Eric Krueger

The Times for Written Reflection

eclipse5-minute read | Photo by NASA/Keegan Barber "2024 Total Solar Eclipse" | last updated 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Those who reflect will improve, and continuous improvement leads to success. The gift of written reflection is a bullet-proof system to feel more accomplished, discover and align actions to goals, and cultivate self-awareness. And it's easier to do when big events remind you.

The Issue: Memory is Fallible

Each time you access a memory, it changes slightly, so if you want an accurate record of events you need to write them down.

You can test this out yourself - go look at anything you wrote contemporaneously (daily meeting notes, or a letter to a friend or loved one) that's a few months old. I bet you'll surprise yourself with the details you forgot and the vivid memories brought back by your writing.

The Solution: Write It Down

Written reflection helps you remember:

The most approachable and productive methods for written reflection are daily journaling and periodic reflection.

Daily Journaling

There are too many benefits to journaling to list them all, but here are a few: it can give your day structure, provide an outlet for things occupying your mind, or help process significant events. It's so helpful that Apple recently put it as a default first-party app on your phone.

The format, length, and quality of your journal don't matter. Forget about everything else you've heard about journaling and do what works best for you. The best journal is one you'll write in, and the best format is one that feels approachable.

The most important aspect is to just do it. If you're not sure where to start, try:

There are plenty of other great resources out there as well for this.

Periodic Reflection

This is less frequent than a daily journal (once a quarter, every six months, or a year), where you take more time and reflect more deeply. As James Clear writes in Atomic Habits "Periodic reflection is like looking at yourself in the mirror from a conversational distance." It's not too close (ugly), and not too far (can't see anything).

Try answering the questions:

  1. What went well?
  2. What didn't go so well?
  3. What did I learn?

And for integrity:

  1. What are the core values that drive my life and work?
  2. How am I living and working with integrity right now?
  3. How can I set a higher standard in the future?

Some events lend themselves naturally to this. Birthdays, anniversaries, the new year, or rare cosmological events remind us to remember. While a look in the mirror can be uncomfortable, we shouldn't squander the opportunity.

(And if the thought of self-reflection does strike an anxious nerve, ask yourself why - and then write it down.)

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