To be honest I wondered if my topic for this week’s article, reflection, was still appropriate now that New Zealand is being re-visited by the COVID-19 virus and parts of our country are in lockdown.
I was going to start off by painting a beautiful picture. You see in South Westland, just near the township of Fox Glacier, is the beautiful Lake Matheson. It’s renowned worldwide for its stunning reflections. On any given day, when the conditions are just right the reflections are so perfect that it’s near on impossible to know what’s up and what’s down. Aoraki Mt Cook soars above you, and also at your feet.
I felt that this was the perfect metaphor for reflecting on our professional roles. When the conditions are near on perfect, then so is the reflection. It’s finding those perfect conditions that is the key to getting the thought processes moving.
A friend of mine, Richard Spackman, has recently stepped away from his hectic life running a thriving photocopy and print business, to travel the world with his family. COVID-19 has put paid to this and his tour of the world has become a world tour of New Zealand. During this time he has found time to self-reflect. He’s even written about it. The advantage that Richard has is that the conditions for his reflection are perfect. There is no noise or angst, no pressing timelines, no insidious conflicts or unrelenting perceptions or expectations. He has time. He has time to think.
And that reminded me again about how important it is to find the right conditions to get the most out of your reflections. Then the latest round of COVID-19 hit and I began to wonder whether this actually was the best time to talk about finding the optimal time in your professional lives to go away and think.
I mean, as we all head back into various forms of lockdown and restriction, with it’s angst and uncertainty, the whole world seems to change once more, and the need isn’t to slow down and reflect, but instead it is to speed up and be ultra visible. As leaders in times like this we are expected to marshal the troops, know the answers to those questions that haven’t even been asked yet, and to always, always be one step ahead of the mob … or the virus … or that parent who thinks this is some sort of crazy conspiracy.
This isn’t time to slip away and find time for reflection. Or is it?
When I first thought about writing this piece I imagined that I’d be encouraging leaders to actively make time, and large chunks of it, to get away and do some solid reflection.
However there is still a need for reflection in these busy COVID times. We just aren’t in a time rich environment.
Is this therefore the time for micro reflections? Instead of a half day here, or a whole day there, I’m thinking ten minutes here, or fifteen minutes over there.
And during these times your reflections aren’t going to be long flowing inquiry based examinations of your reason for being. Instead they’ll be succinct, targeted, and to the point.
How do these steps sound for a micro reflection during these crazy times?
- Reconnect with your purpose and what you’re trying to achieve
- Reflect on how you’ve got to this point and how you’ll know when you’ve got to your destination
- Refract on how this might look with another lens, and a consider if there is another way/s
- Commit to the thoughts that you have – if you’re making a change, commit to it. If you’re not, commit to that. But give yourself some flexibility. When new information arises be flexible enough to know that your commitment may change.
- Take time to breathe and let yourself know that you’ve got this
- And finally; read this quote by Maya Angelou.
“Do the best you can until you know better.
Then, when you know better, DO better.”
Now go back to your busy role knowing you’ve got this.
So where can you do this? Schools are notoriously busy.
A ten minute walk around the grounds of the school straight after interval when the grounds are empty …
A fifteen minute “alternate” route on your way to school in the car ….
A twelve minute escape to a room in the school that is seldom used….
You’ll know the places to look. Your office isn’t always the best place for this.The ideal is to find a place that is quiet. You just need some peace to get your micro reflection going.
Even Lake Matheson has days when the reflection is ruined by the weather. So don’t be hard on yourself if your own micro reflection gets messed up by the “constant noise” of school life around you. There’s always tomorrow. But see if you can make it a habit, and see if it makes a difference.