Making experience count: Boosting your productivity with reflective learning

Work. Stop. Reflect. Learn. Improve.

New research suggests that finishing your day with a short period of reflection boost learning and consequently improves productivity. Researchers at Harvard Business School have found that stopping work 15 minutes early and reflecting on what you have learned will boost your overall productivity by 20%.

Learning lessons

The researchers divided employees into two groups. One group worked their normal work day and the other group stopped 15-minutes before their work day ended and reflected, “Please write about the main key lessons you learned”. The experiment ran for 10 consecutive days and the result was a 22.8 percent increase in performance. When reassessed a month later, they were still performing higher.

The study concluded that brief reflection:-

  • Boosts productivity quickly
  • Had lasting impact
  • Was cheap to implement, requiring no formal systems or equipment

Elements of success

The process appeared to work because it:

Translates experiences, whilst they are still “in the body” in to practical wisdom that can be put immediately into action, rather than waiting for the dreaded “lessons learnt” review.
Progress can be tracked in almost real time, so staff see the benefits straight away. Consequently people put in more effort.

So what? Putting reflective learning in to practice

Here are some tips for putting this research to practical use.

  • Block out the last 15 minutes of your day. Call it “wrap up” or something that means something to you, but also very organised and professional to others so that they don’t challenge it.
  • Highlight your top 2 or 3 lessons. Be as specific as you can be, but don’t exceed 15 minutes.
  • Write them down. Share them with people that would benefit from either the content or the progress.
  • Re-read them first thing in the morning before you open your email

Remember that this process should be brief and positive. Keep a copy of your learnings and occasionally review your progress and you’ll be amazed at how quickly this allows you to learn and adapt.

Further reading

DiStephano, G., Gino, F., Pisano, G., Staats, B., Making Experience Count: The Role of Reflection in Individual Learning, Harvard Business School. 2016. Link here.


Experienced business leader, mentor and coach, with fascinations for technology, psychology and ancient philosophies. A self-confessed techno hippy with a unique talent for bringing the best out in people.

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