Too Busy to Breathe? A Simple Way to Reflect

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Every two weeks, like clockwork, my team and I partake in a ‘Team Reflection’.

The focus of our Team Reflection is on three things:

  1. Learnings
  2. Did wells
  3. Do betters

For a collective 15–30 minutes, we find a cosy spot in the office and go around to each team member as they articulate succinct reflections on the above three points. Once finished, we make it a point to say “thank you for sharing” to each team member so as to be respectful of the level of humility and vulnerability often on display. Rich and tangibly useful discussion often ensues as our team is collectively compelled to share past experiences and guiding advice. Two weeks later, we’re back at it.

The punchline? Team Reflection has proven to be a wonderful exercise in empathy. It’s a valuable use of time. And it’s a simple way to be more mindful.

For some, the work day can be filled with conversations and tasks related to either working “in” or “on” the business. For others, a seemingly mysterious but influential “rhythm of business” guides their everyday actions. Between meetings, stakeholders and projects, it’s surprisingly easy to witness days turning into quarters without taking a moment to breathe…and reflect!

That is not to suggest that a team can’t be productive while being ‘heads down’ during a busy time of year. There are, however, benefits to practicing reflection as it relates to sustaining high performance.

Some, very brief, preliminary online research reveals that reflective practice (i.e. the ability to reflect on one’s actions) is a hallmark of continuous learning, often leading to developmental insight.

“Experience alone does not necessarily lead to learning; deliberate reflection on experience is essential. [1] [2]

Intuitively speaking, this makes a lot of sense. Athletes review tapes after games and matches. Health professionals conduct postops after surgical operations.

As we can all appreciate, reflection is often more than just a conscious summary of actions taken. It’s an exhaustive replay of the context surrounding our actions.

“Through reflection, a person is able to see and label forms of thought and theory within the context of his or her work. [3] A person who reflects throughout his or her practice is not just looking back on past actions and events, but is taking a conscious look at emotions, experiences, actions, and responses, and using that information to add to his or her existing knowledge base and reach a higher level of understanding. [4]

I’ve come to realize that a great degree of my professional growth can be attributed to reflection. With reflection comes humility, honesty, and the courage to try and make sense of the nuanced and complex nature of our unique human experience.

Regular reflection, and acting on it, contributes toward a virtuous cycle of self-development worth practicing. Practically speaking, during the worst (or most stressful) of times, it’s a needed dose of self-therapy. During the best (or most fulfilled of times), it’s an opportunity to reaffirm, and celebrate, the progress you’ve made on your journey through everyday life.

To be frank, our bi-weekly Team Reflection has been a pretty awesome practice. It’s a healthy indulgence with just enough ceremony surrounding it to be special and, thus, cherished. If you haven’t tried it out, I recommend you do!


Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com on May 17, 2017.