Monday, 27 August 2012

Thing 5 - Learning to Reflect

I was lucky enough to have the chance to attend a ‘Reflective Writing’ workshop organised by the Career Development Group (Scottish Region) last year. Although I was interested in the topic, the concept was new to me and I wasn’t entirely sure how it would fit with anything work-related. During the seminar, we were introduced to the technique of applying the questions ‘What? So what? Now what?’ to any given activity. The basic intention here is to ensure that you have a clear idea of what you want to do, why you want to do it, how to gauge whether or not your goals are met, and how to apply what you’ve learned. Despite my initial reservations, this is the framework I’ve consistently gone back to over and over, manifesting principally in a notebook of the things I want to achieve on a weekly basis. I’ve found that the routine of keeping a notebook like this has focussed my thoughts on these questions even when I’m not writing it, leading to a much more productive approach to my Chartership.
One of the most useful tools I learned was to reflect on the same activity at different times – immediately afterwards and then a few weeks or even months later. Using this technique, I’ve noticed that my initial perception of the same thing can change significantly over time. I was surprised to discover, for example, that I’m particularly critical of work I produce at the time of writing, only to find I have a more positive approach when some time has passed, most likely as this enables me to consider the worth of my work from a more detached perspective. Similarly, I’ve been able to benefit more fully from visits and seminars by purposefully taking time to reflect on what I learned from them weeks and months later when perhaps a new aspect to my job gives that information added relevance.
I can’t say that reflective writing techniques have become instinctual for me yet, and I find I still have to struggle against falling into the trap of simply describing an activity rather than reflecting critically on its purpose and what I’ve learned. Writing reflectively as a routine certainly helps, though, and I can strongly recommend applying the ‘What? So what? Now what?’ questions to every activity as one of the simplest and most effective ways to ensure you’re thinking reflectively. The answers can be surprising!

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