How To Do An Effective Weekly Reflection & Why You Need To
Why You Need A Weekly Reflection Practice
Unless you know where you are, you cannot get to where you want to go. Reflection is a compass; it lets you see where you're at and guides you toward your dreams, goals, and intentions.
Reflection lets you see how far on (or off) course you are when it comes to living out your ideals and achieving your goals. It gives you a baseline, something you can use to determine the next course of action.
I believe it to be one of the best tools (along with effective habit building) for intentional grow. In addition to it's self-improvement benefits, reflection (and other journaling forms) help you to process your week. You slow down to think, reflect, process, and close out the week in order to begin a new one.
Trust me, take 15-30 minutes out of your week to reflect and you'll begin to experience the benefits almost instantly.
Weekly reflection has helped tremendously in long-term reflections (such as monthly, quarterly, yearly, or specific goal debriefs) as well as in mentoring and/or counseling relationships.
5 Tips for Self-Reflection
Know Your Why
Like any habit, before you jump in, you've got to know your why.
You "why-power" is much stronger than you "will-power." Defining your why will help you stick with the practice and cultivate it to fit your needs.
Ask yourself: Why are do I want to (or have chosen to) implement a weekly reflection practice?
My why is personal-growth based. I know that what's not measured is not managed. Weekly reflection allows me to know where I'm at, celebrate the win's, and determine where and how I can grow. This baseline helps me plan for growth and for the week ahead.
Focus on the Positive
It can be a natural tendency to focus on the negative: What we did wrong this week, what didn't go well, how much we failed at our goals, etc. While we must acknowledge our weaknesses in order to overcome them, we need to make sure we are not dwelling and putting too much focus on the negative.
Try to begin and end your reflection with the positive.
If indeed "success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or idea," as Earl Nightingale states, then each and every baby step toward the realization of that goal or ideal becomes success, and thus is a positive.
Even if you didn't hit your goal exactly, was there any improvement?
Say you wanted to limit your television viewing to only watching with others. Great goal and a good habit to cultivate, but it might not be realistic (especially if you've been solo binge watching lately). Remember tiny habits are the key to change. Check out the resources listed at the bottom of in this post for more info.
When you complete your weekly reflection you noticed that you watched 12 episodes by yourself. Now you have to make a choice. You could focus on how you failed and beat yourself up about how you didn't accomplish your goal.
You can choose to celebrate how you only watched 12 episodes compared to the 34 you watched the week before. Focus on the improvement you made by cutting your solo media time by over half.
I encourage you to be careful with the words you use: Instead of "weaknesses" think "opportunities for improvement" or "areas for growth." Weakness can denotes an innate flaw, something that is difficult or unable to change. Whereas "growth opportunity" promote a growth mindset, something that can be changed or improved.
But What If I Really Did Mess Up?
We all fail, and it can be hard to let our failure go, especially if the facts are staring right in our face.
I encourage you to remember this is what grace is for. His grace not only covers our mistakes but enables us to change. We can choose to let our failure bring us down (remember God only convicts, never condemns), or we can choose to surrender them to Christ. If we let Him, He will use these moments to teach and grow us.
Bring God into your reflection time. Invite His Spirit to unveil, uncover, and reveal things to you. Allow Him to celebrate with you and show you where and how you grew this week.
I often end my reflection by saying something like "Okay God, so this is where I'm at, what's next?" This moves me right from my time of reflection to my time of planning and envisioning the next week. I let Him show me the habits I need to work on, how I can grow, and choose my focus for the week ahead.
When you bring God into your reflection time, it will help you see yourself through His eyes. You will begin to shift your focus towards gratitude, the positive, and His enabling grace.
Consistency is Key
Pick a day and general time each week. It doesn't have to be exact, but try to be consistent. I sit down sometime between Sunday Afternoon and Monday Morning. (As I prefer a Monday start calendar, my "last day of the week" is Sunday. This is why I do my reflection late on Sunday or early Monday.)
