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Self-Reflection – Ensuring Your Tomorrow Is Better Than Your Yesterday!

Reflections: Ensuring your tomorrow is better than your yesterday – and because of it.

A number of the Accountancy Learning team attended an AAT event today, where there was much discussion on Apprenticeships. Part of the apprenticeship experience is self-reflection. However, self-reflection is not just relevant to apprentices and their end point assessment. It is relevant to all of us.

Many people find reflection quite difficult. So what’s the point of all of this reflection?  It’s all about making your life easier in the long run.  Reflection helps us to make sense of what we do.  It is normal to experience problems at work and if we are to develop ourselves, we should think about those problems, try to come up with solutions and see if they work.  Sometimes solutions will work and sometimes they won’t.  But either way, we learn from the experience.

When we reflect on those experiences we are more likely to remember them and use those experiences in our future behaviour and actions.  If the experiences just happen to us and we don’t think about what happened, then we become passengers in our own lives rather than the drivers.  If we don’t learn from our past experiences then we are likely to repeat previous mistakes or fail to benefit from any good practice.

Bookkeepers and Accountants

Bookkeepers and accountants are not known for their emotions, and accountants’ ethical standards expect objectivity which may exclude emotions.  This objectivity is certainly useful for reflection to help you make sense of what has happened in your life and help you to take your next steps.  But feel free to allow your emotions to influence your reflections.  Sometimes you have a really awful week.  You are bound to be emotional about that.  Use that emotion to think about how to prevent having another awful week.  Similarly, sometimes you’ll have a fantastic week.  Why was it fantastic?  What can you do to have another fantastic week?

Of course this will be very personal to you.  What may be an excellent experience for one person may be an appalling experience for another.

It is also useful to reflect on others – not just yourself.  If you see how other people do things and you think they do it better or more easily, then think about how you can use their techniques to make your life easier.

If you are participating in an apprenticeship your reflection needs to be more targeted than simply thinking about what went well and badly in the last week.  Your apprenticeship reflection needs to be linked to the apprenticeship standards.

Example:

For those in accounting practice, in one week you may have had had a really, really awful time.  This has created an emotional response and caused you to think about the week.  You had multiple clients asking you for information because all of them were approaching an important deadline.  That meant that you were regularly flitting between clients spending 10 minutes on one client’s issues and then 15 minutes on another’s and so on.  Your time/cost needs to be allocated between your various clients so that your bosses understand the costs involved in running the business and know what to charge clients. During your reflection you can think about the importance of routinely analysing your time between the clients, as you spend each block of time. If you leave it to the end of the day you will probably forget. You could link this to the Apprenticeship Standards at Level 3 on Business Awareness, Management Accounting, Analysis, Producing Quality and Accurate Information, and Productivity.

You can include your time sheet as evidence of your analysis.  But including that alone is not enough.  Your reflective statements need to accompany it so that you can demonstrate your understanding of how the time sheet analysis helps your business and the importance of accurate and timely timesheets. (NB: if you do include a copy of your timesheet, it is essential that you “redact” it so that no client names are showing. Confidentiality is a key ethical principle.)

We could also link the time sheets to implementation of IFRS 15, but that’s probably a topic for a different blog!

Lifelong reflection

As mentioned at the outset, reflection is not just something relevant to those undertaking an apprenticeship.  It’s something we should all be doing for the whole of our lives. We will all be dealing with clients, customers, suppliers, colleagues and we will be accountable for our time to someone, as well as to ourselves. Time is a precious commodity, you can’t get it back.  To be effective you need to be reflective. During your training you will be developing a lot of new knowledge and skills. These will normally not just be relevant to your existing situation. They are transferable skills that could be applied to numerous situations in the future. However, in order to truly appreciate their transferability you need to reflect on them as you acquire them. Accountancy is a brilliant skills set – it is transferable to any employer or occupation and to anywhere in the world. Accountancy is a common language across the globe.

Several writers on learning (Kolb, Dewey et al.) tell us that we learn from our experiences and that it can be useful to think about the problems we have and how we can overcome them.  Being actively involved in problem solving helps us to learn more effectively.

Something to reflect on……!!