As we spend most of our waking hours at work during the week, the likelihood is that the last thing you want to do on the way into the office or on the way home is spend more time thinking about it.
In fairness, you could just as easily shift this hack to within your working hours – indeed there’s a case to say employers should encourage you to do so. But if you lack the time and space to stop and think at your desk, your commute is a good time to do it.
The importance of reflection is that studies have shown it improves performance. In a 2014 study, researchers at Harvard Business School set two rounds of online brain teasers for 202 adults, paying $1 for each task completed in under 20 seconds.
In between the two rounds, the subjects were divided into three groups: a control group, who progressed straight to the next set of puzzles; a ‘reflecting’ group, who thought about and made notes on the strategies they had used; and a ‘sharing’ group, who were additionally informed their notes would be shown to fellow test subjects.
The reflecting and sharing groups performed 18% better on average than the control group in the second round of tests. In a second similar study where subjects were just paid a flat fee, the same groups performed better and also reported feeling more competent and effective, suggesting reflection also has beneficial effects on self-esteem and motivation. The results were then repeated in a real-world scenario, tested at Indian outsourcing company Wipro.
There was no statistically significant difference in the results between the sharing and reflecting groups, suggesting that it is just as effective to think over your working approach by yourself as it is to discuss it with others.