “10 Ways To Relax Your Mind“.
7) Reflect on the time you’ve taken to read this blog
Now if you’re like me, you’ll probably have read this in no time, written down the one element that really resonated with you and how you’ll use it. This may have taken you less than 5 mins, hopefully a useful 5 mins. You’ll notice it was full of questions; reflection prompts. Now ask yourself, could I find five minutes a day? If so, you can reflect.
8) Work with a coach…
One great way to reflect effectively is to work with a coach. Now I know you may say, I knew you’d say that, but I really mean it. Any coach worth their salt will be able to get you to reflect in a way you may never before, accelerate the conclusions and quality of decisions you make and help you to turn strategy into action – after all, I’m assuming you want to reflect to enhance things and make them even better right? The great thing about working with a coach is they sit with you and ‘force’ you to reflect in a solution focused way – they can follow your interest, challenge your thinking and get you to get the most from the ‘little’ time you have.
So there you go – thanks Siobhan – I hope it answered the questions