How Reflecting On Your Work Can Make You A Better Designer

At the end of every day at Center Centre we gather as a team to do our daily reflection. Reflecting is the practice of looking back on your work and asking questions. What worked well? What would you do differently? How will you change the way you approach things? Each of us share the answers to these, and sometimes other, questions to the rest of the team and we discuss our own and each other’s reflections.

This practice is built into both the culture and education of the school. I’ll share how reflecting has helped me and how you can start to adopt this into your daily routine.

How I Reflect

Document I write my project reflections in.

After every project day at school I record my reflections in a document. I start off simple, writing down everything I did that day — emails I sent, conversations I had, sketches I drew, meetings I attended, work I completed, everything. This step helps me get into the mindset for reflecting.

Once I’ve captured the list of things I did, I’ll take another pass at the list, making note on things that stood out the most to reflect on. I then organize them in two categories, things that went well and things that could be improved.

Wherever the specific work I did or meeting I attended falls into place that’s where I’ll write my reflection. I’ll go into as much detail as possible writing about how I it went, how I felt, what I was thinking, ect.

The last thing I record in my document is a learning moment. Something that’ll change the way I approach my work or the way I think about things in the future. All together this makes up my daily reflection.

I’ve found when writing a reflection it’s helpful to be open and honest and capture every thought that comes to mind. I’ll also avoid editing anything until the end so I don’t break my train of thought as I’m reflecting.

How You Can Start Reflecting

As a designer you can start to reflect on your own work immediately. Here’s a couple of tips on how you can start:

  • Define your goal: Know what you want to get out of reflecting. This’ll help you to focus your reflections.
  • Schedule a time: Play around with a time that works best for you to focus on your reflection. Pick a time you know can be consistent with.
  • Pick a format to record: You can choose to write down your reflections or record them vocally as audio or video, pick one that fits best for you. It’s important that your approach helps you stay consistent on reflecting.
  • Create some prompts: Prompts are questions you can ask yourself that’ll help you to structure and focus your reflection. “What went well today” or “what would I do differently about today” are examples of prompts.
  • Organize and document: Reflections are great for documenting process and growth over time. It’s important to come up with a way of organizing and documenting them for when you need to refer back to them in the future.

These are some things that’ll help you get started but I encourage you to play around and adapt these ideas to what works best for you.

How Design Teams Can Start Reflecting

For teams, the process is similar except you reflect together. Get your team together and discuss when you want to schedule time to conduct reflections. Once you decide, you can pick a number of things to reflect on: how a workshop or activity went, how your team worked together during a project, or how a project or design sprint went overall.

Talk about it as a team and develop a format and process for how you want to conduct your reflections.

Here are a couple types of reflections I’ve participated in at Center Centre:

Me facilitating an end of day reflection with the team. (photo credit: Ella)

End of Day Reflection: The facilitator of the reflection will write a question on a board that the team can reflect on. After a couple minutes of coming up with an answer to the question people will volunteer or a facilitator will pick who shares their answer. The facilitator publicly records their answers on a board for the team to see. After someone shares their answer, the team can ask follow-up questions to the person who shared their answer. You can ask why they shared their answer or talk about parts of their answer.

White board we recorded our Pluses and Deltas on after a remote critique with a client.

Pluses and Deltas: During the facilitated leadership course, Kevin Hoffman taught us an activity teams can do called “Pluses and Deltas.” Pluses and Deltas is a type of reflection you can do anytime. Teams share positive things (Pluses) about how an activity, meeting, or project went. Then they share things they’d change (Deltas). You’ll also need a facilitator for this activity to record answers on a board.

Brenda facilitating a Start, Stop, Continue after we finished our first project.

Project Retrospective (Start, Stop, Continue): One of the things our team does at Center Centre is called a project retrospective where we look back on a project we finished. We look back on the project and come up with ideas for improving our process for the next project. We structure this activity by coming up with ideas for the following categories:

  • Start: What are things we should start doing?
  • Stop: What are things we should stop doing?
  • Continue: What are things we should continue doing?

The continue category is a great opportunity to share things as a team. You can talk about what went well during the project and share positive feedback about the team’s performance.

We write our answers on sticky notes and organize them into the category they fit under. After we’ve organized them we vote on ones we feel are important to keep in mind when working on the next project and document them.

Conclusion

Reflecting has taught me a lot about myself, how I work best, and how to get the most out of the work I do. I’ve become more aware of how I approach my work and how to avoid making past mistakes. Knowing what you want to get out of reflecting is key to the success of doing it. Reflecting is easy once you get into the habit and I hope to hear about how you reflect daily.

Leave a comment below about how you reflect and how it’s helped you!


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