In the AgileLeanLife Productivity Framework, you don’t just do things because you always did them in a specific way. You don’t just work and execute tasks like a robot.
Instead, you regularly reflect on why you do certain things, analyze how efficiently you are doing them and, most importantly, you constantly evaluate where your actions are leading you and if you are following your True North.
If you want to avoid being on reactive autopilot, you have to do regular reflections. The main goal of regular reflections is to ask yourself thought-provoking questions so that you can develop a deeper level of understanding:
- yourself and your actions,
- your environment and its paradigms,
- and the main patterns of your key relationships.
With regular reflections, you want to gain as many important insights as possible that can help you shape a superior life strategy, progress towards your goals faster and, in the end, live a better life. The good life.
But that’s not all. One of the biggest values of reflection is that you can change how you see yourself, how you feel about certain situations and, in the end, how you act. New thoughts lead to new emotions and consequently to new actions. That way, regular reflections really help you stay lean, agile, flexible, happy and wise.
There are several points in your life when performing a reflection is extremely valuable:
- After every sprint (bi-weekly planning session) and 100-day plan (quarterly plan)
- After every experiment you perform in the search mode as part of validated learning
- When big or unexpected changes happen in your environment or relationships
- When negative emotions pile up or you sense big negative mood swings
- At the end of the day, just before you go to sleep to examine your daily life
Reflections after sprints, 100-day plans and experiments are called introspections in the AgileLeanLife Productivity Framework.
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Reflections before you go to sleep or when an emotional or situational trigger fires a need for analysis we call short self-reflection. We will discuss both types of reflections in this article.
But first, let’s answer the basic questions of why, how and when to do reflections.
A short daily reflection is nothing but a healthy habit
Regular daily reflections are a positive habit, like any other healthy and beneficial habit, from exercising to reading and being grateful. Every habit has three key elements.
There must be a trigger, a behavior you perform and, in the end, a reward you enjoy. If the triggers are strong enough and rewards are big, you have a greater chance of sticking to a habit. That’s what you also need if you want to stick to regular reflections – strong triggers and big rewards.
Reward – why do short daily reflections
There are so many big rewards of regular reflections. Everybody doubts it, but then after doing it a few times, they become in love with it. Many times, I had to push people a little bit to do it the first time, but then after performing it a whole new world opens to them.
They are like “wow, I didn’t know my mind works like that and that I can get so many insights by writing a few of my thoughts down. With reflections, you can finally meet the deep and rich internal world you possess. And now the benefits.
- You better understand yourself and your actions,
- You pay more attention to your thoughts and emotions
- You become aware of your rich inner world
- You become connected to yourself much better
- You can more easily see all the ways of how you can properly adjust
- You can plan how to do things in a better way
With all that, you gain more control over yourself and you become much more proactive.
With regular reflections, you explore your needs and wants and become very much aware of them. You explore the fears that are blocking you on your way towards your goal. You can finally understand what kind of conflicts are preventing you from being more assertive in life.
You can more easily identify all the different toxic thoughts and how they’re hurting you. You can identify competing commitments, internal frustrations and other things that are blocking you in life. Therefore, combining reflections with mindset upgrades is the perfect combination.
All this removes different inner blocks and releases emotional tensions. Not to mention that these are all the inputs for a superior life strategy.
Regular reflections help you better understand your environment and its paradigms, including people’s diverse behaviors and changes in their behaviors. You can see and understand your position in your environment exceptionally well and you can analyze how different actions can lead you towards different outcomes.
Behavior – how to do short daily reflections
Doing a short daily reflection is an extremely easy exercise. All you have to do is take a notebook and a pen and start writing down your thoughts. You provoke yourself with a few tough questions, you encourage yourself to look at things from different angles and you ask yourself why dozens of times. Then you dig deep. As deeply as possible.
Here are examples of questions you ask yourself during reflection:
- How am I feeling? Why am I feeling like that? Why am I so anxious, angry etc.?
- What does this situation remind me of? When did I feel the same way as I do now?
- What am I trying to achieve with my behavior?
- Why are others behaving towards me as they do?
- What is the best way to improve my situation? Why am I blocking myself?
- What am I scared of? Why am I persisting at this thing that doesn’t work?
- Why does this bother me so much? Why do I really dislike that person?
- What will happen if I do the complete opposite? How would my life look like if I believed the opposite from what I believe now?
- After every question you ask yourself why, why, why and dig deep.
The solemn end of every reflection should always be new insights about you, about your position in the world and how your life relates to different relationships, marketing trends and other environmental elements. After you do a reflection, you should finally understand. There should be many “aha” moments.
When you do retrospections (after execution), you consciously decide how you will change your behavior and actions. You discipline yourself to follow a new behavioral pattern. On the other hand, in very well performed self-reflections it should all come naturally to you without any force. You should feel it in your bones how you can do things differently and how it makes sense to change.
