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Is reflection the secret to success?

professional woman meditating outside of office building

We are all so busy and trying to do so much with so little. Rarely do we stop, think and reflect. We are busy executing and doing whatever it takes to meet deadlines. We rarely take time to step back and reflect on whether the things we are doing will really move the needle. Does this sound like you?

A client was struggling with strategic thinking and I suggested he schedule regular time to think and reflect. At first this was a challenge for him. Calendar invites would pour in for the time he set aside for reflection. He found it hard to justify “reflection time” when an executive called for a meeting. After trying several times, he found first thing in the morning, on Fridays, worked best for him. This ensured the day hadn’t gotten into full gear and he could devote 30 minutes to reflect.

These four steps will help you make reflection part of a successful routine and strengthen your leadership muscle:

1. Schedule time to reflect. This needs to be on your calendar or you will never do it! I suggest a 30-minute time slot. It’s just enough but not too much that you won’t be able to find the time. You can determine if you need additional frequency, but I suggest at least once a week. I prefer to take a brisk, one-hour walk daily. I use this time, at the start of each day, to think about my upcoming priorities and reflect on my prior week. This helps me stay grounded and in a mindset of continuous learning.

2. Ask powerful questions. The first time my client sat down for his reflection time he felt awkward and thought “Isn’t there something else I should be doing that would help me with my workload?” However, after just one reflection session, he realized this gave him time to catch his breath and think about the many balls he had in the air. He had renewed energy and additional clarity around initiatives he was originally challenged with prior to his reflection time. It’s important to disconnect; no checking email or answering your phone.

If you’re uncertain how to use this time, ask yourself these three questions:

Are my current priorities the ones that will make the biggest impact?
What’s working well and what are areas for improvement?
What is a new idea or approach in the area I am wrestling with?

3. Explore the “what ifs.” Take the next step and ask yourself “what if…” This is a means to question whether what you are doing still makes sense and to look at things from a different perspective. This gut check helps you look at things from a different perspective. Three questions you should always ask yourself are:

What if we don’t do this initiative, what is the impact?
What if we did this in a different way, what would that look like?
What if I could change one thing I’m doing now, what would that be?

4. Write your thoughts down. Take notes and capture your thoughts. As ideas pop into your head you’ll want to keep track of them. It’s so easy to get back in the thick of things and forget all the good ideas you had during your reflection time. It’s when you slow down and make time for reflection that valuable ideas and new approaches emerge. Reflection time is part of any great leader’s success strategy. And as a boost, you will feel more refreshed, energized and have renewed clarity. All of this from spending 30 minutes to reflect!

Shelley Hammell, founder of Sage Alliance, provides leadership development coaching and workshops.

Views expressed in blogs, posts and user comments are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Network of Executive Women or its Officers, Board members and corporate partners.