If sitting down for a weekly reflection is a new habit, it can help to set up some cues to remind you. Try leaving a notebook by your bed or on your desk, setting up a reminder on your phone or watch, or even scheduling it in your calendar.
I recommend using a physical notebook, but if you must, digital is fine too.
I love using my Bullet Journal for this. I put my weekly reflection right after my weekly spread which makes it easy for me to review my weekly layout, habit tracker, and monthly calendar as I fill out my reflection.
Of course any journal or notebook will do. Just make sure you are using the same notebook each time so that your reflections are not all over the place. Remember, we're talking about the importance of consistency here. 😉
As much as possible, I would encourage you to stick with the same questions from week to week.
I do, on occasion, add a new question or header when there is something worth noting that doesn't fit into my pre-made template. Otherwise, I stick with the same "questions" each week. Of course, if something is not working for you, feel free to change it up or modify it.
Keep It Simple
Do not make this complex. We want this to be something you can complete in under 30 minutes (15-20 minutes is ideal). You don't need to answer 20+ questions this week or write an essay. We want this to be simple enough that you look forward to sitting down to complete it, not dread it.
Of course there is great value in reflection, but if one were to try and drive a car whilst only looking in the rear-view mirror, we'd have a problem. Spend a little time each week checking the rear-view mirror, but keep your focus on the road ahead.
In the spirit of keeping things simple, choose only the best questions to answer each week. The best questions are the ones related to your focus, the ones that work for you. I find it helpful to keep the questions open ended, and you'll see that I do this by using headers instead of actual questions.
In the beginning, when you are creating reflection template, it can be helpful to start with more questions. Then, after a few weeks, choose the only the ones that bring you the most value.
Again, we want this process to be enjoyable, so keep it simple and make it your own.
My Weekly Reflection
Before we jump into cultivating your own weekly reflection process/template. I thought it might be helpful to share the template I've consistently used over these past five months.
One thing you'll notice is that I don't have specific "questions" that I answer each week. Instead, to save both space and time, I use headers. While there are a few internal questions I may ask myself each week (you'll see some examples of these in bold), these are only guiding questions and not ones I always specifically answer.
To kick things off I have my three main categories: Health, Spiritual, and Relational. These I've used consistently over the years for both daily, weekly and monthly reflection. I highly recommend you start with these categories for your own weekly reflection.
Let's dive into what I actually cover in these sections.
Here I make general observations about my health and wellness. How am I feeling physically? How am I doing (or not doing) on relevant habits? I might note how well I did or did not eat, or how certain foods affected me this week (this is a great tip for anyone who might struggle with IBS or other gastrointestinal issues). I typically note how active I was, how much time I spent outdoors, how consistent I was in taking my supplements, and my tea / coffee consumption.
If I have active tracking in place (like a FitBit, or a habit tracker) I'll transfer over the exact numbers, otherwise I just estimate.
In this section I make general observations about where I'm at spiritually. This often has to do with my prayer life and relationship with God. How did I love God with my entire being this week? Occasionally I will summarize what I've been praying about or what God's been speaking to me about over the week. In general, this section is less about numbers and more about a personal check in with how I am doing, both mentally and spiritually.
This is where I note how I'm doing relationally. How did I love and serve others this week?
We were created for relationship and are called to love and serve others as Christ loved and served us. This section is extremely valuable to me as someone who is naturally shy, but still loves being around people. I spend time reflecting on how and if I took initiative and connected with others over the week.
I will also note my thoughts about certain relationships or relational situations in my life. For example, I'll note when had a great day with friends, if I'm confused about a particular interaction, if there's a relational situation I'm working through, or what relationships that have grown (or not) over the past week (reconnecting with old friends, a new friendship forming, etc.).
Other Areas for Reflection
While the first areas can be easily used by anyone in reflection, these next areas are more specific to me. I encourage you to do the same as well, include a few questions that cover specific focus areas for your life. For me this currently means tagging in about this blog, my screen time, and media consumption for the week.
