This technique increases my learnings by 10x
Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom. - Aristotle
This week, another project comes to an end. As a management consultant, I work on client engagements that usually last 8 - 12 weeks, have a particular goal, and consist of a unique team made from both consultants and clients.
During these weeks, consulting showed me once again that I chose the right job after graduating. I learned a massive amount about an industry that is key for the future of our world. I significantly enhanced crucial professional skills. I worked with great clients and could help them to make a real positive impact. And my colleagues were just awesome.
When I chose this profession, I kinda expected this combination of a great learning curve and working with inspiring people. Yet, I’m still surprised how much and how fast I learn.
To have an optimal learning curve, though, just working a lot isn’t enough. We have to work on real challenges and receive proper feedback. Thereby, self-reflection is a highly underrated tool to greatly boost our learning curve as in the process of reflection we provide ourselves with highly valuable feedback.
I have a multifaceted reflection routine for all parts of my life, comprising a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly reflection routine. The benefits are incredible and span all areas of my life. Nevertheless, during my yearly reflection, I concluded that the area I’m currently spending the most time on - work - needs more “reflection attention”. Hence, I did a “career reflection”, in which I reflected on the past 3 months.
In today’s blog article, I will write about my career reflection, the learnings I made in the past 3 months in my job, why I highly recommend reflecting, and which questions I answer during my reflection routine.
During my reflection, I thought about what I concretely learned in the past 3 months so that I can build upon it
I deliberately focused on what I learned in the past 3 months and not on the things I should have done better
Reflecting regularly gives me the opportunity to rethink ideas, thoughts, and actions so that I’m able to make the most of them
An ownership mindset is crucial if we want to make a positive impact in our world
People want to feel understood. And if we make them feel understood, they start to listen to our suggestions
A personal productivity system is key to suffice all responsibilities
Learnings from the past 3 months in consulting
There is this saying that 1 year in consulting is like 3 years in industry. I cannot tell how much there is to learn in industry jobs, but I can tell for sure the amount I learned in consulting over the past 12 months is massive. It feels like I have progressed in every area of professional skills, and there are various skill areas. Here are some examples:
Problem-solving skills, e.g. optimize a logistics network and make it future-proof
Analytical skills, e.g. estimate the CO2 reduction potential of a machinery company
Communication skills, e.g. present to a CFO
Organization skills, e.g. never miss any deadline
Creativity, e.g. find uncommon ways to solve a problem
Ownership, e.g. make your manager and client feel like you have full control
Teamwork, e.g. discuss constructively how to approach a problem and provide each other with honest feedback
Persuasion, e.g. convince your manager of an idea s/he is not convinced of
During my reflection, I thought about what I concretely learned in the past 3 months so that I can build upon it. I’m strongly convinced that we should not eliminate all our flaws and become mediocre at everything but rather focus on our strengths and become very good at something.
The professional career reflection greatly helped me to identify my strong areas. I deliberately focused on what I learned in the past 3 months and not on the things I should have done better.
Here are 3 findings:
An ownership mindset is crucial if we want to make a positive impact in our world. I successfully adopted this mindset and showcased it. I clearly communicated the things I felt responsible for and took “end-to-end” ownership. If something doesn’t get done, no matter who’s actually the source of the problem, it’s not “their fault”, it’s mine. When there was an issue, such as a client not responding to my emails, I felt 100% responsible. When I needed help, I asked for it but always made a suggestion on how to solve the problem. A way I want to further improve this: I will never ask “what should we do?” or “what should I do?” anymore. I will always make a suggestion and have the next steps ready. I will be the person who will get the things done. Unless there is a person who commits full ownership to a problem, I will own it.
It’s all about people. We can prepare the most sophisticated analyses, create the most beautiful slide presentations and be the best presenter - that doesn’t matter if the people - whether colleague, manager, or client - we’re trying to convince don’t trust us. We first need to build trust, particularly by listening well and addressing the issues at hand first. People want to feel understood. And if we make them feel understood, they start to listen to our suggestions. I want to further improve my listening skills and become able to understand the tiniest nuances in what people trying to say. Asking more experienced colleagues who will also have taken part in a conversation how they understood the person will greatly help me to fine-tune my understanding.
A personal productivity system is key to suffice all the responsibilities we have. I’ve been using David Allen’s Getting Things Done for more than a year now and consistently applied it to my day-to-day job in consulting. The more consistently and broader I applied this method, the greater the benefits became. Currently, there are so many things in my personal life that are keeping me busy. Simultaneously, I managed 2 workstreams and a few side topics on my last project and worked on an internal topic, too. A personal productivity system like Getting Things Done enables me to capture all relevant tasks and get them done systematically. Prospectively, I want to continue using this system and align this with the tools we use as a team.
Why you should have a reflection routine
When I started to reflect regularly, I didn’t really have any expectations. I just wanted to try it out and see what will happen because so many people praised it.
I started by writing down the biggest successes of the past day, e.g. going for a run in the morning, and the things I can look forward to the next day, e.g. a nice cup of coffee. I cannot really remember where I caught these 2 questions, but they were very easy to answer and thus a good starting point.
I did this every day, but nothing really happened. Then, I began to write down the 3 most important goals of the next day and, additionally, reflect more extensively on a weekly and monthly basis.
That changed everything.
The combination of a very brief daily reflection routine in which I journaled the best moments of the day and prioritized the goals of the next day and a more extensive one at the weekend in which I rethought these ideas has had a huge positive impact on my life.
I’ve never experienced so much happiness, control over my life, focus on the right things, and creativity.
Reflecting regularly gives me the opportunity to rethink ideas, thoughts, and actions so that I’m able to make the most of them. For instance, I think about the 3 most important goals of the next month and how I can accomplish them. In July 2021, 1 of these goals was to have a great vacation with my girlfriend. So, I thought about things I/we need to do in order to make the most out of it, such as asking friends for recommendations. Eventually, we ended up having an awesome vacation.
My professional career reflection
During professional career reflection routine, I asked myself 3 questions:
What are 5 things I learned during the past 3 months?
What can I do to better live my purpose of life in the next 3 months?
What are 3 things I want to learn in the next 3 months?
Each question intends to (A) boost my learning curve and (B) ensure that I will continue loving my job.
For instance, my job as a consultant is intense. Despite long working hours, I want to have time for my girlfriend, eat healthily, and do sports. If these things weren’t possible anymore, I would either make a drastic change or even quit.
Or, if I want to continue making great progress, I need to revise the learnings from the past, build upon them, and contemplate things I want to learn in the future. Reflection is thereby a way to hold myself accountable.