Why Finding Time for Reflection is Critical for Your Business
It’s easy to get out of control with your business – especially when things are going well.
Imagine you’re in a car, speeding down a winding mountain road. And it’s dark and raining. And your headlights aren’t working. And you’ve got to be somewhere in the next 2 hours… but you’ve forgotten where you need to go or how to get there.
That’s one way to describe how a business owner feels about a rapidly growing business. It’s exhilarating and it’s scary and often it feels overwhelming.
Time flies. And, apparently, as we get older, it flies even faster… And as a business owner/professional, you literally have dozens of things on your mind and a huge to-do list that you struggle to get done. It shouldn’t be a surprise that you suddenly look up and realize another year has passed, but it is. Of course, you don’t really have time to think about being surprised, because the phone is ringing and you have to get back to the emails, and issues, and customers. Things keep coming at you – fast.
There are a few problems with this very common scenario:
- It’s extremely stressful and it’s likely that you’re not operating at your best.
- You’re moving quickly, but you don’t really know where you’re going or if you’re truly making progress.
- You’re not learning anything.
The good news is that there’s one practice you can adopt that will address all of these issues. Finding time for reflection on a regular basis.
Why is reflection important?
The first thing reflection can do for you is to help you relax, or at least de-stress. By purposely slowing down and taking time out to think and reflect, you will also release a lot of stress.
Fun fact… when you’re stressed, your brain works differently than when it’s not stressed. Specifically, you start to shut down your ability for critical and logical thinking and end up primarily relying on emotions. Imagine how much more effective you could be if you were making decisions without extra emotional pressure from stress….
The second huge benefit of reflection is that it enables you to get a handle on how things are actually going. You can dig into the details and analyze the trending data. Imagine a situation where your revenue is going up, but your profits are going down. Without taking the time to really look into the situation, you might continue to keep doing what you’ve been doing (revenue is going up after all). But that would obviously be a mistake. You need to figure out why your profits are declining and address the issue before it takes you under.
Reflection allows you to get clear on where you are today and revisit where you want to go. Most businesses need to make adjustments along the way, but if you aren’t taking the time to do that, you aren’t going to be making the right adjustments.
It turns out that we learn from reflection. Research, including a recent Harvard study into the idea of the importance of reflection within education, confirms the idea that was first brought to light by educational reformer John Dewey back in the 1930’s:
“We do not learn from experience … we learn from reflecting on experience.”
When we’re constantly in motion, most of the experiences we have won’t end up sticking with us and they certainly won’t get translated into any meaningful lessons. However, by taking the time to reflect on what’s happened, both on the good things and the challenges, we can extract the underlying root causes and look for patterns. Granted, not everything you’ve done is going to turn into some kind of ‘eureka’ moment but a lot of experiences will have some kind of lesson.
3 Questions to ask to help with reflection
If you buy into the idea that reflection is important, you might be stuck with how to go about doing it effectively. One approach that you might try is to simply carve out a few hours in a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted and ask yourself these 3 questions:
What are the positives from the last year (or quarter)?
There’s a tendency to focus on issues or what went wrong, which is why the first question is so important. If you’ve had some significant successes, it’s important to recognize them, celebrate them… and maybe most importantly make sure you’re doing what you can to repeat that success in the future.
What were the challenges or disappointments from the last year (or quarter)?
Of course, you should also spend time on the things that went wrong. No one wants to make mistakes, but the best thing about a mistake is the lesson you can learn from it. It’s not about blaming anyone – instead, it’s about learning from the issue and identifying how you might be able to improve.
What lessons can I learn that I need to carry forward?
As you think back through your successes and failures, it’s likely that certain themes, trends or key ideas will come up. Those are the big lessons that you need to make sure you learn and find a way to address.
Clearly, this is a very simplistic model – but that’s actually what makes it work. It’s an easy, natural way to reflect and you’ll be surprised at some of the ideas that will come out of this process. You can also do this as a discussion with someone else…maybe a coach or strategic advisor? 😉
Do you currently have an ongoing process you use for reflecting on your business? We’d love to hear any thoughts or ideas – please share them in the comments below.
Shawn Kinkade Kansas City Business Coach