Our calendars are full, and our to-do lists are long. We live in a world that seems to bring more information, expectations and options to us each day and all of these things tend to accelerate the pace of our lives.
There was a time, not that long ago that a trip across the United States. would take a couple of days by train. While this was much faster than previously available transportation, it is still quite leisurely compared to the 4-5 hour flight that we can now take.
In those seemingly slower times we surmise that we would have had time to stop and think. Today we argue our time is limited and too valuable to stop and just think. There is too much to do. It is precisely because of all of the tasks, stimulus and diversions that it is important that we stop.
Just stop and think.
Maybe you can’t or don’t want to do this every day. Even so, there are a variety of times in our professional and personal lives when we will especially benefit from looking at the past to help us prepare to be more successful in the future.
As leaders and professionals, the times might include:
- At the end of a project
- Before the start of a new project
- After a team or organizational milestone has been reached
- At the start of a New Year
- When a team is formed
- When team membership has changed
As individuals the times for doing this include:
- At the start of a new job
- At the time of a major life change
- After reaching a major goal or milestone (turning 30, finishing your college degree, etc.)
- At the start of a New Year
- At the start of a new calendar quarter
All of these are excellent times to count our lessons, capitalize on our experience and gauge our wisdom. In other words – these are times to capture what we have learned so that we can capitalize on that learning as we move into our future.
Take the time to both look back and look forward from your current situation. One of the best ways to do that is with questions.
Before beginning, find a quiet comfortable place to sit down with a pad of paper or your journal. This is not a task best suited for typing at your computer. There is something about physically writing your responses to these questions that is valuable.
Remember that what you write is for your eyes only – which means it may have doodles, drawings, arrows, phrases, and incomplete sentences – whatever. This is not meant to be literature; rather it is a place and a process for you to capture your thoughts so that you can use those insights.
Here then are 12 questions that you can use to help you with this important task.
- What is the most valuable thing I learned?
- Who did I learn the most from?
- What was the most fun?
- What did I accomplish?
- What would I have done differently (or would I do differently, knowing what I know now)?
- What are the three most significant events?
- How did I most contribute to those around me?
- What do I feel best about?
- What am I grateful for?
- How will these lessons benefit me or change my approach in the future?
- Who do I most want to learn from now?
- What are my goals?
Don’t get overwhelmed by the number or nature of these questions. They are guidelines. You may not be able to complete all of your writing in one sitting – that is ok too. What is important is that you take advantage of the opportunity to learn from your experience.
The process can be used with a project or work team, board or others. The questions can be slightly modified and the process now likely involves flip chart paper rather than a journal, but the reasons for doing it are just as compelling and the results just as valuable.
If you have questions about this process or if there are ways that we can help you or your team with this type of a process, please let me know.