Trigger – when to do short daily reflections
There are many potential triggers that can lead you to do a reflection. Some of them can be planned (after a sprint, before sleep) and some of them can be spontaneous. I suggest you combine both types.
The strongest and most useful triggers are usually emotional ones. Examples include interesting thoughts or ideas you become aware of, big negative changes in your moods, getting hurt by other people, and so on. In such situations, you go straight to the most painful things a lot more easily.
The second most common triggers are time- and location-based. You do a daily reflection before you go to sleep. You do a reflection as part of a planning meeting with your team, and so on. You should always have a few strong location and time triggers that naturally lead you towards performing a reflection.
Introspections – reflections after executions
Now let’s go a little bit deeper into the concept of introspections.
Introspections are reflections you do after different periods of execution and after performing life experiments. They are an integral part of bi-weekly sprints and quarterly planning sessions, and their main purpose is to improve your strategy, tactics and actions.
With retrospections, you want to make sure you’re progressing towards your goal in the best possible way. With regular retrospections, you want to have the smartest strategy and be one step ahead of your instincts, life itself and other people.
Introspections are otherwise also an integral part of agile software development (SCRUM), where a team reflects on how they work and where they can improve. As I mentioned, introspection is done after every sprint. The things you want to achieve with introspections (you can do it by yourself or with your team if you have one) after sprints and 100-day plans are:
- Reviewing the tasks done in the previous interval
- Carefully planning your next sprint
- Thinking of all the ways you can adjust to achieve your goals faster
- Thinking of all the ways you can adjust to achieve your goalswith fewer resources
- Making sure you are going into the right direction (following your True North)
- Brainstorming how you can do things better and how you can improve and adjust
- Analyzing all the new ideas you have
- Better connecting with yourself or with team members if you have a team
- Updating your life vision or vision of the team
- Measuring your real progress based on the metrics framework you set for yourself
- Adjusting the strategy and plan and reflecting on new things that you learned
The best practice is to combine planning a new execution phase with reflection on the previous one. That way you can really improve yourself on the way from one sprint to another. The simple rule is to never even leave out execution retrospection when planning your next sprint, quarterly plan or an experiment in the search mode. Never. Because that’s what successful people do.
The bottom lines of introspection are the most important part of the process. If you don’t have the bottom lines, you have a very poorly performed introspection. The mandatory thing is that after every introspection, you have answers to a few very basic, but extremely hard questions:
- What went well during the last sprint that I/we will continue doing?
- What could I/we do differently?
- How can I/we implement the change?
Based on that, you should make three decisions and stick to them:
- What should I start doing?
- What should I stop doing?
- What should I continue doing?
After every introspection, you have to change your behavior and your actions. You have to do things differently. You have to improve and grow. If you don’t, introspection was useless. Changes and adjustments are the whole point of it.
Before we go to short daily reflections, let me once again emphasize the important difference between introspections and self-reflections. The changes and improvements after introspection can be a little bit pushed, you can discipline yourself to do things differently.
Meanwhile changes after self-reflection must come completely from within, they must feel completely natural. You can train yourself to perform a new behavior, but you become wiser after an epiphany that changes how you see the world in every one of your cells.
Short daily reflections – do them at the end of the day or whenever you feel like doing it
Now let’s move from introspections to short daily reflections.
Explained very simply, performing self-reflection means that you take from a couple of minutes to an hour or more to reflect on your goals, beliefs, behavioral patterns, negative and positive emotions, emotional knots and everything else that’s happening in your life.
The best way is to do it daily by writing a journal. Once you try it, you will see what kind of amazing breakthroughs self-reflection can lead you to. It’s better than any thriller movie once you discover your rich inner world.
There are two perfect moments for doing a short daily reflection. One is at the end of the day. At the end of the day, you can analyze and compare your plans to what actually happened in reality.
You can write down what you’ve learned, people’s unexpected reactions and interesting changes in your relationships, how productive you were and how well you completed the three most important tasks that you had given to yourself for that day, and so on.
The second trigger is when you sense an interesting thought, observation or insight or when negative emotions pile up. When you get extremely moody, when something upsets you, when things don’t go as planned, sit down and start analyzing.
Use the D.E.A.R. concept in those cases. Drop Everything And Reflect. Or sometimes Drop Everything And Read, you know, to get wiser and more educated.
A short daily reflection is slightly different from introspection. If you have to force yourself to make a certain decision after self-analysis, you hadn’t done it right. Self-analysis is about understanding yourself and noticing, not judging and forcing yourself into anything.
There are no “stop doings”, “start doings” and “continue doings”. It’s about changing the course of your life without any force, by better understanding who you are and what you want through analytical thinking.
