My first job as a graduate taught me many things about the world of work and one of them was to be busy and, if I wasn’t busy, to look as if I was! 

So deeply is ‘look busy’ ingrained in me, I find it difficult to pause for reflection – even though I know that reflecting is a legitimate and useful activity.   The other day, I was gazing out of my study window in deep thought about something entirely laudable (just take my word for it!) when I heard my wife approaching.  I immediately pretended that I was doing something else!  I busied myself with papers on my desk, signed a couple of letters and generally puffed myself up to look important and, above all, busy.  After my wife had left the room, I thought to myself, ‘This is crazy. I am in my own house, that was my own wife who has known me, warts and all, for over 46 years, reflecting is a perfectly respectable activity, why pretend not to be doing it?’ 

It seems that I am not alone in having a ‘look busy’ default position. When I ask people when and with whom they do their reflecting, the vast majority indicate that they do it outside working hours when, for example, taking a bath (the favourite place) or when travelling (driving was the next favourite) or when out walking.  Typically, reflecting is a solitary pursuit, but when other people are involved, they tend to be partners and trusted friends/acquaintances. Work colleagues get very few mentions. 

So, finding space and time for reflection is clearly an uphill struggle. There are, however, a number of things we can do to get it to happen more often and be more effective. Firstly, make periods of reflection the equivalent of a date in the diary, a commitment to do it in a designated slot of time each week/month or whatever. Treat this as sacrosanct; ring-fenced reflection time.  Secondly, make it a purposeful activity by structuring the way you go about it and producing some written notes rather than just thinking. The act of writing crystallises the thinking and produces something tangible as an outcome (often useful for CPD records).  Thirdly, find a colleague (or colleagues if you want to experiment with a ‘reflection circle’) you can use as a sounding board for your reflections and vice versa.  This person will, preferably, have a different learning style to your own. 

Finally, resist attempts to sabotage reflection time at work. Campaign to get reflecting accepted as a legitimate process with useful outcomes.   

   

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So far as other people are concerned, you are your behaviour