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Reflecting practice

Someone opined on yesterday’s post that it’s hard to find time for reflection, and I agree it’s hard. You need to find ways to make it systematic, as it’s hard to make persistent change. So I responded with three personal suggestions, and thought I’d share them here, and also think about what the organizational response could be.


So my first suggestion was to find times when the mind is free to roam.  For example, I have used taking a shower, exercising, or driving.  My approach has been to put a question in my mind before I start, and then ponder it.  I typically end up with at least one idea how to proceed.  Find a time that you are awake and doing something (relatively) mindless. It could be in the garden, or on a walk, or…

Another idea I suggested was to bake it into your schedule.  Make it a habit.  Put half an hour on your calendar (e.g. end of the day) that’s reflection time. Or at lunch, or morning break, or…  A recurring reminder works well.  The point is to set aside a time and stick to it.

Along the same lines, you could make a personal promise to publicly reflect (e.g. blog or podcast or…).  Set a goal for some amount per week (e.g. my goal is 2 blog posts per week).  If you commit to it (particularly publicly), you’ve a better chance.  You could also ask someone to hold you accountable, have them expecting your output.  The pressure to meet the output goal means you’ll be searching for things to think about, and that’s not a bad thing.


Of course, organizations should be making this easier.  They can do things like have you set aside a day a week for your own projects, or an hour of your day.  Little firms like Google have instituted this.  Of course, it helps if they require output so that you have to get concrete and there’s something to track isn’t a bad idea either.

Firms could also put in place tools and practices around Working out Loud (aka Show Your Work).  Having your work be out there, particularly if you’re asked to ‘narrate’ it (e.g. annotate with the thinking behind it), causes you to do the thinking, and then you have the benefits of feedback.

And instituting systemic mentoring, where you regularly meet with someone who’s job it is to help you develop, and that would include asking questions that help you reflect.  Thus, someone’s essentially scaffolding your reflection (and, ideally, helping you internalize it and become self-reflecting).

Reflection is valuable, and yet it can be hard to figure out when and how.  Getting conscious about reflection and about instituting it are both valuable components of a practice.  So, are you practicing?

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