Be honest: when was the last time you considered your professional future? Most likely, it was in a rare moment between to-dos or meetings, a passing yet nagging thought. And you probably told yourself you’d think about what was next in your career when you weren’t so busy.
Not surprisingly, you’re still waiting for that reflection time to arrive.
Interestingly, the world reflect comes from Old French reflecter meaning “to divert, to turn aside, deflect,” and Latin reflectere meaning “bend back, turn back.” When we reflect then, we must first divert from our current reality and then turn our thoughts back to look ahead.
In a world where external demands and a cacophony of noise bombard us, taking the time to turn inward and think deeply may be the ultimate luxury—and the best way to figure out what’s next in your career.
Here’s how to make the most of reflection:
Be intentional with your time
Feel like you have no time? Take control of your calendar by mapping out how you’re spending your days. Chances are there are periods of low value and mindless activities (e.g., scrolling through your social media feeds) that could be better spent. Treat reflection as essential to your career development by being intentional with your time and proactively scheduling time to think.
Slow down and stop multitasking
It’s impossible to think deeply and carefully about your future while you’re doing three other things. Resist the temptation to multitask and instead, focus on slowing down to give yourself a chance to find clarity among your chaos.
Even if you’ve managed to dedicate time to reflection, it’s easy to get sidetracked when your environment includes external forces vying for your attention. Up your odds for success by turning off notifications, putting your phone on silent or do not disturb, and closing down tabs.
Get up and out (side)
Tough to focus in your office? Change your environment by getting up and taking a walk, preferably outside. Research suggests that taking a stroll in nature (or even your local park) enhances brain function, reduces stress, keeps you energized, and improves creativity, all of which contribute to better reflection sessions.
Allow your mind to wander
When you permit yourself time to reflect, try not to limit yourself to predetermined topics, or impose any rigid standards. Instead, allow your mind to freely wander, even if your thoughts deviate from your expectations. Remember, it’s about progress, not perfection.
Pay attention to what bubbles up
One of the best things about reflection is what it brings to the surface. We can unconsciously get into the habit of pushing down our deepest desires and fears, using our busyness to mask acknowledging what we want most. In a quiet moment of reflection, use your self-awareness to pay attention to how you’re feeling, your reactions, and any new ideas that arise.
Record and review your thoughts so you can take action
Building in time to think is great, but unless you capture your thoughts and goals, you’ll never be able to devise a plan of action to achieve them. Immediately record the results of your reflections by writing them in a journal or recording voice memos. In reviewing your notes, you’ll start to see some common themes. Use these as the fuel to power to your professional future and what’s next in your career.