by Paula Brown Stafford and Lisa T. Grimes
“It’s in the pause that we are able to create and formulate dynamic ideas.” – Juliet Funt
As we continue our series on effective leading and following, it seems fitting with the coming of the new year to discuss the trait of reflection. Many of us during this time think about the past year and find aspects in our lives we want to change – whether that might be increasing exercise, eating healthier or reading more. While our main focus is on our future goals, we believe taking considerable time for reflection is just as important as forward vision, and it should be practiced more than once a year. Today, we would like to share two types of reflection, which when practiced, can help leaders and followers make better decisions in the future.
If we’re being honest, we have all had those weeks – or even months – where everything seems to go by in a huge blur. Our alarms go off and we quickly roll out of bed and jump in the shower before our minds even begin to process our actions. We attend meeting after meeting with just enough time to eat a take-out lunch and answer emails before the afternoon conference calls begin. You know the drill. Rarely is there ever time for quiet; we have become so accustomed to the noise and business of life that quiet moments can feel unsettling. And if we get a quiet moment, our minds usually quickly turn to something we might have missed in the schedule instead of just enjoying the time.
Most often when we are the busiest and don’t think we have the time to be still – that’s usually when we need our quiet time the most. It helps us focus on what is really important. These times of silence allow our mind to process information we might not have found necessary to think about throughout the day. We both set aside a quiet moment every day, usually in the morning, to pray, read, and reflect. We find it helps us stay grounded and in a right frame of mind during the day. It is important for all of us to get away from the loud business of life and be silent. In fact, according to a variety of studies, silence helps promote memory and brain growth, relieve stress, and fight insomnia. Find a way to get some quite time, whether that’s taking a walk alone or spending the last hour of the day technology-free before going to bed. This will help your body to reset before starting a new day.
Analyze our activities
How are we spending our hours throughout the day? Have we let work encroach on our personal time? Have our kids’ schedules taken us away from spending time with other adults? Has our open-door policy at work kept our own tasks from completion? According to Juliet Funt, “100% exertion = 0% thoughtfulness.” Without thoughtfulness, we are left exhausted from completed projects that were less that perfect. Therefore, for our own sanity and for our teammates, it’s important to create what Juliet Funt calls ‘white space,’ a strategic pause. While it might seem counter-intuitive, taking this time will actually help us increase our effectiveness. She suggests four questions to ask yourself during these strategic pauses:
Is there anything I can let go of?
Where is “good enough,” good enough?
What do I truly need to know?
What deserves my attention?
Thinking through these questions will help declutter and destress our work-lives. When we take time to truly pause and think, we can execute tasks with greater clarity and excellence. How about a five minute break now? Set your timer – a great tool we found helpful when starting the practice of reflection – and let’s get started!