Friday, May 28, 2010

Too Busy to Think?

It is far too easy to fall out of reflective practice when you get extremely busy. Like funding for learning, it might be one of the first things to go when resources get tight (at both the institutional and individual level).

Then you don't take the time to stop and think how you can do things better (not to mention why you are doing them and even if you should be doing them.) This can result in incredible ineffeciencies, not to mention actions that can create even more work and take more time because they have not been carefully considered. I queried this in a former post (Is Progress Made By Making Mistakes) because in addition to creating ineffeciencies, errors can come from not taking the time to think through your actions (e.g. putting petrol in your diesal car tank). These can in turn create more work for you, making you even more busy in the long run, with even less time available to think.

When we get busy we sometimes think that we can make progress by brute force, by throwing all our weight and muscle into something. If we want it enough we can just work as hard and as long as we can to make it happen. Then you get stuck in "doing mode" and can't stop.

The smart alternative, of course, is to stop and create space for reflection to help us identify those ineffeciencies and change our behaviour, change our surroundings, change the rules, change our system, so we can achieve our goals with less effort. But you cannot identify those points of leverage unless you can stop long enough and get up high enough to see the patterns.

You might need some tools to do that. This can be quite personal. Writing this blog helps me organize my thoughts, and when I get busy I really have to make myself write (asking myself "What am I learning?" or "What am I noticing?" or any number of other start questions, and then recording my response.) Other people write in physical journals, or they create images, stories or even songs that synthesize; tools from systems thinking can also help people reflect on dynamics and explore change scenarios when looking for guidance on what to do differently. There are also many kinesthetic techniques to support reflection. It doesn't really matter which, just pick one.

You can get too busy to think. And if you stick to that too long, you will even get too tired to think. And then, watch that car at your next fill-up.