Here are a few additional ideas for what you want to achieve with short daily reflections:
Analyze your day
Think about how your day went compared to – (1) your daily plan and (2) your ideal day. Analyze if you executed all the planned tasks, especially the three most important tasks for the day. Analyze what went wrong and what went right, what you’ve learned throughout the day, and write down the insights you gained.
You can also write down all the cool things that happened to you, so you never forget them. In the end, you can also add all the new things you’re grateful for.
Look for errors in your subjective reality map
You see the world through your subjective lenses. I call it the subjective reality map or the frame. You operate based on this mental frame, a set of schemas defined by your beliefs, values, way of thinking and many other factors. Subjective lenses are like unique code that runs in your brain. You’re only aware of a small part of it, most of it is subconscious.
This frame or the subjective reality map is not the truth, even if it most often feels like it. But it’s not the objective reality, it’s only how you interpret the reality with your limiting senses.
That’s important, because there are many errors in your subjective reality map. From wrong assumptions and cognitive biases to all the things you don’t even know you don’t know. With reflections, you should identify as many errors in your subjective reality map as possible.
Through analysis, you should notice that you were wrong about something (but first you have to put your ego aside) and then say to yourself: “Oh gosh, I was really wrong about that” or “I can’t believe I was lying to myself so hard” or “I really operated based on toxic behavioral patterns and beliefs, now I see it”.
With regular reflections, you should come closer to the objective truth and identify all the ways you’re lying to yourself or deceiving yourself.
Make subconscious conscious
By asking yourself tough questions and digging deep, you can find many emotional knots in yourself of which you weren’t aware before. These knots are tied by all the mistakes your parents made in your upbringing. The more toxic the family environment where you were raised was, the more tension there is. Not all family environments are toxic, but many of them are.
When you identify these emotional knots, they lose some of their power and some tension gets released. On top of that, you can become aware of why you are performing some self-sabotaging behaviors.
With regular reflections, I identified all kinds of different things, like why I was always late, why I was afraid to start my own business, why knowledge is so important to me, and much more.
The only way to keep your creative muscle strong is to regularly brainstorm ideas. If you do it every day, the creative part of your brain will be fit and strong.
It’s hard to brainstorm ideas every day, but you can still make it a part of your shutdown routine before you go to sleep, just after making a short reflection. In such a case you will never forget to train and stretch your creative muscles.
An idea that isn’t written down is an idea quickly forgotten.
Of course you won’t have only brilliant ideas with regular brainstorming, but writing down as many ideas as possible is the only way to get to brilliant ideas. If you write down 100 ideas every day, most of them will be absolutely crappy; but every now and then, a new brilliant idea will be born among all the crap. An idea that might lead you to a new course of life.
An idea to start a business, to help your company to grow, how to improve your relationships or how to experience life more fully, and so on. One such powerful idea can change your life forever.
Giving instructions to your subconscious
Your brain works 24/7. No rest, no holidays, just work. Even when you sleep and enjoy your dreams, that’s your brain at work. One good way to use your brain better is to keep the dreaming function alive during the day as well. It helps you be more creative, stay curious and an optimist.
Very similarly, but the other way around, it also makes sense to give instructions to your brain what to work on when you are asleep. There are many different types of instructions you can give to your brain. Revealing a part of your subconscious self to you in your dreams, finding a new solution for various problems, experiencing lucid dreaming, and so on.
As the last step of your daily reflection, just after your brainstorming session and before you go to sleep, give instructions to your brain what to work on while you’re sleeping. Just say to yourself (or to your brain) what you want your cognitive power to be used for during sleep. It will absolutely raise your productivity levels and lead you to many cool new insights.
Drop everything and go buy yourself a notebook
Richard Branson, one of the most successful entrepreneurs ever, always carries a simple inexpensive notebook and a pen with him. He writes down all cool ideas, meeting minutes, observations, and so on. You can do the same just for personal purposes.
A simple notebook that you always carry with you is the best way to do regular introspections and self-reflections. Because when an interesting thought appears, you can simply sit down and start writing. Whenever and wherever you are.
You can do it digitally, of course, but there is a special connection between paper, pen, your hand and your brain. So I suggest you go to a stationery shop and buy yourself a notebook you like, a pen that feels comfortable to write with, and start with regular daily reflections.
The mantra here is to just do it. As mentioned several times, it’s hard the first few times. I have people in my life I care deeply about and it took me years to convince them to try self-reflections. It took me three years to convince somebody I love to do their first self-reflection. Three years.
The first few times, you always feel blocked somehow. There’s nothing to write down. It feels weird. But you have to be patient with yourself.
Sooner or later your heart opens and your thoughts start to flow.
After performing one really deep self-reflection I guarantee you that it will become one of your favorite parts of the day and one of your favorite personal development tools; especially because you will forge a better connection with yourself and you will be able to easily enter your rich inner world that’s hidden deeply inside you. Have courage and start exploring your inner self.