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Reflection 3: Formal or Informal Reflective Time? How to be an Opportunistic Reflector

Reflection 3: Formal or Informal Reflective Time? How to be an Opportunistic Reflector


In our last blog we shared our ideas around different methods that support the process of reflection. In this blog, we will explore how to maximise the scope for reflection in life through making the most of both formal and informal reflective time.

In an ideal world, reflection would be something that we schedule into our lives as we do for work, gym visits and television viewing. Making diary time, even for just a short period, can help establish a framework within which learning, enhanced thinking and actions can be drawn. Having a structured approach within that time enables us to make the most of it. A short series of questions can be helpful, e.g.

What has happened this morning/today/this week? -How do I feel about that? – What can I do to enhance/improve/eliminate? – How will I do it? – When will I do it? – How do I feel now?

The discipline of having this special time can be difficult to sustain, however.  In her HBR article in 2017, Porter says in relation to scheduling reflective time ‘if you find yourself trying to skip it or avoid it, reflect on that!’ https://hbr.org/2017/03/why-you-should-make-time-for-self-reflection-even-if-you-hate-doing-it

Opportunities for reflection can arise anytime and anywhere, planned and unplanned, but we need to be open to those opportunities. In a 2016 article, Harry Kraemer, clinical professor of strategy at the Kellogg School of Management, stated that leaders only need to dedicate 15 minutes a day to reflection in order to strengthen their teams. https://insight.kellogg.northwestern.edu/article/how-self-reflection-can-make-you-a-better-leader. The same could be applied in the wider world. With a sense of purpose and intent even short bursts of reflection can be valuable. This could be a formally structured 15 minute slot or it could be just having an opportunistic mindset while on the train to work, looking out of the window pensively rather than reading the paper; walking to the shops; working out; washing up.

So how can we ensure that we get something valuable from these ‘random moments’?

  1. Be aware of the power of reflection – be open to it.
  2. Allow yourself to free your mind from the constraints of everyday living, e.g. switch off your phone, even for a short period; allow yourself some down time to clear your head; take a lunch break and get outside – just breathing in some fresh air can clear the mind and enable thoughts to emerge.
  3. Practice a process of mindfulness. There are lots of examples but most focus upon expanding and exploring each of our senses for a few minutes each. Noticing what we are sensing helps expand our awareness and gives us an opportunity to consider how to build this awareness into the rest of our day. For an example of how to experience a 10 minute ‘Mindful Walk’ have a look at Martin Bertin’s July 2017 article: https://www.mindful.org/daily-mindful-walking-practice/

In our next blog we will be looking at the act of reflection itself and providing some tips to help you do it.