The phone is ringing off the hook and you have 3,000 emails waiting for an answer. Meetings are booked back-to-back and your desk looks like someone dumped a file cabinet on it. If that sounds familiar, it’s time to take a deep breath and rethink how you’re handling your day.
We each get 24 hours in a day, and some of that time must be spent on things like sleeping, eating, and personal needs…but many of us feel that if we can cram more into our workdays, we’re improving our productivity. We take classes on productivity, buy fancy journals or add apps for time management, and wonder what we’re doing wrong when we get buried under an avalanche of work.
Where we go wrong is easy to spot. We think that by going faster and working harder, we’ll eventually catch up. We try to multi-task, cram more tasks into each hour, and find new ways of working while commuting, showering, or sleeping (okay, that’s an exaggeration, but how many of us would find ways to work if we could while we sleep?).
Instead of working harder and doing more, noted professor Harry Kraemer of the Kellogg School suggests a radical new approach to managing the deluge of tasks facing most professionals. Rest, reflect, and reset is the mantra of the truly successful person.
Why Doing More Isn’t Better
The problem with always trying to do more is that you never have time to do what will truly make an impact.
Authentic and effective leadership requires thoughtful planning. Leaders may have natural talent and abilities, but they must put those talents into action after considering the facts around them. Without the time to reflect, the action may be ineffective.
Self Reflection Leads to Better Decisions
Leaders know that they have two main tasks: to prioritize what is important and to find the resources needed to get the important tasks completed. But you can’t prioritize if you don’t take the time for self reflection.
Self reflection is more than thinking about what you’ve done during the day and what you’d like to accomplish tomorrow. It includes thinking about what you need to do differently.
If you’re so busy you don’t have time to breathe, let alone think, you won’t be able to think outside of your current situation. You’ll continue to try solutions that haven’t worked but are comfortable and familiar. And when it comes to problem-solving, comfortable and familiar are not a leader’s friends.
Systematized Self Reflection for Leaders
To make self reflection a reality instead of a wish, it’s important to systematize it. By setting up a system for reflection, observation, and action, you incorporate self reflection into your day.
The following steps may make it easier to incorporate self-reflection in your leadership skills.
- Set aside 15 minutes for writing out your reflection.
- Write down your thoughts about the day. Include questions, problems, and tasks you need to tackle next.
- Keep a running list of items to follow up on as well as the second list of items to explore.
- Consider both big-picture thoughts as well as the minutia of the day.
- Make self reflection a daily habit.
Self reflection builds strong leaders, teams, and companies. It’s a simple task that only takes 15 minutes a day to complete. Instead of constantly speeding up and trying to do more in a day, taking a brief break to reflect, refashion, and recommit to our goals can help build a better company and create stronger leaders.
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