However you learn best — visually, auditory, or kinesthetically — you’ll reap the most rewards by spending time reflecting on your experiences. At least, that’s according to new research published by the Harvard Business School:

[The] results reveal reflection to be a powerful mechanism behind learning, confirming the words of American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer John Dewey: “We do not learn from experience … we learn from reflecting on experience.” … In fact, these beneficial effects seem to be lasting.

Why do reflection efforts generate an improvement in problem-solving capacity? We propose that the link between learning-by-thinking and greater performance is explained by self-efficacy, or a personal evaluation of one’s capabilities to organize and execute courses of action to attain designated goals…

The study behind these findings involved a random sample of 202 people, each individually given an online creativity test. One group of test-takers were instructed to reflect on a pre-test, writing down any strategies they thought might be helpful for the next test. Another group was told to also write down their thoughts and strategies, with the caveat that their notes would be shared with others. The final group was given no instructions for rumination.

In the end, both of the groups that were tasked with thinking about the pre-test performed significantly better than the group that did not spend any time thinking about the tasks at hand.

The research is clear: dedicating time to reflect on your life and work regularly (like with a daily check-in) really does have an affect on performance. Read the full details of the research (and get the final paper on the results) right here.

  • http://www.leavingmediocrity.com Leaving Mediocrity

    I have had some success with this as well. I have a 45min commute to get home. Most days I listen to music or podcasts but sometimes if it has been a particularly intense day I will turn it all off and just drive in the silence reflecting on the day. It makes a big difference in a couple of ways. I am able to evaluate everything that happened during the day, what when well and what could have gone better. I also find that the new stuff tends to stick a little better when I spend time reflecting on it. In addition to all of those things, it helps me decompress a little bit so that when I walk in the door I am present and ready to interact with my family. I am not as distracted and still trying to process all the events of the day.

    • http://www.creativesomething.net/ tannerc

      Thanks for reading and sharing your experience.

      I’ve recently done the exact same thing, though my commute is only 20 minutes. Being able to have some time dedicated to sitting in quiet has been immensely re-energizing. I’m glad to hear I’m not alone in my approach.

  • http://www.madelienerose.com Madeliene Rose

    I agree. That’s why walking, showering or just switching off is so important. The ability to stop to see and accept what you’ve done and to continually strive to do better is the best thing one can do in my book… http://madelienerose.com

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