75: End of the Year Tune-Up Part 1: The Power of Reflection

Reflection is important for skill building, mastery, self awareness and self assessment.  We learn from what happened so next time it can be intentionally the same – or different.  This is a key component to creating ease, meaning and joy in your life and in your work. 

SHOW NOTES

Today on Crina and Kirsten Get to Work, our work babes reflect on the power of reflection.  Sometimes we intuitively know something is helpful, and that is true for reflection,  but the statistics on the effects of reflection are particularly compelling.

WARNING – do not proceed if you are going to beat yourself up about the past – this is a learning experience.  No beating up!

Reflection is pretty simple – it is thinking about what you do, say, feel, experience and perceive.  It is closely linked to the concept of learning from experience in that you think about what we do, feel and perceive and what happened, and consider whether we would do differently next time – or hopefully whether we have landed on the magic formula.

Thinking about what has happened is part of being human. However, the difference between causal ‘thinking’ and ‘reflective practice’ is that reflective practice requires a conscious effort to think about events, and develop insights into them. And here is that word again – curious!  It’s about getting curious.  Once you get into the habit of using reflective practice, you will probably find it useful both at work and at home.

Reflection is important for skill building, mastery, self awareness and self assessment.  We learn from what happened so next time it can be intentionally the same – or different.  This is a key component to creating ease, meaning and joy in your life and in your work.  Looking back when things go well: we learn what worked for us and know we can use those behaviors or strategies again to our advantage.  Looking back when things go poorly: learning from hindsight is not about wishing you had done things differently, which is more like regret. It’s getting curious about whether there is anything you want to do differently going forward. But be careful of what is called hindsight bias: which is the tendency for people to perceive past events as having been more predictable than they actually were – meaning that we think we had more control over the outcome than we actually did.

WHAT THE DATA SAYS:

Recent research from the Harvard Business school into the power of reflection showed that when employees spent 15 minutes at the end of their day reflecting about what they’ve learned, they’ve improved their performance by 23%‌ in just 10 days, in comparison to those who did not reflect. Amazing – huh!  Can you imagine increasing your performance not just at work, but in your life as well just through 15 minutes of reflection?!.  

Giada De Stefano, professor at HEC Paris – an economics and business management school,  tells us we work five more weeks per year now than we did in the 1970s.  This means that gains in productivity are the result of working more – not working differently.  Stefano proposes that we do not need to give more time to work to increase performance and productivity.  In fact, we need to do less and think more.

To Stepfano’s point, studies have found that, once we have gathered a certain amount of experience, the benefit of continuing to perform similar tasks is far inferior to that of pairing that experience with efforts to analyze and reflect on it.   And it turns out that more training has its drawbacks as well – because according to BetterUp we forget about 75% of it!  Research has found that, regardless of work experience, all employees experience loss of knowledge over time. The amount of information that people remember depreciates over time, but this occurs at a significantly higher rate among individuals who work for organizations who don’t actively practice reflection (Argote & Miron-Spektor, 2011).  It turns out practice and training have their limits in increasing productivity.  Reflection is that secret sauce to add in.  

The data tells us that reflection not only improves productivity and performance, but it also makes us feel better.  Studies show that brief, positive reflection practices at the end of a work day can lead to decreased stress and improved health.  Bono, J. E., Glomb, T. M., Shen, W., Kim, E., & Koch, A. J. (2013). 

WHY DOES REFLECTION WORK:

Research shows reflection is critical to helping us deepen and integrate learning, and effectively apply it to our work and our lives. ( BetterUp)  It is like the glue of progress – it seems to help it all stick and be solid.

HOW TO BUILD REFLECTION INTO YOUR WORKPLACE

Reflection is simple and building reflection into your day can also be simple.  BetterUp has some great examples for managers, including:

  • Communicate the value of taking time for quality breaks 
  • Encourage employees to schedule whitespace into their day to allow for reflection
  • Hire a coach for yourself or your employees – or ask a trusted friend or colleague to be your reflection partner
  • Do a project post-mortem
  • Integrate reflection into meetings

We can also do this ourselves.  Self-reflection requires us to look at ourselves with interest, curiosity, and inquiry, particularly when exploring our thoughts, behaviors, perceptions and emotions. 

  • Set aside some time – even starting with once a week – the same day and time every week
    • Create a list of questions for yourself
    • Learn to identify and question your assumptions and perceptions
    • Give yourself some time to check in to your feelings
  • Take time to reflect in-the-moment, whenever you try a new task
  • Talk with colleagues about your experiences
  • Ask for feedback and observation from co-workers/supervisors
  • Write down your reflections – even just brief phrases and sentences – looking back on these reflections is powerful.

As we end this year, this is a perfect time to look back as we move into a new year to set our intentions and plans for what we want to create for ourselves in the new year.

Good Reads:

The Power of Reflection in Workplace Learning

Making Experience Count: The Role of Reflection in Individual Learning by Giada Di Stefano, Francesca Gino, Gary P. Pisano, Bradley R. Staats :: SSRN

Reflecting on Work Improves Job Performance – HBS Working Knowledge

How to Practice Self-Reflection at Work | by Neve McBeal | The Startup | Medium

The power of reflection at work: Insight by HEC Professor Giada di Stefano | HEC Paris

Reflective Practice | SkillsYouNeed

Getting started with Reflective Practice