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Some thoughts on a reflective digital practice

Reflective practice is used in other fields such as social work and nursing, and I think there are lots of benefits to being more reflective in our digital work.

What is reflective practice

Reflective practice is an active, dynamic action-based and ethical set of skills, placed in real time and dealing with real, complex and difficult situations.

Moon, J. (1999), Reflection in Learning and Professional Development: Theory and Practice, Kogan Page, London.

Reflective practice is, in its simplest form, thinking about or reflecting on what you do. It’s about giving yourself the opportunities to learn from experience. You spend time thinking about what you did, and what happened, and decide from that what you would do differently next time. It’s a habit, a skill, to be developed. It’s sometimes a difficult thing to do when under pressure to produce more outputs, but it has many benefits.

Some of the benefits of reflective practice

Reflective practice is a skill that when practiced well allows you to join the higher level thinking and theory with the lower level day-to-day activities and experiences. It creates a mindset that asks questions, seeks different points of view, considers how things connect and affect each other and brings to light issues and problems.

Benefits include

  • Helping you to identify areas of strengths and weaknesses, interests and areas they’d like to develop
  • Helping you feel more confident and in control of their learning and development
  • Helping teams feel more cohesion as they learn together

How to become more reflective

In People Skills, Neil Thompson, suggests that there are six steps to becoming more reflective:

  • Read – around the topics you are learning about or want to learn about and develop
  • Ask – others about the way they do things and why
  • Watch – what is going on around you
  • Feel – pay attention to your emotions, what prompts them, and how you deal with negative ones
  • Talk – share your views and experiences with others in your organisation
  • Think – learn to value time spent thinking about your work

Some ideas for a more reflective practice

Retrospectives

Retrospectives are a part of Scrum and Agile thinking. They are an opportunity to think back about how a particular piece of work went. They can be formal meetings or quick conversations.

It works because:

  • More formal versions of retrospectives such as meetings and reports communicate to the team that reflective practice is valued
  • The discussion allows people to reflect together and learn from each other
  • They can lead to changes and improvements in practice

Weekly update email

Every Friday send an email to interested people saying what you did this week and what you’ll be doing next week.

It works because:

  • It’s good to communicate
  • It makes you look back over the past week and forward to the next week
  • It’s of the moment with no consequences or accountability
  • It’s in easy to read sound bites
  • It isn’t a project update so it can be lighter, more general

Time tracking

Record, even roughly, how you spend your time during the working week.

It works because:

  • It’s purely quantitative, there is no connection to outcome at the point of recording meaning there is no need to justify how you spent your time
  • It helps you to think about when you do things not just what you do, so if you notice you haven’t put any time into a particular project you can do that next week
  • Over time you start to see which parts of your work take up your time. This enables you to think about whether time spent equals value delivered

Read books and articles

Reading seems to be one of the least valued work activities, even among knowledge workers, but it should be encouraged as part of a reflective practice.

It works because

  • It brings in ideas from outside the team or organisation
  • Lots of people can read the same thing, discuss it and reach a common understanding
  • It builds knowledge quickly making reflecting on other things easier