reflection systems (mini-📝 22/100)

The other day someone in a Facebook group I’m a part of wrote a question asking about people’s methods for reflection. I’ve always been a reflective person, but it wasn’t until a couple years ago that I started being more meticulous around recording my thoughts and keeping them all in one place.

Ever since spring of 2019, I started doing a daily journal in order to keep snapshots of my mental state over time. I like that daily journaling gives me a ritual that forces me to dump the chaotic swirl of emotions and instincts and thoughts from my mind into a comprehensive form. I also track habits that I’m trying to build, so there’s a built-in accountability system with my journal, when I’m talking about my highlights / lowlights of the day. It’s all available as a template, if you’re interested in trying it out! Here’s an example of the kind of reflection I’m able to make using the data.

Having this space to gather the data and dump my inner mess into something with more structure also enables me to do fun stuff like share select pieces of that with the broader Internet. I make the aggregate quantitative data about my days and my habits available on my Live Spencer Monitor.

a snapshot of my Live Monitor

This sort of mirrors that big trend where apps would offer to post your goals to your social media accounts to generate the social pressure to follow through, except it’s less pressure and more fun since it’s just making it always available on my website which people aren’t naturally checking every day (as far as I know). There’s a feeling of intimacy embedded in the fact that this view is always changing—the configuration as it exists is a fleeting snapshot of my life that will shift within a day. Despite how abstracted this is from raw thoughts, it still feels pretty intimate because you can sort of derive my inner state from these numbers and charts. They’re high-level hints at the rich underlying context and detail involved in my day-to-day life. This is mostly all hypothesis given that I know the deeper context underlying the numbers, so I’m curious whether it gives off that vibe for those of y’all that have seen it.

The last piece of my process is scheduling time to do deeper thought dumps quarterly. For my quarterly reflections, I usually just set aside 15-20 mins to brain dump everything that’s weighing on me and following the energy of my thoughts and emotions. After I feel like I’ve gotten everything out, I go through my reflection and try to draw broad themes, highlighting pieces that stand out to me. To conclude, I try to organize these into buckets around personal/work/social that I want to continue, stop, and start doing, setting intentions for how my attitude should adapt moving forward.

For the annual ones, I use a nifty template from Year Compass to do an annual reflection. I tend to avoid explicit, quantitatively-driven goals and instead, focus on broad themes to orient the new year around. In this way, I’m able to keep a high-level intention in mind in my day-to-day choices rather than getting bogged down evaluating the details of every path I see.

Do you do any sort of reflection, and if so, what and how do you feel about it? Let me know if you try / check out any of these systems too! Curious to hear thoughts and reactions.

Anyways this reflection bent got me thinking about my quarterly reflection and how I haven’t done one in a while, and I wanted to share my conclusions for this quarter:

  • personal: continue on the path of authenticity, embrace it and find people who vibe with you. trust your instinct for energy and chase it. Put up foundations that you can build off in areas that you know you have energy in

  • career/craft: follow your heart in terms of what you want and continue sharpening that precise sense of the ideal style of working and area that you’re passionate about. Stretch yourself and embrace ambiguity and ownership of new areas. Trust yourself to handle it well

  • social: intentionally spend more time with people who give you energy and who you admire, be comfortable saying no to the people that you dont admire or have opposing world views. be more intentional about regularly diving deep with people close to you and getting to know new people who you think you would vibe with. Break through hesitation to send messages when you think of them. Eliminate the filter when it’s something that’s preventing you from doing something that has no downside / only has positive potential outcomes (which is most things you filter)