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Jackie Clifford

Clarity Learning and Development


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Three reflection methods to boost productivity

Flexing your reflection muscles can reap benefits for individuals, teams and the organisation as a whole.
Reflection in meetings

In recent months I have been working with a number of groups of managers as well as individual coaching clients. I am consistently being told that one of the most valuable parts of these learning experiences is time away from the day-to-day to reflect. This has led me to wonder how reflection can be embedded more into our daily practice.

Is journaling too 'woo-woo' for objective and evidence-based managers and team members?

Time for reflection

Lots of people are now using mindfulness apps – is it time to create a reflection app or would this simply be something else taking up space on the smartphone, rather than a useful tool? If the app was a tool provided by the organisation, would there be a view that reflection is a tick-box activity rather than something which can have a profound impact on performance?

Does reflection happen when people are journaling? But then is journaling too 'woo-woo' for objective and evidence-based managers and team members?

‘Reflective practice’ as a concept is well-known and used within education and within health and social care settings. Within HR and L&D settings we are also encouraged to maintain our CPD records and logs.

In an article published in December 2020, the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) suggested ways in which managers could adopt a reflective mindset and in fact, most of us will include reflection time as part of our L&D programmes.

Whilst we can protect this time during training workshops and in coaching conversations, we have much less control over the amount of time spent on reflection within self-directed learning and informal learning. With this in mind, here are some ways we might support our learners to develop reflective habits.

1. Start with an incredibly small habit

James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, provides us with some general principles which seem extremely practical and implementable. I particularly like his first suggestion to ‘start with an incredibly small habit’. This idea seems so obvious and yet it’s one which is often overlooked. 

The power of taking baby steps to start building new neural connections and increasing our confidence is something that we shouldn’t forget. In the context of reflective practice, this could mean scheduling five minutes each day at a time when you know you are at your most thoughtful.

For some of us, this will be first thing in the morning, before we have even got out of bed. For others, it might be during a lunchtime walk. And some people will prefer to reflect at the end of the day.

Five minutes (or maybe even less) spent jotting down some notes on what went well and what didn’t go so well during the day and then considering why this was the case can soon build into a valuable and valued activity. And if you don’t want to write your reflections, you could record them on your phone or another device. 

2. Set your intentions

In her HBR article of February 2021, Kristi DePaul shares some thinking on setting intentions. This helps us to link the new habit that we are trying to create to our overall goal.

When we are working towards becoming more reflective, it is useful to ask ourselves why we are doing this. As an L&D practitioner and coach who is hearing clients say ‘this is so useful – having time away from business as usual to think,’ I can help the person or group to consider what is specifically useful about this thinking time.

As we explore the benefits to each person we will probably discover that there are similar themes coming through, but also that everyone has different perspectives.

I can then encourage each person to think about not only the personal benefits of reflection time but also the benefits to the team and to the organisation. This in turn can be used as a lever to start taking time for thought when outside of a structured learning environment. 

3. Integrate reflection into daily activities

Better Up, a San Francisco-based organisation, has published a short report called The Power of Reflection in Workplace Learning. Within the report, they suggest a range of ways to increase reflection at work, including building reflection into our daily work activities.

One of the other comments I hear regularly is about how much time is spent in meetings. So how about combining reflection and thinking time with meeting time?

It’s good to remind ourselves that bringing people together, in-person or virtually, can be a great opportunity to think

I wonder whether it would be possible to build in a routine of asking a couple of reflective questions at the start of a meeting to get attendees to consider what’s going on within their working world, what could be better and how this meeting might help?

At the end of the meeting, attendees could then take a few minutes to think about the outcomes of the meeting, the impact on their work, the actions they will take and the support that they will need.

Of course, these aren’t innovative ideas and they could be considered to be simply good meeting practice, however, it’s good to remind ourselves that bringing people together, whether in-person or virtually, can be a great opportunity to think – both retrospectively (looking back) and prospectively (looking forward).  

A final thought…

In life, we often know what might help make things even better and yet we don’t act on what we know. Similarly, in the workplace, there are some activities which could support us on the personal, team and organisational levels – reflection is one of these activities.

I hope that the thoughts I’ve shared are useful and that they will support you as you build reflection into your learning – whether that be your own learning or programmes that you are involved with designing or delivering.

Interested in this topic? Read The power of reflection time.

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Jackie Clifford


Read more from Jackie Clifford

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