Yesterday's post on the 31 lessons I learned in the last 31 days of building a better blog led me to a bonus lesson--the power of reflection.
As a trainer, I often find that engaging people in particular tasks is relatively easy. Getting them to reflect on what they've learned in the process is more difficult. Yet it is only through the reflection that you really get the most from the tasks. The reflection pieces is what gives you those "aha" moments that make the activity seem worthwhile.
I could have gone through my 31 Day project and ended with the last day. But to make things really "stick," I knew I needed to do more, so that's why I devoted this week's posts to reflecting on the experience from different angles and sharing those reflections.
This is where I think that we as individuals and in our roles in organizations can significantly improve our practice. So in this bonus lesson, some tips on reflection as a learning and improvement tool.
1. Build in the reflection expectation. From the beginning I knew that I wanted to reflect on what I was learning--that's really part of my nature and how I think. But more "action-oriented" types often skip this step. I think it's important to say from the outset that reflection is part of the process and to build in for yourself points of reflection on the way. Treat them as actions to take and maybe it will feel better to you.
2. Set goals at the beginning. The next time I do something like this, I need to start with some goals. I went with the 31 Day challenge on a whim, so at the beginning I was just going through the activities. What I should have done was set some goals for myself, rather than backing into them as I ultimately did.
3. Evaluate during and afterward. Each day's post was a reflection on the experience of going through the activity. This gave me "in the moment" info on what I was doing and how it was going. But then I also did some summarizing reflection at the end. This gave me an opportunity to take a look at the big picture to see what did and didn't work and how things fit together.
4. Evaluate from different angles. I tried to look at my progress in three ways--what happened with my stats, what happened in terms of building community and what I learned. If I had set goals, then I would have looked at what happened in terms of those goals. As it was, I worked backwards. At any rate, I ended up with a lot of good information on the experience that gave me a more holistic, well-rounded picture of what I'd done.
5. Just Do It. In a time crunch, reflection is the thing we are most likely to let fall by the wayside. Yet it is the part of the learning cycle that in many ways is most critical. Don't give into the temptation to just move to the next activity. You'll lose a lot in that process.
Some Final Words
As I've said all week, the 31 Day project really helped me take my blog to the next level. Not just in the most practical terms of gaining readership, but also in building my own sense of connection and helping me to see even more power in the learning experience of blogging. Although it was a tremendous amount of work that came at a less than convenient time in my life, I would do it again in a heartbeat. Even if you missed this go-around, I highly encourage you to explore the whole project and see about implementing it for yourself in your own time. It will be SO worth it.
If you do decide to do it on your own, I've created a summary "sneeze" page (thanks Darren) of my 31 Days to Building a Better Blog personal learning experiment. I'll be putting that in my sidebar so you can always check back if you need to. You can also join us at Building a Better Blog where we're continuing with weekly challenges and sharing ongoing conversations about blogging. And feel free to email me with any questions or comments on how the experiment goes for you. I'd love to hear about other people's experiences.