Take time to reflect and learn

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3 mins read
Ben Willmott

Recognising reflections

Every day I’m sure you have experiences that if you look back and have the opportunity again, you would do them differently next time.

It could be an argument with a partner, a presentation at work that didn’t go so well, or just a chance meeting with a stranger on the street.

Most of the time, we go through life with these nagging thoughts from these experiences of the past bugging us.

It could be something you feel bad about or something that is holding you back from moving forward at work or in your personal life.

There is no perfect answer to get rid of these inner thoughts, and you obviously can’t change the past.

You can though make sure you don’t make the same mistakes again to help create a better future or help keep those negative inner thoughts at bay

If you make same mistake more than once, then it becomes a decision.

The Reflections Approach

There is a simple approach called reflections which I originally heard from Ed Mylett where you allocate some set time to think about key events that have happened that day or week.

You then write down in a weekly learning log the key things you would do differently next time.

Now, this approach isn't new, and some research at Harvard Business School found that participants significantly improved their learning through this approach over just repeating the same task over and over.

There is also Kolb's experimental theory which breaks down the cycle into the four stages below. Stage one you accumulate the experiences, stage two you then observe and reflect on the experiences which leads to stage three, analysis and conclusions which are then used in stage four to test them, so you can create new experiences.

The four stages of Kolb’s experimental theory

Getting Started with Reflecting Weekly

Step 1:

First, you need to gather some key questions you can ask yourself every week. You don't have to ask yourself the same questions every week, but having a selection helps when it comes to gathering great learnings.

The below has some great starting questions, but think about what questions will get the best answers so you can continually improve.



Next, you need to set a time for when you'll do your reflections. I've found when I first starting doing this, if I didn’t have reminders I would forget, or something else around the time will be booked in, and it either feels too late, or you can't remember all the key things you need to reflect on.

Pick a time at when you're either at work, at home or just when you're least likely to be distracted.

When you find a time slot that works for you, then block it out in your diary and create a reminder in your calendar. Just by doing this it helps creates the habit.

This doesn't need to be a prolonged exercise, I try to do mine in just 10 minutes once per week. I typically stick to three questions, then write down the reflections either in bullets or in a Mind Map.

It doesn't matter how you write them down, or how much detail you write as long as you're learning something.

Ben Willmott
Ben is the founder of the PPM Academy, which provides training and coaching for project managers at all levels of experience.

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