Archive for February, 2012

The Power of Reflection (Part 2 of 2)

I recently moved to the city to be closer to my new job and find a new social atmosphere – a definite change from my past homes near wooded parks or remote Northwoods wilderness areas. Yeah, “the city” is only Cleveland, but being surrounded by this much brick and mortar is unsettling for a nature-o-phile like me.

Riverside views of the Thelon, Nunavut, Canada, & Cuyahoga, Cleveland, Ohio.

The recent move has highlighted why I relish opportunities to retreat into the wilderness. To unplug from my electronic devices and recharge my mental batteries.  It’s something William Powers wrote about in his book Hamlet’s Blackbery (which my dad summarized here) and I strongly believe is essential to mental health. Especially for those of us who spend so much time in the digital world, limiting ourselves to a 2D, electronic perspective.

Getting away — whether it’s for a weekend unplugged or a week on the beach — has oodles of benefits:  avoiding the blinking lights, overflowing in boxes and ever-present notifications; remembering that there’s more to life than work;  dissolving stress by entering a world of relaxation; and enjoying the fruits of your labor by exercising free will.

But, most importantly, taking time away gives you a new perspective on your life: past, present and future.

Stepping outside the rigors of day-to-day routines and mindsets allows you to remember what makes you happy and what you need to do so that you can spend more time being that way — happy.

#Confucious quote just for good measure.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for the idea of having a job I love and “never working another day in my life.” But no matter how much I love what I do (and even practice in my free time a la writing this blog), the fact is:

“NOT working is better than working.”

And that’s a Bill Sledzik quote to live by.

Relating back to the first part of this post, an extended vacation from the doldrums (or playgrounds) of work life gives your mind enough of a break to look back and understand what you’re doing with your life and examine all aspects:

  • Do I enjoy what I’m doing?
  • Is it challenging enough?
  • Am I being effective and adding value?
  • Am I understood?
  • How can I improve; i.e. how can I be happier?

I haven’t been to the woods since early January and that was only for a weekend. I’m dying for some time outside my own head. Some time to reflect and think back on all of the great experiences I’ve had at my new gig, in my new place and everything else that’s been happening good or bad. But with my next wilderness getaway weeks away in April, I’m settling for long drives, workouts and the occasional mid-day zone out (it happens for a reason folks: your mind *needs* a break).

But I’m curious on how other people “reflect,” both short- and long-term. I’ve described what’s personal to me. Can you relate? What tricks, tips, trips or breaks do you use? Or is reflection just natural? Just curious…



February 16, 2012 at 12:31 AM 1 comment

The Power of Reflection (part 1 of 2)

A prism shows the power of reflection turning one condensed blur into a variety of light points.

Reflection – A daily exercise

It’s a trite way to start any piece of writing, but looking at the definition of reflection (see #6 or 7) truly sums up what this post is all about: taking time to look at one’s self is important. And not in a vain way, but in a truly introspective, self-betterment kind of way.

Taking time to reflect means really looking in the mirror and understanding how you can be better. It doesn’t have to be a real mirror, and the improvement can be in any category. You just have to take the time to do it.

Reflection is a forced activity that no one will remind you to do. And something that I’m guessing you don’t have on your calendar. But a little bit of “me” time at the end of the day – or the end of the week – is a necessity if you’re looking to improve. It gives you time to assess your progress on a project and the manner in which you got there. “Am I as far as I thought I’d be? What worked or didn’t work?”

M.C. Escher, a man of artistic and mathematical genius, practices some reflection.

Take this into consideration: the majority of us jumping from meeting-to-meeting-to-task-to-lunch-to-project-to-meeting-to-life hardly have time to consider what we’re actually doing. In a world of information overload, fully stretched staffs and LIFE, our attention bounces around like a hyperactive pinball throughout the day. There’s just simply no time to look at the big picture.

Even when we get the time to focus on one task, by the end of the day we’re beyond burned out and ready to hang ‘em up. Not to mention making time for family, friends and errands.

Coincidentally, this is often the precise time we should be reflecting. The end of the day is paramount.

So here’s my suggestion:

As often as you can, take the last 5-10 minutes of the day to organize your thoughts. Review any checklists, progress reports or emails you worked from that day and truly reflect on what you did. Don’t look forward to the tasks ahead just yet; focus on what’s been done.

  • Did it take you longer than you thought?
  • Did you find the answer you sought out to find?
  • Where did you waste your time?
  • Could you have been more effective with help or more information?

There’s a myriad of questions you could ask yourself, but the key is to take at least five minutes and reflect on yourself in a way that focuses on improving your work for next time.

After this, take another five minutes to look ahead. Organize your thoughts for the next day and develop a hit list of items to be complete; think short-term and long-term so you’re not only knocking things off the list daily, but also making headway on those large daunting projects.

Paired with reflection on everything you’ve accomplished, looking ahead at even a massive workload will seem less stressful. You’ll have a better idea of what needs to happen to accomplish the list and be more confident knowing that you’re working diligently and efficiently to get where you’re at.

Admittedly, I don’t afford myself 5-10 every day. But on the days I do, I feel more organized, confident and happy at my job —  in control and less stressed. Part 2 of this post will focus on longer reflection periods taken less frequently. Look for that when I find a second to do just that: reflect.

February 1, 2012 at 6:57 AM 1 comment


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