What do you do to slow down and reflect?

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Aug 12

What do career management pundits – including this one – tell you when it is time to make a big change? Slow down. Think it through. Reflect. Do so without distractions.

Yet, if you look at all the career management advice out there, no one really tells you how to “slow down, think it through, reflect, and do it without those nasty distractions.”

What I’ve tried

In my own life, I’ve sworn that I was going to take a weekend away and think things through. Except that by the time I got away and actually got going on the weekend, all I wanted to do was rest and recover.

Then there is our whole time management discipline where we are told to write down our goals and keep it in a trusted system. I keep mine on a laptop (backed up by Carbonite). Yet, when it comes to thinking things through, looking at my lists of goals on a laptop just doesn’t engage me. So my strategic thoughts go un-thought.

Staring at the ocean doesn’t do it for me. I look at the ocean to relax, see the horizon, and listen to the rhythm of the waves remove the stress from my soul.

A quiet weekend doesn’t do it for me. Quiet weekends are for sleep, recovery, and not thinking about thinking.

In the middle of the workday, where one blocks out four hours to think, doesn’t cut it either – because there are too many distractions and urgent matters from those who can’t plan. Besides, we’re all supposed to “look busy even if there is nothing to do,” so it wouldn’t look right to actually be thinking. Sigh.

Here’s what works for me

In any case, there is only one environment where I can effectively think, reflect, and ignore most distractions: working on a white board.

Since I’m an “analog guy in a digital world,” white boards are a great tool to use. They are a blank sheet, easily erasable, easily brainstorm-able, and leave you with a mess to organize. Perfect.

For example, I have wanted to start podcasting here on the site. It requires some strategy – name of the podcasts, how often, decide if it should be part of Cube Rules Membership, and subjects.

I’ve been playing with this as a project on the laptop (using no tool, just the white screen) for a couple of weeks now without making much progress. Yesterday, I stared at my white board and fifteen minutes had all that figured out plus the subjects of the first four podcasts.

When it comes to thinking things through to the point where you have actionable tasks that can be seen, nothing for me beats using a white board. White boards cause you to move away from your desk, away from the screen staring at you all day, and the tools you normally use to get your work done. As a result, for me it is the perfect tool.

When you have to reflect on something important, do some thinking, and not be distracted, what do you do?

  • This may sound silly but I walk my dog. There’s something about moving with nothing but the rhythm of his paws on the cement to distract me to help me get my thoughts going.

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