I’ve always been one to use personal reflection as a tool both personally and professionally. Reflecting on how a piece of work has gone is essential. It makes no sense jumping from one activity to the next without reviewing what happened. It’s called learning from experience. It’s also called common sense.
And that’s a problem. Common sense to me isn’t common sense to others. So what works for me may or may not work for someone else. Reflection though is the fundamental component of Post Project Reviews and After Action Reviews. Just Google these if they are new terms to you.
Don’t Let Reflection Turn Into Procrastination
Where reflection gets a bad name is when it’s confused with not starting on something new or in navel gazing. It’s nothing of the sort of course but without a little discipline it can lead to procrastination, and I’m as guilty as anyone for letting this happen at times.
Procrastinating over something means continually putting it off. When we reflect on what’s gone before we run the risk of considering so many things that it becomes impossible to close it out. So the trick to making reflection the effective tool we know it can be is to bound it.
Mentally draw a circle around the activities or timescales you want to reflect on. Consider only the key aspects that interest you. It could be the people interactions, the customer satisfaction, the speed of delivery – whatever is meaningful for you. Then make sure you only reflect for as long as you need. It really doesn’t need to take long.
Individual and Group Reflection
What we can achieve reflecting ourselves is powerful enough providing we take forward what we learn. When we work with others, as most people do, reflection on our own only part of the answer.
Being able to ‘get everyone together’ to consider how things went not only collates everyone’s experiences, it enables one person’s view to spark a thought in another. It’s why we work in teams in the first place so why not reflect as a team too?
How you get the team together is irrelevant. If you have an effective virtual working process then why not continue with that for your reflection. But don’t ever let it turn into a committee meeting with actions and follow up meetings and reports that need to be approved. That way you are procrastinating as a group and a business. This happens far too often and loses the impetus. Don’t go there.
Get The Reflection Habit
Figure out what works for you and stick to it. For me it has become a regular activity at the start of each week. Reflecting on what has just gone professionally and personally (and more often than not over a coffee!). It certainly doesn’t take long, an hour and a half tops. And then I’m set for what’s ahead.
Effective reflection never needs to turn into procrastination, it becomes part of the way we operate if we allow it to:
- Bound what you are reflecting on
- Focus on what’s important to you
- Reflect on team activities with the team (encourage individuals to undertake their own personal reflection up front)
- Turn your reflection into a good habit – and habits need to be regular
Reflection should never be mistaken as procrastinating. This happens when those on the outside don’t see anything different coming out of that ‘down time’. Going away into a quiet corner repeatedly might be useful but it has to be more than just switching off. Reflection is a powerful tool all of us can and should use more than we probably do right now.
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© Paul Slater and Reflect & Lead, 2015.