The intersection of technology and leadership

Free Running Reflection: A Personal Retrospective Technique

Anyone who has worked with me knows how crazy I am about Retrospectives for the workplace. I apply similar techniques when it comes to organising my personal life so I thought I’d share one technique I use that I call “Free Running Reflection”.

I adapted this technique from a “free-writing” class that clieu took a while back. I’ve found it especially effective for getting all those niggling things out of my head and in a place that I can see them and focus on doing something about them. It’s also been very useful under extreme times of stress, showing me things that may be unconsciously influencing my thinking.

Free Running Reflection

I use four very simple things to run this exercise: 15 minutes of time, a timer (watch, stopwatch, clock, etc) a pen and access to plenty of paper to write on. I normally carry around a small notebook (previously a Moleskin, and currently a great little Ciak one).

Here’s how I run it:

  • Choose a time boxed period – I usually use 5 or 10 minutes depending on how much time I have.
  • Start the timer and write down everything in your head on to the paper until the time runs out. Put down absolutely anything and everything that crosses your mind. A word, a phrase, a full sentence, and especially all random thoughts. I generally avoid pictures though sometimes draw small diagrams if it’s faster than writing a sentence. If you do draw diagrams be careful to keep them as simple as possible as the goal is to get everything going through your head down as soon as possible during the time period.
  • With the remaining time, review what you’ve written down and see if there are common themes. Sometimes I draw lines between bits, or regroup items to help me discover patterns. Depending on how I’m feeling I will then decide if I want to do anything about the items on the list, and add the top three to my list of things to focus on and complete.

If you like this technique, or have any other recommendations, please leave a comment.


  1. Liz

    Pat, this is lovely. I do something similar but with mind-maps; the goal is again to get everything out of your head and onto the paper. These days I also sometimes use Freeplane as it makes it easier to do the reviewing, regrouping, etc..

    I hadn’t thought of keeping a timer in the same way as for freewriting, though. That sounds like it might force more free association and get more out than merely trying to reflect and stopping at “done”. I’ll give it a go next time! Thank you!


    Pat, this is super cool. Thanks for sharing.
    I always apply running concepts( warmup, tempo run, sprint run,hill run etc ) at my workplace.
    This post matches with sprinting practice!!
    I use similar pattern with time bound of 10 mins ( matches with 100 meter sprint ) for write down points and then break( 60 sec break before next 100 meter sprint ) of 1 min to sort out points written in 1st 10 mins
    Repeat thus until I get satisfied( mostly 2 or 3 iteration)
    Thanks again Pat.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

© 2022 patkua@work

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