How to Get 22.8% Better in 5 Minutes a Day

The Daily Reflection

For years, I’ve heard about the power of closing out your days with a few moments of reflection. Taking the time to pause briefly, consider the day’s events, and jot down your highest priorities for the next day.

A recent working paper in Harvard Business Review got me thinking about this again. The researchers evaluated the performance of several groups of consultants undergoing training. During the training, one group was asked to reflect on the course material, noting the key lessons in their mind, and the other did not. It turns out, the group that reflected quietly on their day performed much, much better. How much better?  Try 22.8% better, all from simply reflecting on the experience.

Then I saw an article by Eric Barker noteing that bestselling author Dan Pink gives similar advice:

Establish a closing ritual. Know when to stop working. Try to end each work day the same way, too. Straighten up your desk. Back up your computer. Make a list of what you need to do tomorrow. 

This process of reflection is hitting the bookshelves too. In a recent Inc article, CEO coach Eric Bregman's book 18 Minutes and his 5 minute end of day reflection is highlighted. Here's his process:

  1. How did the day go? What success did I experience? What challenges did I endure?
  2. What did I learn today? About myself? About others? What do I plan to do--differently or the same--tomorrow?
  3. Whom did I interact with? Anyone I need to update? Thank? Ask a question of? Share feedback with?

As someone who is always looking for the next productivity hack, a scant 5 minutes a day seemed like a no brainer.  So after reviewing several sources, and some testing on my own, here is what I came up:

  1. Think back on the day. What went well? Was anything frustrating or challenging? Based on this reflection, what lessons did you learn about yourself, your team, or your company? Write at least two and be specific.
  2. Who did you interact with today? Anyone you need to update? Thank? Ask a question of? Share feedback with? Add any actions to your task list.
  3. What are the 1-3 “must do" items for tomorrow to make the biggest impact?  Add a calendar item to tomorrow for each action.

In order to prompt myself with these questions every day, I added an appointment on my calendar for 5:30pm each day. You could use anything - a post it, a recurring task, or iOS reminders. Feel free to use whatever tool you like, but try to give the daily reflection an honest go and see if it works for you.

I will update this post as time goes on to share how it’s working out for me. I’d love to hear from you too - what you’d change about the questions and if you’re finding any impact on your life.

Drop me a note in the comments on how it works out!