4 Keys to Effective Reflection

photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/jakecaptive/

“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.” (Margaret J. Wheatley)

When we live unreflective lives, we sentence ourselves to repeat the mistakes of the past and forego any growth into the future.  I have been rediscovering the value of reflection in recent weeks, and I want to share some things I have learned that can help anyone spend more effective time in reflection.

  1. Defined time and space: With our hectic lives, if something is not scheduled, it will not happen.  It is helpful to decide on a place and time to reflect in, and put it in your calendar with a reminder/alert.  My most frequent locations are my home office, a cafe, my car, or walking outside, but anywhere that is comfortable, quiet, or inspiring to you will work well.
  2. Specific questions: Sitting down with the goal of “reflecting” is an aimless pursuit.  What do you need to reflect about?  Deciding on 1-2 questions to focus on will produce much more effective results from your reflection.  For example: How can I invest in stronger relationships?  What are my highest priorities right now, and how are they going?  What are the next steps forward in my life/career/education?  Who has made a big impact on my life recently?
  3. Tangible decisions: The benefit of reflecting is not in the refection itself, but in the results that come afterward.  Effective reflection will produce greater awareness of one’s strengths, weaknesses, and areas of needed growth.  Translating that awareness into tangible actions and commitments is what will bring real growth and change in a person’s life.  For example: My friends are valuable to me, but they are getting crowded out of my life, so I will schedule regular hangouts to catch up with them.
  4. Journaling: Unless you have a perfect memory, the reflections and decisions produced during this time will be quickly forgotten.  Valuable time, energy, and inspiration have been lost!  The remedy to this is to develop a habit of journaling during or immediately after you reflect.  Personally, I use Evernote for this, since it is easily accessible on all of my devices and can be searched for tags and keywords later, but pen-and-paper still work as well as anything.

When we put even minimal time into effective reflection, we will reap enormous benefits in personal growth and productivity.  What are some ways that you have benefited from personal reflection?