What happens when we actively reflect on the day’s events? To routinely dedicate a part of your day to look back is humble and powerful leadership tool. Journaling gives the brain an opportunity to pause amid the chaos to untangle recent observations and experiences. We create time to summon our day’s activities and extract meaning, and these will inform future mind-sets and actions. For leaders, this “meaning-making” is crucial to ongoing growth and development in a fast-paced environment.
A team of researchers at the Harvard Business School wanted to explore which of the following learning sources was beneficial to individual performance: was it the accumulation of experiences, or the articulation of reflection? They hypothesized the latter, guided by the Confucian quote, “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the bitterest.”
The researchers sought out to prove this by testing a call-center team in India, made up of qualified, college-educated professionals who had received extensive onboarding training. Their test subjects were divided in two groups: the first as experience-based, and focused on training, automation, and intuitive processes; the other was the reflective group which mixed experience and subsequent reflections in a slow and methodical way.
Participants who recorded their day’s events with regularity were recorded to have improved performances. By journaling in 15 minute windows each day, researchers observed an improvement of confidence among the diarists: motivation was stronger, and actions deliberate towards learning. Turning it into a part of life expanded a cognitive understanding of the effects of learning opportunities between actions and outcomes. Participants sought more challenging tasks, exerted greater effort, and were observed to face professional adversities with greater stability. The diarists improved their learning curves for faster and visible growth spurts.