Think You Know it all? Think Again In 7 Minutes
What can you achieve in 420 seconds?
You can read a great blog post, a full body workout, rope down a waterfall… or make yourself smarter! No, this is not a quick-fix scam. You can improve the breadth and depth of what you know in less time than it takes it to buy and drink a cup of tea.
“Wait…” you say. You don’t need this — you’re already learning! You work hard, you sweat long hours, you do so many things; some of them completely new, so you must be learning. You are killing it in the productivity stakes! Surely all this leads to greater brain power and a better you.
Don’t let the important stuff fall out of your head
Hate to break it to you, but doing more stuff (even if it’s new) doesn’t make you smarter.
Let’s go back to where you said that you’re already doing a lot. What have you really learnt recently? Over the past year, last month… yesterday? What are the key takeaways and lessons? You may have created a lot of learning moments, but remember when you noticed your “steep learning curve” flattened out? Somehow, the same learnings and feedback got fed over and over again. Bummer.
Oh, you’ve been here before.
Shoving more information into your brain without knowing how to retain it is like investing in a company without a game plan. It’s a waste of capital. Without committing these lesson to memory you only tap into 5% of your learning potential. Your brain takes a passive backseat. You have a difficult time recalling what exactly it is you learned. Doesn’t sound great if you’re trying to reach your learning peak.
This is frustrating to say the least. Speaking from personal experience, I was determined to do something about it. I embarked to find a practical solution. I spoke to some of the best leaders I know about the subject. I did my own research and used myself as a “guinea pig” over the past few years to test what works best. Conclusion?
The key is in daily self-reflections that build long-term memory. To create long-term memory we need to get our brains to create connections called synapses and then strengthen them. The stronger the synapse, the stronger the memory. And like many workouts, the strength of synapses comes from doing repetitions. When you recall something about the memory, that’s one rep.
Now the secret? All it takes is 7 minutes to build long-term memory. The hardest part? Putting aside the time every day.
Five questions to make the magic happen
What happens in 7 minutes? Ask 5 simple questions that will help you reflect on the day and capture key moments. Doing this forces me to recall events in vivid colour. It makes my brain ignite those synapses, giving it a good workout and making those memories stronger.
So put some time aside and ask yourself:
1. What stopped me from growing and being my best?
Last week I had one of those not so pleasant, energy-draining meetings. After that, I spent an hour switching between easy wins instead of big heavy tasks. I didn’t tick the boxes I should have. I could have let this moment go as just another event, but during my 7-minute reflection it occurred to me that I let the meeting negatively impact my performance. Instead of walking away and moving on to do things that would make a difference, I allowed it to influence me. Next time, I know I need to step away, look at the impact such meeting might have on me, look what to improve and recalibrate to top performance again.
We all have moments where we’re not our best self, but if we don’t reflect on it and think of alternate realities we’ll probably repeat the scenario again. Look at the past 24 hours. Were there moments where you didn’t act as you wish you had? Why? What could you do differently in the future?
2. What was right today?
It’s easy to gets stuck in the “constructive” side of reflection and look for things to improve. But without taking the time to see “what’s right” we have less self-compassion, give less encouragement and open ourselves to negativity.
By looking at the things that are going great, we practice gratitude, increase our happiness and validate the learnings we have applied from the past. Doing this positive reflection brings great joy. Being grateful for all the things that have gone my way over the past day allows me to say “wow, I was in a flow”, “I rocked”, “that was great.”
3. What were the (negative) emotions I felt today?
Emotions are intensive internal signals we send to ourselves. Observing and understanding them can serve as a great compass on our journey to be the best we can be. When we ignore negative emotions and deny the messages they carry, we build a wall between us and our true selves. The result? False personalities, frustration, low performance. I cannot overemphasize this. Confronting bad feelings feels lousy, but it does a world of good.
During your reflection, write the description of the emotion, what it means and how to deal with it next time. Example: Frustration with the performance of one of our growth drivers = I’m not happy about achieving results with the current approach = I need to identify alternative paths, try them out and evaluate.
4. What did I learn today and when did I perform well?
Throughout the day we balance learning and performance. We strive for speed of execution while pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zones to discover new ways of doing things. Better performance requires familiarity and repetition. Learning needs time and a willingness to take risks. Both goals make different demands on our brain but are complementary in personal development.
When you identify what you’ve learned, you trigger further curiosity. This opens your mind to new possibilities, makes you ask questions, builds deeper engagement, which leads to greater memory retention. Recognising when you performed well highlights the factors that support your performance and empowers you with the ability to replicate the success.
5. What could be the challenges that come tomorrow?
This is a visualisation exercise. It helps you anticipate what the coming day might bring and gets you to imagine your ideal response. What’s the agenda? What are the interactions you foresee? What difficult moments could present themselves and what can you do to overcome them?
I usually leave the notes from this last question open throughout the next day as a reminder of where I can be my very best. By creating the ideal response in my mind, I create a higher likelihood that I will behave in a similar manner when the opportunity presents itself.
Being a better person comes from continuous learning. It’s too easy to get swept up in easy wins and bite-sized pieces of information. The lessons that matter are those that make you behave in a way that is consistent with who you want to be.
1. Put 7 (uninterrupted) minutes aside at the end of your day.
2. Ask yourself 5 magic questions about the past 24 hours. Write the answers down.
3. Do this again for tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.
Don’t become a smart-ass thinking you know it all. Do this 7-minute reflection every day for the sake of your team, your clients, your friends, your loved ones… for the sake of yourself! It’ll make you a better person — who doesn’t think they know it all!
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