Greatness begins with awareness.

Making Time for Reflection Increases Leadership Effectiveness

What's on your life platter?Is your “life platter” well balanced? How often do you make time to listen to your “internal cues”? How often do you make time to listen to your “internal cues”?

This is a question I always ask my Executive Coaching clients.

Reflection time helps develop self-awareness, which in turn can increase your leadership effectiveness and your ability to face personal and professional challenges. It can help you stay focused on what’s important and not get overwhelmed during tough days.

A Leader In Need of Reflection

I recently started working with a successful leader, Isabel, and used the metaphor of the “life platter” with her.

Isabel is hard working, has abundant energy and is used to seeing quick results. Her “platter” includes a demanding job, a solid relationship with her spouse, a commitment to regular exercise and a busy leadership role in an extracurricular activity. What was missing, as it happens with many people, was time to reflect on her challenges and successes, and on what matters to her. Isabel is a “doer”, so she was willing to incorporate some “being” activities, as long as they did not become another chore.

I suggested some of the activities that I find most useful.


Write one to three full pages upon waking in the morning. Don’t edit your words or reread them. Jot down your thoughts and feelings.

It could be as simple as answering the question, “What’s next for me?”  Or you could ask yourself what might stand in the way or your being a more effective leader, like: “What things have I started and not completed?” “What conversations am I avoiding?” Often just writing the question down and giving yourself time with pen in hand, an answer you didn’t expect will show up on the page.

If you prefer to write at the end of the day, jot down a list of the things for which you are grateful. This is a very powerful way to keep yourself focused on what was positive in your day and release the negative thoughts.

Executive Think Time (Meditation)

Either practice first thing in the morning before starting your day, take a break during a busy day or take some time at the end of your work day before moving into your evening activities. At the office, it can be as simple as turning away from your desk and computer to stare out the window.

Just focus on your breath.  Clear your head for at least five to ten minutes.  Let go of any thoughts that come. They will be there when you get back to work.  Feel the calmness that comes into your being.  Allow your body and breath to slow down to a quiet pace.  Solutions to your challenges may just show up as you let go of “doing.” 

If you have a hard time focusing on just “being”, try downloading an app called, “Insight Timer”. It includes calm sounding bells to start and finish meditations as well as guided meditations.

Take a Walk 

This is time for yourself, not for chatting with a pal or talking on your cell phone. Close your eyes and take in the smells and sounds of being outside, even if your office is in the city!  Feel the sun on your face.

Ask yourself how to handle situations that are bothering you. Don’t try too hard, just ask and be open to what comes up as you ponder on your walk.

Research has shown that our ability to focus diminishes greatly after two hours, so getting up and out is an ideal productivity break.  You will be amazed when you return to your office, the increased energy, clarity and ideas that will accompany you.


Take a deep breath (or more) at any time, and particularly when you feel stressed and overwhelmed.

Focus on filling the first third of your lungs with fresh air. Move your focus to the second part of your lungs as you relax. By the time you get to the lower third, you will feel considerably calmer. You may even have a new approach to the challenges you are facing!


Isabel chose to incorporate journaling and meditation without committing to a strict schedule. She downloaded the Insight Timer on her phone and uses different guided meditations that fit her mood and the amount of time she has for a quiet break. She is amazed at how much this small pause in her busy days has helped her feel more grounded and productive, and has increased her all-around leadership effectiveness.

What about you? Does your “life platter” include reflection time? If not, give it a try and see what happens. Share it with me if you’d like!


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