In our busy schedules it is easy to fill our days with meetings and activities, not making any time to reflect or think. In this information era we are also bombarded with input from different sources. Making sense of all this can be stressful as it can cause one to move into the zone of just doing and not thinking about whether one is doing the correct things or in the correct manner.
In the book The 7 secrets of Leadership Success, authors Deborah Tom and Major General Richard Barrons cite taking time to think as one of the critical practices for being a successful leader. They say that “Most of the successful people we have interviewed make time at the start of every day to vision and at the end of the day for reflection”.
As a leader when do you take the time to think or reflect? Effective thinking is when one is in the state of mind where one can quiet one’s thoughts to such an extent that one has detached from an issue/situation to allow for a more objective or more complete viewing point.
Quieting your thoughts also allows you to focus on the issues at hand and to reflect on one single issue in a deeper and more thorough manner, resulting in greater insight and creative solutions. This could ensure that the actions you take as a leader are the most appropriate and most productive for a given situation.
Here are pointers to make your reflection time well spent:
Schedule this time as an appointment with yourself and treat this as just as important as any other meeting. Make it as long as you need to in order to get into the process. You will learn what your ideal time is after the first few reflections.
Your energy levels could impact the quality of thinking you do. Schedule the time during in the day when your mental energy levels are high.
Spend the time where you will not be interrupted. Select a place where you know there will be no or few distractions.
Make notes for yourself about what you would like to reflect on during the rest of your week. Use this as an agenda for your reflection time.
Use an electronic or paper journal to document your reflections for later reference. Writing down your thoughts will enable you to spend your mental energy on solving the issue rather than remembering your thought process.
If you struggle to make time for reflection on your own, engaging with a coach could be a solution. A coach can assist you to reflect in a focused manner and can act as an objective soundboard during your thinking process.
A last word on thinking from the great scientist and humanist, Albert Einstein: “The significant problems we face in life cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them”.