Why looking back is an essential step for planning ahead

In all the planning sessions I run, and in my own reflective routine, I begin by looking back on what has happened to get us to the current moment, before turning to think about what happens next.

I picked up this pairing of reflecting both backwards and forwards when I started learning about Stoicism around five years ago. There’s a Stoic journaling practice which involves a preview in the morning, to prepare them for the day ahead, and a review in the evening, to learn from what has occurred throughout the day. This preview and review format is something I’ve adopted (and adapted), using different questions as prompts for reflection depending on the frequency of the sessions.

What comes first, the preview or the review? If you’re using this format every day you’d likely assume that the preview in the morning come before the review at the end of the day. However, as soon as you’ve completed one day your review from the night before informs your preview the following day. When the frequency of the reflection is longer, be it monthly, quarterly or annually I always start with the review. There are a number of reasons for this. With some perspective you can:

  • notice things you don’t see as they happen
  • appreciate how far you’ve come / what progress you’ve made
  • spot patterns or similarities in how you respond in various situations

Having this kind of information at your fingertips when sitting down to do your planning gives you a much richer picture to work with. When asking questions about where you want to go, you can use your learning from the reflections to be realistic about what you can achieve in the given time, and recognise what obstacles you may come up against and how you have tackled similar issues in the past. Over time, these lessons can help us to:

  • apply tactics that work for us
  • avoid falling into traps or repeating things that don’t work
  • recognise where we need additional support or to ask for help

So next time you sit down to plan ahead, why not take a moment to look back at where you’ve come from.

Spaces for Reflection

Throughout the year I create spaces for people to come together to reflect and plan.

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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.


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