It’s been said that time moves at the speed of…well, life (often slightly slower than the speed of light.)

Sometimes things get going so fast that the details around you begin to blur together. It’s at times like these—when life is whizzing by—that you can lose the plot. Business these days can get pretty hectic and, as a leader or manager, you have umpteen-million things thrown at you through the course of your waking hours. Some are good and some are bad. But how can you determine which is which if you’re travelling at the speed of life?

Press pause

However fast and furiously things are being thrown at you, it is essential to press pause once in a while and reflect on the progress so far. Not sure what to do when you press pause? Not sure what you should reflect on? Here are some suggestions to help you get the most out of your precious time.

What’s going well?

First, ask yourself what’s going well. Success can be blurred or washed out when we’re always on the go, so it’s important to “stop and smell the roses” sometimes. We need to see some success—however small it may be—in order to keep ourselves motivated. Stepping away from the hustle and bustle of your busy day can help you identify where your successes lie.

Why is it going well?

When you’ve identified at least one thing that is going well, take some time and try to work out why it’s going well. Is it something you’re doing differently? If so, what is it? If it’s not you, is it something your team is doing? If so, what is it?

More important than identifying the successes themselves, is identifying why they occurred (or are occurring). Success should never be hit-and-miss—it should be repeatable. Knowing why something is working allows us to replicate that success in other places.

What isn’t going well?

As nice as it is to revel in our successes, it’s also necessary to examine our failures. When we take time to reflect, we should also identify what isn’t going well. Is there part of the process, or a project as a whole, that isn’t up to par? Separating the good from the bad can help us refocus our efforts where they will have the most impact.

Why isn’t it going well?

When you’ve identified what isn’t going well, look a bit deeper and see why that particular project isn’t performing. Is it something you’re doing differently? If so, what is it? If it’s not you, is it something your team is doing? If so, what is it?

Find your pause button

Believe it or not, the simple act of pressing pause to reflect on your successes and failures can turbocharge your learning and transform you into a continuous-development machine.

But what is involved in reflection other than the questions we’ve just outlined? Is it simply a matter of sitting back in your chair, closing your eyes, and thinking? To some extent yes, it’s as simple as that. But that method isn’t for everyone. Some keep a daily journal. Others find that a regular dose of free writing is a great technique for emptying their head in order to make room for quality reflection.

If you’d like to try the free-writing technique, simply set a timer for 10 minutes and start writing what you’re thinking. Don’t restrict your thoughts—go wherever they take you. And keep going until your time is up. Then, go through what you have written and identify key learning points. Think about ways you can harness those points to move forward and take action.

The hardest part of all this may actually be finding the time during your day to hit the pause button. If you see that as a problem, try scheduling 15 minutes right after lunch to reflect on your business as a whole. You’re already fairly relaxed which will make the transition into quiet time all that much easier. Close the door or go somewhere you can close the door if you don’t have one, silence your phone, and turn off your email. Then just think and write and think some more.

And if that doesn’t work for you then try my personal favourite – go out for a walk.

There’s a reason that people say a good walk clears the mind. Because when we go for a walk, the heart pumps faster, circulating more blood and oxygen not just to the muscles but to all organs—including our brain. In fact, a number of experiments have shown that after or during exercise, even very mild exercise, people perform better with attention and memory tests – in other words, their minds are clearer.

Whichever way you choose to pause and reflect, don’t wait another day. Get started right now and find the success that may have been passing you by.

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Peter Anderton

Author: Peter Anderton

A sought after coach and change agent, Peter has spent many years in Organisational Development, focusing on developing high performance leadership teams, executive coaching, strategy and change. He builds relationships quickly and is as comfortable in the boardroom as he is at ‘grass roots’. Known for his integrity, energy and a real passion for making things happen, he has a uniquely direct yet supportive style that delivers.

Peter is a qualified NLP master practitioner, a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD and a Chartered Engineer.