In “The Art of Exceptional Living”, speaker and author Jim Rohn emphasizes the value of a key leadership habit: reflection. He states that high achievers routinely reserve time to take stock of what happened. It may be a few minutes at the end of the day or week, a few hours at the end of the month or quarter, and/or a day or two at the end of the year. Whatever the discipline, the impact is the same – clarity. Clarity comes from celebrating the wins, identifying important lessons learned and recalibrating priorities as needed.
“Reflection is a form of practice. We accelerate mastery
by creating space to reflect and learn.”
-Peter C. Brown (author of “Make It Stick”)
Perhaps one of the most effective and simplest examples of this type of strategic reflection is known as “After Action Reviews” in the US military. There are three groups of questions you could answer either after a project, a significant event or at regularly occurring time intervals (e.g. weekly, monthly). First, “What was supposed to happen…what did happen…and why the gap?” Then, “What worked… and what didn’t work?” And finally, “What would you do differently next time?”
Here are additional questions and thought starters at various time horizons to bring focus to your reflection practice, which can be effective even with just a few minutes at the end of each day.
End of Day Ritual – Take five minutes or less to journal:
What are three great things that happened today?
If this was the second time I was living this day, what would I do differently?
Weekly Review – Block time at the end of each week to assess and reprioritize:
What were my biggest wins this week?
How many of my Top 3 priorities got done?
What worked? What didn’t?
What lesson did I learn / re-learn this week?
Why is that lesson significant and how might I use it to grow my results this week?
Review last week’s calendar, next week’s calendar and any relevant project or to-do lists.
What is the ONE Thing that must be focused on this next week to elevate my game?
Year End Review and New Year Preview
At the time of writing this, we just closed one calendar year and began a new one which is a perfect opportunity to reflect on longer stretches of time related to strategic planning.
Ideally, take a half a day completely alone (away from the house/office) and find a quiet place to reflect. Answering questions like the ones below will force you to focus on the important things in life and not get lost in the trivial. It also furnishes a platform to set goals for the new year.
- How did I do on goals set for the year?
- When I think about last year, what is a peak experience that comes to mind?
- What did I accomplish that I am proud of/what were my biggest projects completed?
- What were my biggest regrets? What didn’t I do that I wish I had?
- Who made a difference in my life this year? Mentors, thought leaders, friends/family?
- What difficult experience(s) am I grateful for?
- Am I closer to friends and family from my activities this year?
- What are the ~20 percent of activities last year that brought 80 percent of the happiness?
- What are the ~20 percent of activities last year that brought 80 percent of the drudgery?
- What will be my biggest goals as I move forward into the next year?
After investing a morning reviewing the previous year, spend the second half of the day previewing the new year. Go beyond simply setting goals. What are the actions you plan to take and what are the standards you plan to live by over the next year? To make next year better than last, the issue is not prioritizing your schedule but rather scheduling your priorities. Here are the issues to address to create the goals, actions and standards for year ahead.
- What would I like to be my biggest triumph in the year ahead?
- What daily actions must I engage in to achieve that?
- What would I most like to change about myself this year?
- What am I looking forward to learning in the year ahead?
- What about my work am I most committed to improving this year?
- What brings me the most joy and how am I going to do/have more of that this year?
- What standards will I live by throughout the next year?
- What books, mentors, or other resources will I seek out to help with growth?
- What are the top three to seven goals (“must-do” initiatives) I commit to this year?
“The ancestor of every action is a thought.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson