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April 6, 2021

The Integration Window and Why We Need It

7 Minute Read

There’s no denying we’re living in a digital age now and slowly adapting to this “new normal” and with this new normal comes new ways of thinking, doing, and adapting. But in a culture set on burnout, overworking and not focused on mindfulness, we’re setting ourselves up for a very unfocused way of life. With so many of us working remotely, days blend together and meeting after meeting flies by. Where’s the time to pause and actually work? We spend about half our days on zoom, “working together,” strategizing, giving status updates, and for some of us coming together with the loss of human connection. We’ve stacked our calendars with Zoom moments and we need to slow down. It’s time for us to make the new normal a balance of mindfulness, deep work, reflection and just taking time to integrate. And, while we begin to integrate into this post pandemic world, there are some key lessons this moment in time has brought to light, how we work and what we value.

The Integration Process is this time, it’s the moments after a meeting, big task, status update that you get to just be with you, your thoughts, reflections and next steps. Rather then, letting your to do list build and literally zooming to the next meeting, both physically and in person, start to build in this window of time whether that be 10 minutes to 30 minutes to really unpack what you’ve been talking about, working on and discussing. Getting really mindful about it all. Essentially, this means making space and time on your calendar dedicated to unpacking what you’ve done, reflecting on key takeaways, determining effective next steps, and ultimately looking at a big picture to set your to do list and explore what’s working, and what’s not. Without slowing down in a deliberative way, amazing ideas can slip through the cracks, and it becomes easier and easier for you to forget about the bigger picture behind what you do, oh and let’s not forget letting that to do list build with every new amazing idea a meeting can bring or a problem that can arise. Let's dig in.

The Integration Window 

Taking time and making space in this way will look different for every person. Some mindfulness practices are better suited for different personalities and thinkers. At its core, though, the integration process means carving out a window of time after any meeting, call, presentation, or even prolonged period of work to reserve as a time just for you. A time for you to sit, take a breath, reflect on what you are digesting and write it down, create an action plan, jot down big ideas, next steps, looking at things that worked, onr new paths forward. This is a moment to just be clear and quiet before hopping into the next thing. During this window, you will give your brain a moment to slow down, catch up, and process everything you just observed. 

The Psychology Behind Pausing to Reflect

In a 2016 study, researchers found that employees who spent just 15 minutes reflecting on lessons learned throughout the day performed nearly 25% better than those who did not reflect in this way throughout the course of the study. To quote the study’s conclusion, “Together, our results reveal deliberation to be a powerful mechanism behind learning, confirming the words of American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer John Dewey: ‘We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.’” Taking time to integrate improves memory, makes thinking clearer, and will help you move into your next task confidently and with a sense of purpose. When you are learning, you are growing and getting better at your work. Since integration and reflection practices have been shown to improve learning outcomes, it follows that they would improve work outcomes, too.

“But I Just Don’t Have Time for Reflection and Integration”

With emails piling up in your inbox and countless tasks left before you can end the day, working slower might seem strange or even counterintuitive. Research shows that pausing to reflect can actually help you be more productive in the long term. For example, this kind of reflection allows you to consider what worked and what did not, helping you understand what practices and ideas should not be carried into your next project or meeting. Many people also do not realize that integration and reflection can be incorporated into their days through a few simple practices and habit changes.

How to Bring More Intention Into the Digital World

One way to start being more intentional, even in the digital world, is to set aside time for reflection and hold yourself accountable so that you use that time wisely. When you plan your day and put meetings and projects on your calendar, schedule a small block of time between meetings specifically for reflection and integrations. It does not have to be long. What matters is that you are consistent. During those integration windows, there are a number of practices you could try to work toward achieving mindfulness. To find which practices work best for you, test out a few as you are getting started. Lean into what feels right, leave behind what does not, and don’t be afraid to experiment. Here are some popular and effective integration and reflection techniques:

Write It Out

It doesn’t matter if you write yourself notes on a yellow legal pad, a beautiful handmade notebook, a scrap of paper on your desk, or even in an email to yourself. What matters here is that you are taking the time to think through your experience so that you can put it into words. As reflective writing starts to feel more natural to you, you will be able to quickly analyze what you are reflecting on in a meaningful way. To get started, ask yourself questions and write down the answers to those questions. What was effective about that meeting? What was the outcome? How is the outcome different than what you had hoped? What would you have done differently? What can you do during your next meeting to learn from your previous one? Even if you do not regularly return to these notes or read them, you are doing yourself a tremendous service by writing about your experiences. This is easiest to do when done close in proximity to the meeting, another reason why setting aside time for an integration window directly after a meeting is beneficial.

Take Time For Yourself

How you choose to integrate and reflect is unique to you. If you are taking time for yourself, you are taking important steps in the right direction. You can talk out loud to yourself, going through the meeting in a similar way as you would if you were to write it out. Sometimes, these conversations with ourselves can turn a half-baked idea into a fully realized one. Going for a walk or getting some fresh air can also be a useful way to make your time spent reflecting even more effective, giving you some physical distance from the situation you are reflecting on. Be sure that along with taking time to integrate and reflect, you are also taking true breaks where you are fully away from your work so that you have time to rest, recharge, and protect yourself against burnout.

Tread Carefully With Debrief Meetings

You don’t have to reflect entirely on your own. Debrief meetings are an amazing practice for integration and mindfulness, especially where joint efforts are involved. Together, you and your team can reflect on how the meeting, event, project, or anything else went, how it could be made better, individual and team strengths and weaknesses, and more. Something important to remember is that if you do not also take time for some individual reflection, a debrief meeting is just another meeting that can blend into the rest of your day, meaning you might miss out on some of the important benefits of creating an integration window and following an integration process.

Here at Inside/Outside we lead work from an intentional and heart centered space, if you’re looking for a little extra support, accountability, clarity, or systems for your business. Book a free 30 minute discovery call with us.