Some have used the opportunity to throw themselves into work. More hours. Later into the evenings. Greater responsibility.
Others filled their time with new television series, books, podcasts or hobbies.
While the majority found solace in distraction, others dared to embrace the downtime as a rare moment of quiet to work on themselves, turn inwards and face their own thoughts. Perhaps for the first time in a long time.
Being with your own thoughts can feel overwhelming and scary as we confront and process a cacophony of emotions, events and thoughts. Which is why, especially after the year just had, so many of us choose to distract ourselves with work or other stimulation.
But beyond this fear is a powerful opportunity for growth if we choose to turn inwards and reflect in order to process, find meaning, and grow from our experiences.
Reflection, or introspection, is essential for both personal and professional growth.
Geil Browning, Ph.D., and founder of Emergenetics International writes,
"Reflection is a deeper form of learning that allows us to retain every aspect of any experience, be it personal or professional — why something took place, what the impact was, whether it should happen again — as opposed to just remembering that it happened.”
Reflection is having a difficult interaction with a loved one, ruminating on the exchange, learning through empathy, and shifting our perspective accordingly.
It is also presenting a project to the board, receiving critical feedback, processing their critique, and taking onboard their insights for your next project and long-term professional growth.
Regular reflection in our personal lives, whether that is through meditation, journaling or the use of a mindful platform like myhaventime has many benefits.
Mostly it provides an opportunity to revisit an event or thought in isolation of itself. This allows for a new perspective - without impulse or heightened emotion - where we can process an experience or feeling more objectively, rationally and productively.
It allows us to learn more deeply and consciously and apply our current knowledge and emotional awareness to past experiences.
To quote inspirational speaker Iyanla Vanzant,
“The journey into self-love and self-acceptance must begin with self-examination. Until you take the journey of self-reflection, it is almost impossible to grow or learn in life.”
It could be something that happened in childhood or as recently as yesterday, but until we make time for introspection the opportunities for closure, growth and learning will remain untapped.
As Jennifer Porter writes for HBR,
“Reflection gives the brain an opportunity to pause amidst the chaos, untangle and sort through observations and experiences, consider multiple possible interpretations, and create meaning. This meaning becomes learning, which can then inform future mindsets and actions.”
As work from home persists and we are faced (or blessed) with more spare time, how can we consciously prioritise reflection instead of delving into more work or a new series to distract us?
In these uncertain times we are presented with a unique opportunity to delve deep, understand ourselves and learn from past experiences. So how will you spend your time?
If you are reading this article, it’s likely you’re a lifelong learner. Someone who, at their own volition, pursues new knowledge and learning throughout their entire life.
Lifelong learners are continually absorbing new knowledge. When combined with regular reflection, this makes for a potent opportunity for growth.
Consider the first role you had within your particular industry…
In my case that was as a junior designer for an eCommerce company. I was tasked with creating their marketing emails, among other things. When I first started, I designed these emails superficially with little regard for their performance.
Throughout the years I’ve had invaluable lessons from colleagues, undertook postgraduate studies, read an untold number of articles, and learnt to use analytics to track the metrics of a successful email campaign.
Yes I now know the mechanisms of a good email, but when I reflect on my earliest experiences and current depth of knowledge I can see how my thinking has developed over time. How I have grown. As a lifelong learner I have developed knowledge in strategy and analytics and even professionalism - much more than a single email design.
Where did you start? And where are you now?
How can you use reflection in your professional life to forge connections between your existing knowledge and what you are learning? To identify all of the growth you have experienced, the mistakes you have made and learnt from, and the opportunities to continue learning?
Rather than taking on more work to fill your spare time, how can you hit pause to reflect on your modus operandi, recent wins and challenges and find opportunities to learn and grow?
When it comes to meditation, self-directed learning and physical exercise (or anything that helps us become the best version of ourselves) we know that small daily efforts compound to long-term impactful results.
The same is true for reflection. Don’t set unrealistic expectations to reflect for an hour every week! Instead schedule time for reflection into your everyday life.
That could be 5 minutes of journaling before bed each evening or daily journaling in an application like myhaventime that allows for the upload of imagery, video and documents for a richer experience. Keep it manageable.
Regular journaling creates an archive which can be revisited over time to observe your growth and shifts in behaviour, thought, feelings, bias, emotional awareness and perspective over time.
If you’re not a writer, Jennifer Porter also suggests exploring alternative opportunities to reflect.
That could be a walk with a colleague to ruminate on a given topic or event. Or a swim or bike ride alone where you are undisturbed and free to ruminate on recent events.
No matter how you choose to do it, reflecting upon past experiences with hindsight, new knowledge and an objective perspective is when we will learn and grow most effectively and authentically.