How to Reflect (And Then Take Action)


Do you have your greatest ideas while in the shower?

I do.

Is it because washing my hair stimulates not only my hair follicles, but also my brain? Or, is it because that’s time when I’m not doing a single thing other than existing under the soothing wash of hot water?

Right now is the season of reflection. I find that for me, big connections happen when I’m not really working on something explicitly, suddenly - kapow! - a spark. An idea. A revelation. A shift.

It turns out that I’m far from the only one. Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn - schedules about 2 hours a day to think.

Harvard Business Review says reflection is critical to protect yourself and your team from information overload, and includes tons of links to others major executives who believe the same.

QVC makes new executives do nothing but learn, reflect, learn and reflect again for six months.

It’s powerful stuff, reflection. So as you step into these last few days of 2018, here is a strategy that I like to help your brain make connections and and arm yourself with knowledge and answers that you already have, but perhaps haven’t actively processed:

Step One: Schedule time to do nothing except reflect. I’m talking at least an hour, and preferably two. Even better if you carve this out on a regular basis.

This should be time in which you don’t have to do any mental heavy lifting other than thinking about where you’ve been and where you want to go (though other secondary activities that don’t really involve much active thought are encouraged!). Walk. Journal. Sketch. Meander. Go for a drive. Swim. Doodle. Chop vegetables. Knead bread. Hike.

Step Two: Capture, analyze, refine. During your unstructured time, keep a pen and paper handy, and jot down anything and everything that comes to mind. These little Field Notes are pocket-sized and great for when you are on the go. Something come up that you’d forgotten about? Write it down. Something you want to see happen in the future? Write it down. Moments you were proud of yourself? Write them down. Moments when you felt frustrated? Write them down.

Use whatever medium you like to dump your current state of existence out of your brain and onto paper. Once all that information is out of your head - read it. And as you do - analyze! This is where the good stuff lives - give yourself time to process and digest. Here are some helpful questions that might help you make connections:

  • What have you learned?

  • What patterns do you see?

  • If you could start again, what would you do differently?

  • What do you want to learn?

  • When did you last push the boundaries of your comfort zone?

  • What worries you?

  • What do you want to change?

  • What do you want to do more of?

  • What do you want to do less of?

  • How can you have a greater impact?

  • ________?

Step Three: Take action. Once you’ve had an opportunity to digest all of your awesomeness, your hard-won victories, your lessons learned, it’s time to keep moving. Think big and set some goals. Give them some deadlines. Define them. Make them measurable. And then back it up - set some smaller interim goals that will get you to those big ones. Define those suckers too. Put them on your calendar. With advance reminders. Think about accountability - how will you make these things happen? Who will help you stay on track? A friend? A coworker? Your partner? Your coach?

It’s a process, this life of ours. So many things change. So much is unpredictable. We have so many opportunities to leap, and often far fewer to be still. In these last days of 2018, give yourself the gift of quiet, and find some of your own answers.

Ami Watkin