The Quaint Life: I reflect on the major wins for the week, what didn't work well, what I worked on, and how much time I spent on blogging (and related work).
Screen Time: I like to know how much time I spend with technology, and where I'm spending that time. I use RescueTime, which tracks my screen time across my devices (except the television). This app shows what I've spent my time on, when I was using electronic devices, and more. I review the analytics weekly and only migrate my overall hours (mobile and laptop) into my weekly reflection. On occasion, I'll note specifics if they are relevant.
Television: Since this time is not tracked by RescueTime, I keep track of what I'm watching in my weekly Bullet Journal spread. At the end of the week I tally up how much time I've spent watching movies or tv shows. I might make note of good or bad media choices (i.e. God-honoring or not) or if I was watching by myself or with family and friends.
As previously mentioned, I will sometimes note an overall celebration moment, growth moment, or summary of the week if I feel there was something not covered effectively in a previous section or other location within my Bullet Journal.
Cultivating Your Weekly Reflection
Your weekly reflection will probably not look like mine, nor does it need to. Since I already have other types of reflection/debrief processes in place, I do not cover certain questions weekly because they are covered elsewhere.
I actively track intentions, accomplishments, and select habits in my Bullet Journal. I also typically have daily debrief where I write down a few gratitudes, what I'm leaving behind (i.e. a growth opportunity for tomorrow), and a growth moment from the day.
To help you as you begin (I sure hope you've been convinced to start a weekly reflection practice), I've provided a list of questions for your consideration below. Feel free to use these or brainstorm your own.
If you are familiar with John Maxwell's "Daily Dozen" or Stephen Covey's "7 Habits of Highly Effective People," these could easily be incorporated into your weekly reflection.
The questions you ask yourself should be personal and be based on your focus. Make sure they bring value to you and make sense for the season you are in. If you're married or have children, you might find it valuable to tag in regarding how you have loved and served your spouse or children over the week. If you're in college or school, you might want to tag in regarding your studies.
Without further ado, here are some questions for you to consider when cultivating your weekly reflection template.
Reflection Question Ideas
How did I grow this week? What is something I learned (e.g. life lesson, new concept, etc.)?
How did I do with my intentions for the week? What is one of my most significant accomplishments from the last week?
Where am I at with my goals?
How was I a steward of my time? What was last week's biggest time sink?
How did I love and serve God this week? How did I grow in my relationship with Him?
How did I love and serve others this week?
What didn't go so well this week? Is there anything different I can do moving forward?
What am I most grateful for?
What is a highlight moment for the week (a notable event or something to celebrate)?
Looking Ahead Question Ideas
For those who do not currently use a weekly agenda, task manager, journal, etc. to plan our your week, you may find value in asking these types of questions during your weekly reflection.
What is the most important thing (or three things) that I need to accomplish this week? What have I been avoiding that needs to get done?
What can I do now to make this coming week less stressful? (e.g. meal prep, scheduling, setting reminders, tidying, etc.)
Who do I need to connect with this week?
What am I looking forward to?
How can I serve others in this coming week?
The Next Step: Application
Without change and application, reflection is pretty much pointless. The whole purpose of taking the time to look back and reflect over your week is so that you can make adjustments and grow in the week ahead. While completing your reflection think about what you are going to leave behind and what your focus is for next week.
Typically your focus is not related to your intentions for the week. I try to keep my focus as a character development area, a mindset, or overall philosophy I wish to embrace. However, your focus could also be a mini goal or habit you want to highlight for the week.
This concept is a whole post in itself, so I will stop there for now. The point is, that without application, the benefits you receive from weekly reflection are going to be minimal.
Taking time for personal reflection has been instrumental in my personal growth over the years and I highly encourage you to give it a try. Invite Christ into your moments of reflection. Look back through His eyes and let Him show you how you can grow and guide you through the perfection process.
That's all I have for today, but I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Do you currently have a weekly reflection practice? What does your template look like? Are there any other questions you would add to my list of suggestions?
With love and grace, always,