Engaging in self-reflection has to be the only task that you engage in during that time. Multitasking will not give you the true reflective learning experience that you should have. Multitasking can take part in more than you just switching from task to task, it’s what is happening to your brain at the time of engaging in one task. I’m sure as you are reading this you may have a couple tabs open in your browser, maybe a second monitor that has your email up, music is playing through your headphones, and you are also engaging in a text conversation.
There are multiple studies that show multitasking does not work for us humans to take in the full information. No true learning can happen if you are on Facebook, shopping on Amazon and watching a PowerPoint in class. We can’t multitask, so unplugging in the classroom is something that many instructors are reinforcing. This should be the same with guided reflection when it pertains to thinking about experiences outside the classroom. As you sit to reflect on an experience, you need to unplug. Be still, be quiet, just have the essentials. Your thoughts and a pen and paper are all you need to fully engage in the learning process.
Multitasking also comes in the form of switching back and forth from tasks, known as heavy multitasking. Heavy multitaskers are not very good at multitasking because cognitive processes are impaired by over multitasking. Heavy multitaskers have been found to show “greater difficulty when it came to switching from one task to another and were much less mentally organized.” If you are taking part in guided reflection you need to avoid switching back and forth on tasks. Stick with one task for a set period of time and only that task.
So how do you unplug and fully immerse yourself in guided reflection?
- Look at what else is going on around you. What do you hear? Is there music playing? TV on in the background? Are you in a crowded coffee shop? Be in tune with sites and sounds around you. These may affect your self-reflection where you cannot fully immerse yourself.
- Look at what you are trying to accomplish. If you need to reflect on you latest event you hosted, particularly the marketing of your event, this should be your only task. Do not engage in social media while you are reflecting. Do not multitask.
- Practice self-reflection in silence. Be still and be quiet. Only you and your thoughts will truly give you in-depth reflection to learn about your experience.
A note about being silent:
It’s OK to have silence. We must become comfortable to be still in silence. For some of us it is unnerving to be in silence. We are afraid to be alone in silence because we are constantly bombarded by noise. The noise from technology, our busy calendars and everything we experience on a daily basis keeps us from engaging in silence with ourselves. “If the brain is actively processing noise it can’t turn off — it’s impossible to rest and reset when you are always asking questions or reacting to external stimuli.” We have to look at the outer and inner silence that we experience. “Getting rid of external distractions is not enough; you want to avoid your thoughts from eating you alive.” When you learn to turn off the external noise, then you can start turning off your internal questions and to do lists.
Start small. Have short intervals of time when you can clear your mind of nothing but one reflective question. If you answer one questions with no other internal thoughts and external noise, you can build up the practice of silencing your brain.
Here’s a practice question to get you started: What is your favorite season and why?
If you can sit still in silence and answer this one question, and only this one question for couple of minutes, then you are on your way to engaging in true self-reflective learning.