At the start of my career, early on in my professional education, I was trained to be a reflective practioner. This turned out to be a great foundation. Since then I have spent much of my working life in “two strikes and you’re out” corporate cultures, where it is ok to make a mistake, but if you make it again, don’t plan on hanging around too long. That makes constructive reflection a critical survival skill!

What does reflection mean? For me, it is investing time in looking back. Pausing to take in what has happened. Thinking about what you did well, and what could have been done differently. Not to turn the past over and over in your head endlessly, but to dig through it at least once over. Reflection lets us see ourselves as we are, and is the first step in shaping who we become.

If you have worked in an organisation that employees formal quality management methods, you will be well aware that the foundation of all of the main methods is a formal and structured feedback mechanism. Feedback means taking the outputs and using them as an input for what happens next. It is a form of reflection.

Reflection is one of my reasons for blogging. The blog enables me to look back over what I have learnt. There are other reasons to, but that was one of my first, and remains top of my list. Speaking of lists, a big thank you to my blogroll friends, I will be adding my blogroll soon, you’ll be there! Trusted peers and friends can be a great source of feedback, and your comments and emails provide that.

Reflection is a key attribute of high performers, and a recurrent theme in performance and leadership writings. Currently I am reading Thinking for a Living: How to Get Better Performance and Results from Knowledge Workers by Thomas Davenport and it is even mentioned there. Reflection needs to be built in systematically. A journal is one method, the weekly review in GTD can be another. What mechanism do you use to build reflection into your life?