Improve Your Reflective Thinking

Plato said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” When is the last time you sat down to examine your life?

Reflection and planning is the only way to turn experience into learning. The process can drive us to new levels if used regularly with honest and probing depth. All great leaders practiced the art of reflective thinking. These are people that change the world. These are people that work towards living life being the best that they can be. Some examples include Martin Luther King, Benjamin Franklin, and Abraham Lincoln.

How do you become good at reflective thinking? It takes disciplined practice. A conscious effort. You must also have a desire to improve, and a drive to increase your potential.

John Maxwell has defined five key actions that will put you on the right track.

#1 Set aside time for reflection

This process does not happen naturally. We are too busy. If you don’t schedule time, it is unlikely if you will consistently practice reflective thinking.

#2 Remove yourself from distractions

Reflective thinking requires solitude. This means turning off the television, the music, your phone, and just disconnect for a few minutes to think.

#3 Regularly review your calendar or journal

These show you how you have spent your time. Check to see if your actions are aligned with your goals, your values, and with the activities that reward you.

#4 Ask the right questions

This is an area that will only improve with practice. Learning what to ask is a skill that you will develop. It is handy to keep a few cards of key questions that you can refer to that will help you jump start a reflective thinking session.

#5 Cement your learning through action

Nothing will help you grow faster than putting your thoughts into action. This is where reflection and planning become linked. It is deciding what actions will improve you that will expand your awareness and your potential.

Develop the discipline to follow these key five initiatives and watch your success grow.

Take the Three Day Multitasking Challenge

Do you think you are good at multitasking?

Let’s look at the two extremes of the spectrum. On one hand you have multitasking, and on the other 100% focus. Most of us believe that multitasking is an important skill, and that you will be more effective if you can multitask.

I propose to you that multitasking is impossible, and that we should be striving for 100% focus in our lives.

Since the 1990s, experimental psychologists have conducted experiments on the nature and limits of human multitasking. In general, these studies have disclosed that people show severe interference when even very simple tasks are performed at the same time. This is especially true if both tasks require selecting and producing action.

Many researchers believe that action planning represents a “bottleneck”, which the human brain can only perform one task at a time. One psychiatrist by the name of Edward Hallowell has gone so far as to call multitasking a “mythical activity in which people believe they can perform two or more tasks simultaneously as effectively as one.”

In one set of experiments, participants that claimed to be successful at multitasking were tested. They were placed in a driving simulator with a very challenging course. The diving course was designed to require a high level of attention to keep control of the vehicle and avoid crashing. At the same time they were listening through a headset. They were required to answer true or false to mathematical statements such as 4 times 2 minus 1 is equal to 7.  In addition, between the math statements they heard a word that they had to memorize. At the end of the driving course they needed to repeat the words in sequence.

The experiment showed that the participants could not successfully complete these tasks. If they completed the driving course, they averaged only about 50% effective on the testing. If they concentrated on improving their testing results, they crashed the vehicle.

Others people have researched multitasking in specific areas, such as learning.

Two researchers, Mayer and Moreno, have studied cognitive load in multimedia learning extensively and have concluded that it is difficult, and possibly impossible to learn new information while engaging in multitasking.

Two other researchers, Junco and Cotton, examined how multitasking affects academic success and found that students who engaged in more multitasking reported more problems with their academic work.

Research has also shown that multitasking can result in time wasted due to human context switching and causes more errors due to insufficient attention.

Just this week, Time Magazine reported, that in Abu Dhabi, car accidents dropped by 40% on the three days of the recent Blackberry service outage. A 40% drop – incredible!

Research supports that in all cases our effectiveness is reduced by multitasking. There are no studies that can support in any instance that multitasking can improve performance. None!

Do you ever try to multitask while in a conversation? Has your spouse ever accused you of not listening? I know that sometimes when my wife is talking, my mind is thinking about something else. It appears that I am listening, and I hear a few words, but I don’t really hear what she is saying. My mind was elsewhere. I think that the lack of focus affects our relationships – at home – in the office – everywhere.

In summary, when it comes to multitasking versus focus, we are doing ourselves an injustice by thinking we can multitask. We can never live to our potential if we do not understand where our focus needs to be.

So I challenge you – beginning right now. For the next 3 days, stop multi-tasking! Whatever you are doing and wherever you are. Dedicate 100% of your focus to the task. Focus 100% on the conversation. Focus 100% on the person.

It will not be easy. In this world we are constantly bombarded with information.

Afterwards reflect on the change. Reflect on how others reacted when you gave them 100% of yourself. Reflect on how well, how quickly, and how efficiently you completed tasks.

Take the 3 day challenge, and see how you can improve yourself!

Work on the Right Things

In John Maxwell’s book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, law number three is The Law of Process. This law simply states that Leadership Develops Daily, not in a Day. Even though the book focuses on leadership development, the law of process is applicable to any area in which we want to grow. Applying the law of process to your life’s aspirations will help you achieve success.

How can you be effective using the law of process? Even though your approach must be personalized to meet your goals with your life some basic principles can be applied:

1. Reflect and Plan Daily. Each day review the results of your actions, and plan your next actions that help you along your journey. This requires spending time working toward achievement of your life long goals. Without this effort your goals will remain only as dreams.

2. Have the Right Mindset. If your daily reflection and planning process seems like work, then maybe you have defined the wrong goals. Make sure you are working toward something that you are passionate about, and that you truly want to achieve. If you haven’t been able to transform your dream into a defined purpose and vision, then spend some time writing them out. You will have the energy and the passion to follow the process when you see the journey in front of you.

3. Follow Your Plan. This is all about taking action. Nothing good will happen by only waiting. Adjust as needed. Celebrate your success along the way, and reflect on your mistakes. Learn from your experience, and learn from others.

All three steps are important and must be integrated into what ever process fits your schedule. Follow the law of process and your success will develop daily, not in a single day. The successful journey occurs step by step.

Plan For Achievement

Someone once told me that success was simple. All you need to do is “plan your work, and work your plan”. This adage may work, but there are a few more things to consider.

First, think about “planning your work”. My first thought is that work is not the only thing that defines us. So while planning your work is important, it is also important to define “work”.

Work needs to include the activities that define you as a person. To broaden your view of work, review the following questions:

  1. What value are you adding to yourself?
  2. What value are you adding to others?
  3. At the end of your life, what do you want to be remembered for?
  4. How are you building your character?

Defining your life’s work should encompass more than just your job. You are more than your job.

Second, we need to consider “work your plan”. How many times have you failed to follow through on your plans? We all stumble if we dream big, but there is a difference between giving up, and failing but standing up to continue.

Success requires taking action. It requires following through on your plan, regardless of the obstacles you will face.

If you find yourself on the couch watching television every night of the week, you either have not worked your plan hard enough, or you are not working your plan. Do you want to be remembered as the person that was always watching television? or was the best video game player?

If you want to achieve, plan for it. Then go out and do it. That is how you plan your work and work your plan.