In my experience…reflection requires discipline
How many paths of activity pull you in different directions each week? Probably more than you realize. I have four overall path categories and 15+ paths at any given time:
Family: Wife, Daughters, Close Family, Extended Family
Work: Daily Tasks, Innovation, Earning Money, Networking
Social: Friends, Volunteering, Events
Recreation: Exercise, Hobbies, Travel, House Care
It’s overwhelming just thinking about managing these paths. Not to mention the fact that there are sub-paths within each that come and go constantly. While I likely do something each day related to most of the paths listed above, I’m usually very focused and able to block out, at least temporarily, those that for a period of time don’t require attention. It’s easy to get buried in one or two of these for long durations, which is sometimes productive for those one or two, but typically counterproductive for the others.
When I find myself getting too far into the weeds on something I try to step back and take the proverbial 10,000-foot (or 30,000-foot) view of what I’m doing in order to reflect and reset. In my experience, reflection requires discipline.
This is particularly relevant and important for me in my work, given its role in providing financially for the rest of my paths. I rely on my wife heavily when it comes to the Family and Social paths. The Recreation path is fun and necessary, particularly exercise / self-care, but it’s less stressful for me than the Work path. The Work path is where I find reflection especially critical.
There are things I do regularly that are reflective exercises.
Daily and weekly I review my schedule for meetings / tasks
Weekly I reflect and write LinkedIn articles
Monthly I prepare my financials and send them to my accountant
Each of those items requires a level of reflection. Beyond those, the discipline I’m continually trying to perfect is the ad-hoc reflection that provides a sense of relief and clarity.
Three things trigger this for me.
First, if I’ve been heads-down at work and begin to lose track of time, I’ve taught myself to recognize this and take a step back to reflect
Second, when I find myself unable to focus and in a state of analysis paralysis, I reflect
Third, and most silly (but also most fun), when I buy Powerball or Mega Millions lottery tickets there’s a 60-90 second period of time where I believe I’m going to win and my goals about work become stunningly clear; Interestingly, it’s not that I’d quit and move to the beach, rather that I’d pursue what I’m doing with renewed vigor, confidence and a roadmap forward
What Is Reflection?
For me reflection at work comes in the form of questions I ask myself. The answers energize and motivate me. Reflection always puts me back on course, and it’s a little better course than I was on previously. The questions I ask myself are:
What would I do differently today if I had no money and was desperate?
What would I do differently today if I had nearly infinite money?
What’s working well?
What’s not working well?
People take risks all the time, what am I scared of?
What advice would I give myself right now if I was my own client?
I never make it through all these questions when I reflect, and I don’t always start with the questions in the order shown. It’s a very fluid process. When I’ve reflected enough to feel renewed and reinvigorated, that period of reflection is done, and I move on. Reflection restores my creativity and innovation.
Special thanks to Bryan Shannon, whose ability to reflect on and reset within his business model resulted in success, and to Tom Sanders who enlightened me about using lessons learned (i.e. reflections) to drive planning and decisions.