Reflection is important to introverts before and during as well as after.

Reflection Before and During Is as Crucial as Reflection After

We typically think of reflection as something we do after the fact, to process what’s happened. But reflection before and during are both critical too.

You’re at work, doing your thing, when you get an urgent email from your boss: Your team will be having an emergency meeting … in 10 minutes. No other details are given.

You try to wrap up what you’re in the middle of, but now you’re distracted, caught in the dissonance between what you’re doing now and what in the world the meeting is all about, not to mention your potential role in it.

When the session begins, the discussion is even more rapid-fire than usual. You literally can’t get a word in. You feel like you’re watching a game of pinball.

The meeting finally adjourns and, instead of being able to debrief—
either with one of your colleagues 
or on your own—you have to get right back to work.


It all just happened way too fast for you.

And now your stress level has gone through the roof.

And your energy level has dropped through the floor.

And, worst of all, you didn’t get to meaningfully contribute to the meeting.

You might as well not have been there at all.

Just another day at the office, isn’t it, when you don’t get the reflection time you need as an introvert.

It’s just one of a hundred ways of illustrating a key truth for introverts everywhere:

You tend not to realize how important reflection is to you until you don’t get to reflect.

Two Overlooked Types of Reflection

Reflection—i.e., having time to think—is crucial to your health and happiness as an introvert, which is why I refer to it as one of The 4 Pillars of Introvert Well-Being (along with Solitude, Focus, and Depth).

While we naturally tend to view reflection as something that comes after an activity, event, or experience (which is true, of course), 
we need to remember that reflection is also crucial to us as introverts before and during activities, events, and experiences.

We need to reflect not only to process, in other words, after the fact, but also to prepare before the fact and—especially tricky but frequently imperative—to pause: to give ourselves time to think during the fact.

Reflecting to Prepare

You may not even be consciously aware of it, but one of the key ways you maintain your energy as an introvert—or perhaps “minimize your energy loss” is a more accurate way of putting it—is to be as prepared as possible for upcoming activities, events, and experiences.

That preparation, of course, involves reflection. When you have the time to think carefully about whatever it is that’s coming up for you, you invariably end up feeling more ready for it and, ultimately, doing better at it.

Suppose, for instance, that instead of receiving just 10 minutes’ notice for that emergency meeting at work, you had instead been informed about it the day before.

Helpful, right?

Then again, though, not always done or even possible in the real world of work … right?

True enough.

Still: You have options. You can email or text your boss and ask for a quick highlight on what the meeting will be about, so that you can do at least a bit of thinking to prepare. You can ask colleagues what they might know.

Even if you can’t get a hold of anyone for clarification, you can immediately stop what you’re doing and gather yourself—knowing full well that you need the time, brief as it might be, to get ready for what you may be called upon to do and consider at the session.

Reflecting to Pause

If only you could have bought yourself some time, even just a few seconds, to think during that emergency meeting.

Along the way, you had a few things you wanted to say. But by the time you figured out what they were and, especially, how you would articulate them, the others in the meeting had long moved on.

Reflection in the moment is likely the most difficult type of reflection for you to pull off in your fast-paced, freewheeling interactions with others. Your introverted mind just doesn’t work quickly, and for good reason.

As Marti Olsen Laney notes in her book The Introvert Advantage, research has shown that introverts and extroverts use different brain pathways to direct their focus, with introverts’ pathways being more meandering than those of extroverts.

So in the moment, having time to think is an imperative for you, not merely a nice-to-have.

How do you get it?

By employing time-buying techniques, not only for the moment itself but for later on as well.

At the meeting, for instance, you could have said something like: “I haven’t fully thought this through, but one initial idea I have 
is … ”—and then shared that idea as best you could.

You also could have said something that would have given you even more time and helped you ultimately deliver a carefully considered observation. To wit:

“I need to think about that. Let me get back to you before the end of the day or first thing in the morning.”

Reflection Time Isn’t Optional

As you reflect on your reflection activities (there’s that reflection as processing again, after the fact!), ask yourself:

“Am I consistently getting/taking the time I need to think before and during as well?”

If not, in one case or in both, think about ways you can get that time (there’s that reflection as preparing again, before the fact!).

And if someone interrupts with an “emergency meeting” or some other such thing? Tell them to “give me a minute” (there’s that reflection as pausing again, during the fact!).

You need your reflection time.

Take it.

Or create it.

Or both.

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