My reflective routine

I have been thinking of starting a podcast for a while now and after a couple of weeks being guided through adventures in podcasting by Pilar Orti, I’m in the process of turning that idea into reality.

The name of my podcast is Reflective Routines and my aim is to interview people about how they make time for reflection in their life and what that looks like as part of their daily routine.

I’m preparing for my first interviews and wanted to test my questions. I’ve also been thinking of writing up my own routine. So of course I settled on the idea of interviewing myself as a way of achieving both aims. And here is the result of that interview…

Can you describe your reflective routine as it is today?

I think there are three key elements to my (mostly) daily routine:

  • journaling
  • a morning preview and evening review
  • an hour walk

I say mostly daily because I tend not to do anything but the walking at the weekend, and I’m journaling on about three or four days a week at the moment. Daily is my intention but I’m content that what I’m doing is good enough and certainly better than nothing. I’ve got the walking and daily preview/review nailed as habits as I’ve been doing them both for quite a while, but I’m definitely still building the journaling habit.

Can you elaborate on each of the key elements? What role does each play?

Journaling gives me space to reflect on the big picture, to spot patterns in my thinking and behaviour, and to connect ideas. There’s also an element of connection here, as I typically journal with a group.

The morning preview helps me get focused on what’s coming up that day. I identify the one thing I have to get done and what to do after that’s complete. I also use this to pre-empt anything that might get in the way and identify what I can do to tackle that challenge. Then the evening review is a look back on how the day turned out and the beginning of thinking ahead to tomorrow.

And finally, the walk is multipurpose. I started making it a daily activity at the beginning of lockdown. At that point the purpose was to get me out of the house for some low impact exercise. I’d always known that walking was a great way to fuel ideas and give me space to think, and that knowledge was compounded when walking became a daily ritual. So that’s why I include it as part of my reflective routine — it’s now as much about the thinking that’s done while walking as the fresh air and exercise.

How did you get started?

I first started a reflective routine around five years ago and the first element of this was the daily preview and review. At the time I was learning about stoicism and I hooked on to two aspects of stoic practice:

  1. preparing for the day ahead
  2. putting the day up for review

It’s a form of journaling, I suppose. I’m not sure why I’ve never thought of it in that way before. Perhaps because it’s so structured. I’ve slowly refined my process over time. I’ve settled on a standard set of questions that I ask myself. And I now use these questions to review my week and preview the next, as well as at the start and end of each day.

What else has changed about your routine over time?

I’ve added more elements. As I said, the walking came about over lockdown and the journaling is a very recent addition. Journaling is always something I’ve felt the benefit of when I’ve done it but have found really difficult to keep going over a long period of time. Finding Sanctus and having a fixed time to journal, with some outside accountability (although nobody is checking I’m doing it) seems to be working well for me. I’m also finding that being given a random prompt helps me to start writing, and gives me something to build from.

What do you notice happening when you don’t make time to regularly reflect?

When I’m not making time in the day for at least one of the elements of my reflective practice then I notice that I get easily distracted and unclear about what needs my attention. If I allow days like this to add up then I find it effects my mood. I lose site of what’s important to me and get more impatient and irritable with both myself and others.

Is there anything else you want to mention about your routine or the role of reflection in your life?

I guess the main thing is time. If you add up the elements you’re approaching 2 hours given over to reflection every day. So I can imagine someone reading this and wondering how I find the time to fit this in. To me it’s about the relative costs. I weigh up what I lose by choosing to spend two hours on this against what I lose by not doing it. As I see it, two hours given over to reflection allows me to use the rest of my time more effectively. That’s a fair trade, I reckon.

It’s also a consideration of what’s important to me and using that to guide how I spend my time. The bulk of this comes out of my social time, rather than work time. I do my journaling in the morning before starting work. I go for my walk during my lunch break or as a ritual to mark the end of the working day. So it’s only the preview and review that falls in work time and that usually takes a maximum of 30 minutes a day.

OK, that’s a wrap. What do you think of this format? Do the questions cover everything you might want to know about someone’s reflective practice? Send me your feedback.


Featured image by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

about emma

I am a coach and facilitator helping people to pause, reflect and make conscious choices about what comes next. In my writing I explore themes of personal development, reflective practice and what it means to live well.