Another year completed - 2017 is just about over. You have most likely spent the last four weeks going from function to function, catching up with key clients, colleagues and friends. You will have spent some time thinking about family and how you will celebrate the festive season and holidays with them. Now, it is time for you; time to move away from the constant emails; the endless meetings; the insistent demands on your time and energy. It is time for you to reflect on what the year has meant to you; the successes, the disappointments and the opportunities. How have you grown, what have you achieved and what have you learnt? It is time for some ‘slow thinking’.
The concept of ‘slow thinking’, or reflective thought, was recently coined in an article by Martin Reeves, Roselinde Torres & Fabien Hassan titled ‘How to Regain the Lost Art of Reflection’. The article suggests many of us have become slaves to our emails, meetings and operational crises. We are in a permanent state of information overload and have become instinctive and reactive in our responses. This state of being is referred to as ‘fast thinking’. When we are in this ‘fast thinking’ mode, we no longer have the time to reflect, to undertake the ‘slow thinking’ that is deliberate and reflective. ‘Slow thinking’ enables us to challenge our thoughts, our values and our actions. It can help us draw connections to seemingly disparate information.
It is not always easy to switch off that part of our brain that’s going on full-speed. Modern technology does not help us – we are always online meaning there is no escape from the unrelenting demands on our attention. Martin et al, suggests there are a number of principles we could implement to enable us to tap into our reflective thoughts. The suggested principles are:
- Unstructured thinking time. What a concept. Imagine, time to think. We all need to find time in our diaries for reflective thinking. This time must then be held as sacred and must not be eaten up by all those other distractions. No compromises.
- Find a Coach. The benefits of coaching are well documented. All leaders should be engaging in regular dialogue with a trusted partner who can help facilitate more productive reflection.
- Question yourself. Create a list of questions you can use to validate the why, the what and the how. Asking these questions regularly will promote reflective thought and the flow of ideas.
- Protect yourself. Clear guidelines around email response times and how to manage emails received outside of business hours help us all to disconnect from those non-urgent messages.
- Generate and solve. Question the way you currently generate ideas and solve problems. Are you questioning the execution or are you ensuring your team has the right tools and processes in place to solve complex issues they are dealing with?
- Model reflection. By being a reflective thinker, you are role modelling what you expect of your team. Your behaviours will influence those of your team and they too will take the time to slow down and reflect. These behaviours then become entrenched in the operating rhythm of all leaders in your business.
It could be easy to perceive this effort to slow down as just another impost on our precious time. On the contrary, the research is clear, by taking the time to slow down and engage in deliberate, reflective thought, leaders can actually reclaim their time, put their attention toward complex problem solving and – hopefully – inspire others to do the same. Remember as Socrates said ‘The unexamined life is not worth living.’ So go ahead, slow down and think about it.
Happy leading and happy holidays!