The 5-30-60 Rule of Reflecting
((Photo by rompalli harish from Pexels)
Let me tell you a story…
A couple of months ago, my day completely derailed after 1 innocent-enough text message. Before that, I was having a really good, positive-minded, and productive summer day.
Prior to the text from this person, I was having on-and-off again bouts of worry and doubt as to where our relationship was going. For the record, by “relationship," I mean not of the romantic type, and with a person I care about deeply and want in my life forever.
There’s a whole long story to these concerns that I won’t go into. Nonetheless, I hadn’t fretted over it all in a while.
A text message came in from this person that was incredibly innocent about planning for the upcoming weekend getaway that was happening in a couple weeks. Any other person would have read it and been like, “cool!” But it sent me deep into despair because of the previously mentioned history. I was down for the count for the entire day. By nighttime, I was sobbing and filled with suffocating anxiety.
As a last resort that night, I decided to reflect on it in my journal. I poured out the story that happened, along with all my fears and concerns. Then I asked myself 3 questions:
- Is it true?
- Is there anything else going on in either of our lives that would be causing this divide?
- What can I do about it?
Let me tell you, the weight on my chest was gone after this little reflection session. Like many other problems in our lives, the answers to these questions were:
- Probably not.
- Yes, absolutely. We both had our hands full with other things, and quality one-on-one time was extremely hard to come by.
- I can communicate my concerns with them, and remind them that they are incredibly important and crucial to me, and I want them in my life forever.
Guess what? When I did bullet point #3 with that person, the first 2 bullet points were exactly true. And while our relationship isn’t 100% out of the woods yet, I feel way more secure than I had for the many months leading up to that point.
The moral of the story is that reflecting was a crucial turning point to a painful problem. It allowed me to take a step back and examine it from a critical lens, instead of a purely emotional one. It gave me a plan moving forward. And it ultimately made my relationship better.
So yeah, it’s a pretty big deal.
The thing is, It’s just not sexy or exciting or attention-grabbing. Reflecting, that is.
It’s not super clickable or will get many likes on social media posts. There isn’t much to show for it after you’ve done it.
It’s frankly just one of those boring but good habits that we should do. It’s kind of mundane and tedious.
I bet you’re super motivated to do it now, right?
While it’s not very photogenic, let me make the case for why you want to be adding reflection into your life.
In the words of Joseph L. Badaracco, author of Step Back: Bringing the Art of Reflection into Your Busy Life, “the basic two reasons why...to find time for reflection...is practical...is profound.” To expand on this statement.
Reflecting is Practical
Reflecting is a practice that helps you make better decisions and plans in the future. It is using your past behavior and results as evidence of what worked, what didn’t, and what you can do differently (or the same) for the outcomes you desire.
In Sprouted Planners, one of the monthly reflection questions always includes, “did you live out your intentions this month?” If the answer is “no,” then you get to identify why that didn’t happen. Sometimes it’s because of events completely out of your control (illness, major events in the world, childcare fell through, etc.), and sometimes, it’s because of poor time management and boundaries (too much time on social media, not enough sleep because of binge watching Netflix, ate poorly because I didn’t plan my meals and snacks out).
If the behavior was in your control, you work towards adjusting that for next time.
Badaracco says, “reflection is a valuable tool for making better decisions, at work and in the rest of life. It is useful day by day, task by task, and problem by problem.”
Reflecting is Profound
The practice of reflecting is an excellent way of answering life questions, both big and small.
Badaracco continues, “Reflection is a way of grappling with the enduring human questions of how to live, what to really care about, and what counts as a good life.”
So much of our time is caught up in moving forward. Onward and upward. It’s of little surprise that when we finally take a moment to look around, there are aspects of our lives that aren’t where we want them to be.
Reflecting is taking that little pause to assess areas of our lives to see if they align with our values. To see if the arrow of our life is pointed in the direction that’s actually going to hit our desired target.
Reflecting is Respecting Your Lived Life
For anyone who has lost someone dear to them, you know how precious life is.
There is so much I would give up to be able to spend one day with my dad again. I wouldn’t want it to be this big, epic day either. I’d want it simple and minimal...on the deck, around a bonfire, in a boat cruising the river, leisurely cooking a meal together...things like that. Those ordinary days.
If the lives of the ones we miss the most are so precious, then why can’t we regard our life the same way. One day, someone will give anything to spend one more ordinary day with us too.
It’s with this outlook that we should give respect to the life we are living. Through reflection, we are taking the time to honor our lived life.
Reflecting is Memory Keeping
Lastly, the practice of reflecting allows you to keep your memories alive. I cannot tell you how much I cherish having my planners from the last 5 years, as they are memory holders to the most impactful 5 years of my life so far.
A blog on the website Holstee talks about the difference between keeping a diary, a journal, and reflecting, and how they all build on each other. It ultimately says that reflection is looking back on events and experiences, along with your thoughts and emotions around them, and learning from that.
When you’re reflecting, you're doing a little record keeping, attaching your emotions around those memories, and then learning from them.
We talked about the WHY of reflecting, so let’s land this plane with the HOW of reflecting.
This is my very-doable timing goal for reflecting.
- Weekly (or Daily) reflection (5 minutes)
- Monthly reflecting (30 minutes)
- Yearly reflecting (60 minutes)
You can absolutely do longer than this, but this is what fits best for my season of life right now. Any shorter gets a little skimpy but if you can make it work, then more power to you.
One of the more unique features of Sprouted Planner is the space for reflecting. It allows you to easily add this habit into your life and planning routine.
Daily Planner Reflecting
The daily version of the planner has a box (rectangle) on the bottom of the page to jot down a sentence or two about your day. Wins, challenges, things that are memorable. This would probably only take a couple of minutes.
Weekly Planner Reflecting
The weekly version of the planner has a box at the bottom of the weekly spread to jot down a paragraph of how the week went. What was memorable, what are you proud of, what did you struggle with.
All Planner Monthly Reflection
All versions have 2 dedicated pages after each month with guided questions about your month, and bigger picture.
All Planners Yearly Reflection
All versions have 2 dedicated pages at the end of the planner with guided questions for reflecting on your year.
The reflecting piece all wraps into the intentional life cycle by looking back at your values. Reflection ensures that you are living through your values by planning out your intentions, and taking action on them.