Quick Take: Time to Reflect

How often do you take time to reflect?

How often do you slow down and stop thinking about what you need to do next, and instead think about where you are and where you’ve been?

I find it helpful to stop and reflect on a regular basis. At a minimum, once a year.

I took that opportunity recently. I cleared my calendar, turned off all notifications, went to a quiet room, and reflected.

I reflected and thought with no distractions. I made some notes about how things had gone well, and how they could have gone better. I considered the next year and what I should focus on. I identified things to stop, things to start, and things to continue.

After all of that thinking, I looked down at my watch, curious how long I’d been in that focused state.

One hour.

I had calmly done more deep thinking in an hour than it felt I had in the previous 6 months. It hadn’t felt hard, it hadn’t felt rushed. And it opened up my eyes to how much we can accomplish when we turn down the volume of the rest of our lives and our work for a few minutes and simply give our mind time to think.

The end of the year seems a natural time to reflect on the past and plan for the future. I encourage you to give yourself time to think.

To create the space to focus and think I recommend:

  • Block several hours, and turn on your out-of-office notice…make it look like you are completely unavailable
  • Turn off all notifications on your phone…and if you can stand it, turn off the phone
  • Ask yourself a few big questions and see where that leads. I recommend having some paper on hand to make a few notes about what you learn.

Some starter questions:

  • What am I most proud of this year?
  • How have I been challenged this year?
  • What is most important for me to focus on in the next 12 months?
  • What is important to me, but shouldn’t be a focus in the next 12 months?

Ask these questions, and note down your responses.

You may find that even a single hour of uninterrupted focus will give you the sense of calm and clarity that you’ve been struggling to find all year.

The Most Important Interview Question

“What do you consider to be the most important accomplishment in your career to date?”

That’s it.  It’s not that complicated on the surface.

This question has been around for years.  The version of the question using the phrase, “greatest accomplishment” is one of the most commonly discussed interview questions which is why it is so surprising to me when I ask this question during an interview and the candidate seems surprised.

What makes this the most important question for both hiring managers and candidates?

Continue reading “The Most Important Interview Question”

Quick Take: Coaches, Catalysts, and Change

It seems like every year we have to do more with less (or more with the same as before). The expectations of our customers, stakeholders, and managers go up, while we don’t necessarily get more time, budget, or people to meet those expectations.

So we have to figure out how to work more effectively and efficiently to ensure our outputs and outcomes increase, even if our inputs don’t.

We need help doing more each year, and help doing it with the same or less than we had last year. We need to get more effective, and we need to do it as fast as we can. We need to speed up our rate of improvement and to do that we must speed up our rate of change.

If you need a change to occur and you need it to happen quickly, take a lesson from chemistry and use a catalyst.

A catalyst helps a change (chemical reaction) occur faster, using less energy.

In this excerpted explainer video, the visual analogy they use is a road. If you need to go from A to B, there is a winding road that will get you there on your own. It is slow and inefficient.

If you use a catalyst, the catalyst opens up a shorter, more direct, and more efficient path to get you where you need to go. Put another way, the presence of a catalyst creates a shortcut.

In the same way catalysts help chemical reactions occur more quickly and use less energy, coaches do the same thing for executives, leaders, individuals, teams, and organizations.

Coaches help you move from A to B by opening up pathways you may not be able to access by yourself. As catalysts, coaches enable you to get farther faster.

The next time you want to work faster or more effectively, consider taking a lesson from chemistry…invite a coach to support you as your catalyst for change.