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Find the Time for Reflection

When life is humming rapidly along, when you are wildly juggling the multiple balls of life in the air, when every unaccounted for moment seems to be filled – how do you stay committed to reflective practice?


Donald Schon’s work on the reflective practitioner revolves around the notion that as professionals we reflect-in-action (think on our feet) and reflect-on-action (thinking after the fact). Both, in fact, play an important role in leadership development and offer complementary ways of learning. When life gets busy, however, it might be the first thing that goes! Who has the time to think while doing…when you have SO MUCH TO DO… and if the pace doesn’t slow down, how do you find time to reflect back on your actions?

Here are a few ideas to help preserve reflection time for professional practice and development.

  • Schedule in a connect with your supervisor, co-worker or friend to talk through what’s going on. Breakfast or coffee or an evening walk all work! But…. write it in your calendar NOW before work tasks fill things up. When you value the learning that comes from debriefing with others, you will discover that these activities are enormously helpful to the other “work”!
  • Push “record” on your phone or ipod while you are driving and TALK to YOURSELF! The 10 minutes between meetings or presentations (or whatever you do) can offer what seems like stolen moments of me-time put to great use. It doesn’t really matter if you re-listen to your recordings (although that can be rich), the mere act of talking and finding the words to articulate what’s been going on is fabulous learning in and of itself.
  • If journalling isn’t a normal activity for you and seems arduous or time consuming, lighten up the expectation on yourself. Put a sketch pad and a package of coloured markers on your bedside table. Before going to sleep (or upon waking up) just doodle images or words that surface for you. A happy sun with 4 key words might provide you with a comprobable reflective experience to 3 pages of sentences… in a fraction of the time – it certainly depends on your thinking and processing style – but worth a try!
  • Set up an automated email system for yourself. This could be signing up to a service that already exists… or designing your own. ¬†Pick four great questions such as the ones below. Set up your email to deliver one question per week. Pick a time that you are typically at your computer – and make a commitment to respond (to yourself) for 3 minutes when it arrives in your inbox.
    • What activities this week have made you feel strong, alive and productive?
    • What lessons were both obvious and hidden in life this week?
    • What patterns are you seeing in your work relationships? in your tasks? in your feelings?
    • What outrageous actions would you like to entertain to be more ….. (you fill in the blank – productive? fulfilled? balanced? valued?)

What are the techniques that work for you? … or if you struggle with finding the time for reflection, try one of these out and let us know how it works!

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