How To Use Structured Reflection to Improve Your Performance



“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”– Søren Kierkegaard

I’m a fan of self-reflection.

I think it can help you avoid being the frog in the boiling pot (that doesn’t know when to get out.) I think the trick is using the right sets of questions.

If you use weekly structured reflection, you can see the patterns in the problems you face and how you solve them. You’ll be able to see how your responses change over time.

In The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter, Michael Watkins suggests an approach for structured reflection.

Don’t Blame Situations for Your Troubles

Are you owning your actions and results?   Are you as proactive as you can be?

Watkins writes:

“Now focus on the biggest challenges or difficulties you are facing.

Be honest with yourself.

Are your difficulties situational or do their sources lie within you?

Even experienced and skilled people blame problems on the situation rather than their own actions.

The net effect is that they are less proactive than they could be.”

The Art of Structured Reflection (a 15-Minute Checkpoint Each Week)

Watkins suggests setting aside 15 minutes at the end of each week and to reflect on the following questions.

Use what you learn to improve and get better where it counts.

1. What do you feel so far?

  1. On a scale of high to low, do you feel:
  2. Excited? If not, why not? What can you do about it?
  3. Confident? If not, why not? What can you do about it?
  4. In control of your success? If not, why not? what can you do about it?

2. What has bothered you so far?

  1. With whom have you failed to connect? Why?
  2. Of the meetings you have attended, which has been the most troubling? Why?
  3. Of all that you have seen or heard, what has disturbed you most? Why?

3. What has gone well or poorly?

  1. Which interactions would you handled differently if you could? Which exceeded your expectations? Why?
  2. Which of your decisions have turned out particularly well? Not so well? Why?
  3. What missed opportunities do you regret the most? Was a better result blocked by you or by something beyond your control?

I particularly like the fact that Michael includes a question focused on how you feel, right up front.

I think it’s easy to get wrapped up in logic and miss what your gut might be trying to tell you.

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  1. Very helpful for me. I am newbie manager and these reflection questions are just what I really need now. Thanks

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