Why you should stop working for the next hour. Reflection and learning.

It’s easy to be busy. It’s something that most of us can achieve with very little effort. But it’s harder to be productive. The whirlwind of ‘things to do’ can keep us so busy that we fail to stop and reflect on what we are doing. I know that this sounds like elementary time management philosophy, but it is true that we need to find time to reflect.

Reflection is the part of our learning methodology that is most often neglected. But in many ways it’s the most important. Reflection is the time that we take to reconcile new learning in with what we know already. It’s the space that we create to understand what challenges our conception of what is ‘right’ and what reinforces what we know to be true. It’s where we decide if we agree with what we are learning and how we change in response to that learning.

But learning is, in many ways, like digging a hole. You can keep on shovelling, but sometimes you have to climb out of the hole to see how big it is. Otherwise, you just keep on digging.

So, on a friday morning, why not climb out of the hole. Reflect on what you’ve learnt in the last year. How are you different today from the person you were then? Have you visited new places, learnt new skills, taken on new responsibilities? Or do you feel that you’re still the same?

Think about it from the point of view of learning design. Where do we discuss with learners how we want them to change and to understand how they want to change. What are the benefits and challenges for them and for us? How will we measure the change? Are we building space into our solutions to allow for reflection and, if not, how do we hope that people will reconcile what we are telling them with what they already know?

This isn’t an abstract argument: we learn through a process of reflection and reconciliation. That reflection won’t happen by itself, especially in a world where we are all too busy to stop and think. Stopping doesn’t mean doing less, it can mean getting the benefit from what we’ve done already.

So try to take an hour out. Without email or the phone. Just with a piece of paper. Or the iPad if you like, but with the email turned off. What do you feel you have learnt in the last year. Is it easy to reflect on this? If it’s hard, what does that tell you? Do you feel comfortable with this exercise, or are you just too busy to do it. And if you’re too busy, do you disagree that we need time to reflect?

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About Julian Stodd

A learning and development professional specialising in e-learning and learning technology.
This entry was posted in Challenge, Disturbance, Effectiveness, Learning, Motivation, Reflection and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Why you should stop working for the next hour. Reflection and learning.

  1. Michael McGinnis says:

    Well stated Julian, and how true this is of taking time to reflect on life itself. It is ironic how in today’s fast paced world that I feel guilty for taking this time, however, when I do, I always consider a perspective that I would not have otherwise done. I schedule a weekly appointment now with a colleague where we do as you suggested, we step back and review what we are working on and provide each other with ideas. One of the most productive meetings I now have on my calendar. Thanks for sharing.

    • julianstodd says:

      Hi Michael – a scheduled meeting is a great idea. I might try that! The ability to step back and look at the situation with a wider perspective is invaluable i find! Best wishes, Julian

  2. Nice post. Earlier today, I was reflecting in little pleasures which make my life beautiful…remembered an old saying “If the world gives you few reasons to cry, show the world million reasons to smile” :)

  3. Pingback: Soaking it up: Providing processing time in learning design | TorranceLearning

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