The Power of Reflection (part 1 of 2)

February 1, 2012 at 6:57 AM 1 comment

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.


Entry filed under: Young Pro advice. Tags: , , , , , , .

My new gig: the offer I couldn’t refuse The Power of Reflection (Part 2 of 2)

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. ToddSledzik (@tsledzik)  |  February 1, 2012 at 1:59 PM

    I tend to take 10-20min or more during my ride to and from work to think about projects and my process. I think if you have reoccurring issues with work flow or a client, it’s a good idea to talk to a boss, mentor, or in my case find an article or interview from a person I respect. I just found an hour long presentation from a partner at Pentagram that covered topics related to dealing with clients. It completely changed some of my thinking, while bolstering other feelings I’ve had.

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