By User12601034-Oracle on Sep 25, 2014
Information is flying at us throughout the day. A few years back, a report from University of California, San Diego estimated that an individual consumes 34 gigabytes of information each day. Further, human knowledge tends to double about every 13 months, with IBM estimating that the build out of the ‘internet of things’ will cause human knowledge to double every 12 hours. It’s no wonder that we feel stressed!
Last week I read an article titled “Science Shows Something Surprising About People Who Love to Write.” The article stated that writing allows a person to focus on moving forward rather than “obsessing unhealthily” over something that has happened.
Writing allows a person to pull together disparate pieces of information and make sense of them. With writing, you have the time to connect information, see patterns, and notice those things that get lost in the daily bustle. As you do this, you’re creating more complex mental models that allow you to make more connections, and, ultimately, potentially better decisions – about yourself, your work, your team, your leadership.
So what does this have to do with leadership?
Research tells us that a leader’s health and a leader’s ability to reflect are crucial to his or her success. Too often, however, leaders don’t take time for either. We don’t have time to get to the gym. We need to make just one more critical decision. It will hold until tomorrow. But, it won’t hold until tomorrow. As a leader, you owe it to yourself and your team to invest in your health and in the practice of reflection.
One line in the article I read stood out for me – “even blogging or journaling is enough to see results.” Think about it. If you spend 5-10 minutes a day simply writing about your leadership practice, you are exploring higher levels of cognitive thinking; you are opening yourself up to more innovative ideas; you are giving yourself the opportunity to learn new things about yourself and how you learn; and you are potentially lowering your level of stress and your blood pressure.
Right now, you might be thinking “Yea, I buy into it. But I don’t know where to start.” Guess what? I have five simple steps that will help you start a practice of reflection:
- Pick your tool. Use a blog (published or not), a journaling app on your tablet (there are some good ones for free), or even a cool notebook that you picked up when shopping back-to-school supplies with your kids. It doesn’t matter what you use as long as it works for you.
- Select your time. Maybe first thing in the morning at your desk, or in the evening before you go home. Perhaps it’s on the weekend when you’re the only person awake at your house. Aim for twice a week (or more if you want), but figure out your best times and stick to it.
- Add it to your calendar. Yes, you are busy, but adding it to your calendar makes it a commitment that you’re more likely to honor.
- Write. You might be telling yourself that you don’t know what to write about. Try some of these ideas:
- What went incredibly well last week? Which of your leadership skills contributed to this success?
- What was the worst thing that happened last week? What leadership skills could you cultivate to ensure this doesn’t happen again?
- Thinking about a particular approach to a problem? Write about the opposing view to your approach. It might open up new ideas.
- As a leader, what risks have you taken lately? How did they turn out? What did you learn about yourself by taking the risk?
- What are the specific gifts and talents that you bring to a leadership role? How do you show or share those gifts and talents with your team and/or colleagues?
- If you were the hero in your own action movie, what would happen in your movie? Do you the skills and/or knowledge to make that happen? Where might you improve?
- What have you learned in the past 48 hours that you can apply to your leadership role? Why would it be important to do so?
- What will your leadership role look like in 10 years? Why do you think this?
- What leadership advice would your future self give to your current self? What leadership advice would your current self give your past self?
- Try drawing out your problem. Create a visual representation to see if there are pieces of the problem that you’re not really seeing.
Remember that this is purely for you and your development. Try to commit to a three-month trial, and I guarantee that you’ll be smarter at the end of those three months. How can I be sure? Because at the end of three months, you’ll have three months of accumulated intelligence in the form of your insights, connections and ideas – things that you wouldn’t have without reflecting and writing.
Socrates boldly said “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Take the time for examination…reflect on your leadership…make those mental models that provide clearer thinking…gain perspective. Doing so might lower your stress level and blood pressure; it will likely let you better handle those 34 gigabytes of information that you intake each day; and it will definitely make you a better leader.