Not a day goes by when I don’t hear, “I’m so busy!” or, “I don’t have any time.” It seems that in our overconnected, overscheduled, overcommitted world we have lost all sense of margin. Time to breathe? Maybe, if it’s a scheduled yoga class or meditation session. Otherwise, on to the next task!
What happens when we don’t have time to reflect? Why is it so critical to spend time on reflective thinking?
“$650 billion is lost each year because we don’t give ourselves time for reflection.” -DP Forrester
What are the top 3 benefits of reflection and reflective thinking?
1. Getting the big ideas right
CEOs, COOs, business leaders, and leadership boards have no shortage of ideas that must get done. They drive high-performing teams and cultures to implement their best ideas. Now, more than ever, organizations are in the midst of a tumultuous business market, facing questions of relevancy and sustainability. Only through reflective thinking can leaders know if their big ideas will work and if the organizational culture can support idea implementation. Reflective leaders embrace the questions: What would make this idea fail, what could we do differently, and how can we solve this problem?
2. Finding meaning
We live in a world where data and meaning fight for our attention all day. Emails, text messages, social media updates, and other information are constantly bombarding us. We can’t process one piece of data before we are confronted with another. There’s simply no way to comprehend the meaning of all of this data unless we make time to think.
This Basex study breaks down how the typical leader spends his or her time each day:
28% — Interruptions by things that aren’t urgent or important, like unnecessary email messages and the time it takes to get back on track
25% — Productive content creation, including writing email messages
20% — Meetings (in person, by phone, by video, and online)
15% — Searching through content, like the Web, digital communications, and paperwork
ONLY 5% — Reflecting on all of the information
Nearly a third of the time is spent in interruptions, while a mere 5% is left for think time. How can leaders make effective decisions with such a balance? The answer is simple: they can’t.
Leaders must understand the meaning behind information and the implications of their decisions before they act. Meaning is what leaders bring to their organizations. When meaning is found, intention is found.
“When meaning is found, intention is found.” -Daniel Patrick Forrester
When we take time to think and reflect, we find ourselves in control rather than subservient to the Pavlovian urges that so often drive us to choose technology and connectedness rather than reflection. This past September, I spoke at a conference called BoardSource in Washington, D.C. BoardSource is the nation’s largest annual convening of nonprofit leaders, board members, and chief executives. In my speech to the 850 executive leaders in attendance, I explained why boards and leadership teams should act with intention and focus on becoming greater than the sum of their individual parts, which can only be achieved through continuous reflection.
“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.” –Mark Twain