June 29, 2015

Time To Reflect


We all understand, or I hope we do, the need to take time to reflect on what we have learned but how many of use actually take the time to do it?

My favourite way of reflecting on what I have learned is with fishing rod in hand on the side of a Scottish Loch.  No mobile telephones, no road traffic, no people, no disturbances (don’t get me started on the negative visual impact that onshore windfarms have had on our landscape!), just time to think and reflect on what I have learned as an individual and what I have learned about assisting organisations to learn.

It takes time to reflect, it just doesn’t happen on its own.  You need to put time aside and make it happen hence it was with considerable interest that I read in a recent edition of the Time magazine (1 June 2015) an article on the vacation habits of Americans.

The article mentioned how a growing number of American’s are taking less than their entitlement to annual vacation and how even amongst those that do take vacation time, the growing trend to interrupt their vacation time doing emails or responding to requests from colleagues back at the office.  Some of the things that jumped out at me from the article were (remember this is about American experience as reported in the article but it might also be true of your location);

  • American workers typically accrue paid vacation of 10 days (after 1 year), 14 days (after 5 years), 17 days (after 17 years) and 20 days (after 20 year)
  • The average number of unused vacation days in 2013 was 4.9 days
  • In 1980 the average number of paid vacation days used by employed adults was 21 days but in 2014 it was 16 days
  • 61% of employed vacationers planned to work during their time off, doing task such as
    • 38% emailing
    • 32% accessing work documents on a computer
    • 24% texting
    • 30% telephoning
    • 20% fielding requests by boss, client or co-workers to do work
  • As a comparison; Luxemburg guarantees workers 35 paid days vacation, Norway 29 days and Switzerland 28 days
  • Luxemburg, Norway and Switzerland were higher up the OECD league of economies than America in 2013 in terms of gross domestic product per capita (according to the article this is the favoured metric for workforce productivity)

How are you going to reflect on what you are learned if you are constantly, even while on vacation, responding to day to day activities of your organisation?

Perhaps we should all learn from a previous colleague of mine who blocked out each Thursday afternoon in his diary.  His diary was available online to the other members of his department which allowed them to check on his availability and booked him into meetings.  Each time they tried to book a meeting on a Thursday afternoon they found that he wasn’t available, he was already in a meeting.  What was he doing; he was reading magazine articles, updating his professional competence, exploring areas that might be of interest in his job and reflecting, yes, reflecting.  He took the time to systematically reflect on what he had learned.

Perhaps you don’t feel you need to reflect each Thursday but perhaps we can all learn from his systematic approach?  For me, I will continue to rely on my time spent fishing.

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