Reflecting on life during forced downtime

I’m having a minor surgery tomorrow and will be laying around the house for 1-4 days. I want to mostly relax, read, and watch tv, but I was thinking about using this time to reflect on things. Does anyone have any guidance for how best to do this reflection. I have 4 kids and don’t often get time like this to reflect.


Other than the fact of the surgery I’d welcome the chance to do a really in depth reflection. I try to do a more detailed review of stuff on the solstices and equinoxes and this is a set of things I consider, maybe they’ll spark some ideas for you. This is from an old post of mine on the GTD forums.

"I effectively use my solstice and equinox review periods as the place to reflect, review, recharge, and re-commit. I start these longer reviews by first focusing on what I have accomplished. I look at my high levels and work down.

First off is just sitting and thinking, letting the mind wander with a pen an paper nearby. This reflection and self inspection can be painful at times, I sometimes write in my journal during this or just make notes. It’s like the big collection when you start GTD but more focused on the past 3 months. I am not making any judgements at this time just simply being and remembering.

Then I review my higher level statements. I have written down my Personal Statement of Purpose and now I also each year have a word that I focus on for the year. I review what few written goals I have but I’ve always fallen down a bit in the middle levels. During the review I ask myself whether I am happy with the direction I am heading, whether I am happy with the overall purpose and whether I think I need to make any changes. I modify my purpose if needed. Since I discovered GTD I now also review what are my AOFs and are they still the appropriate ones for me at this time. Reviewing is where things get sticky. If I have been falling down on my commitments to myself this is when it becomes painfully obvious. Review is where I tend to add lots of new projects, do major GTD system reorganization to support new emphasis or new AOFs. This is also where I really look at every single on-hold or pending project and hold it up against the newly clarified AOF levels and decide if I really still need to do this one. In a typical equinox review I will delete 20-30 on hold projects and add about the same number of new ones.

This section is almost like going back to the beginning. I try to just sit and think about the new structure and focus and see if it feels right. I make sure to spend some time during this period doing something that makes me happy, read a just for fun book that has been on my list, or go visit a neighbor, or fix a special dinner that I rarely make.

This is when I get down to the nitty gritty. I go back and review all my projects again and then do a more normal what can I realistically be working on at this time review of what to keep active or not. I re-read the statement of purpose and any goals I have set.

This longer review spreads out over several weeks. I try to have it finished by the solstice or equinox but don’t always get it done by then. Usually I do one part of the review in each week before the date."

Now I’m reading the 12 Week Year and incorporating a lot of the questions in that bok into my quarterly reviews.

Hope that helps


Maybe consider reflecting on life - and death - now, not just when you are stuck at home for a short period.

There’s a great 99¢ app called WeCroak in the App Store, that, based on a Bhutanese tradition to think about mortality five times a day randomly sends out 5 alerts featuring a quote (mostly) related to mortality and death, out of several hundred in the app (and more aded periodically).

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As long as you are not trying to get something out of this adventure other than to recover …

Relax – Find a comfortable chair where you can put your feet up.

Read – Choose a book just because it sounds like it will be fun (illicit, bad a**) to read.

Watch TV – Pick a short, enticing series on Amazon Prime or Hulu or Netflix and complete it at your own pace.

Reflect – Choose something that is not what you normally have time to think about just because you don’t have the time otherwise.

When you really want to DO something and recover remember, physical recovery is speeded in proportion to the inverse of everything else you do. The more work stuff that you try to do, the slower will be your recovery. (Not really, but it gives all the more reason to chase the kids away and just be a vegetable for the few days).



I looked at this today.

That is one way of looking at it. There are others. Wrede


I’d read this before but didn’t know there was an audio recording. Thanks for sharing.

One way or approaching this is to consider what you would regret not doing if being faced with the possibility that you just have a short time left.

A few years back, I had a close call and was not certain I would make it through. As I am rolled into the back of the ambulance, I realize a major regret: I have attended way to few live concerts. I love that stuff, why had I not gone to more?

Before this moment, I was unaware of how important this was for me, and it surprised me. Now, I book the tickets when a good act is in town, and I feel OK about music service subscriptions and audio gear cost. Because to me, it is really important.

You may also get a surprise when taking this view. Also, we all have just a short time left around here…

I have a terrible time with downtime. I hate being sick. I hate the recovery time after surgery. We had a two day spring blizzard here. It was time for me to catch up on some small projects. Today I was working in the garage making a fishing rod holder.

I find books to read, movies to watch and things like that.

When I was diagnosed with cancer and required surgery. The procedure was on a Monday afternoon. I was back to working a half day that Friday. A few months later, it was a more complex and involved surgery. I was discharged from the hospital after five days. Then I spent a week at my parents house recovering. Then, I went home. Two weeks after that I was working myself back to work.

Then when came time for chemotherapy I worked as much as I could. I had to travel 180 miles to take treatment. The weeks I had five days of treatment I stayed at my parents house. I helped feeding cows, and working on what ever I could. When I was home I was working.

I knew my limitations and when I needed to rest. Being stubborn, it was difficult for me.

Did some of this stuff too. I don’t think of it as downtime but as shifted priorities. There’s the cliche, A man’s got-a do what a man’s got to do. Healing is on this list as is using the space as I am able. …little to do with what “I want.”

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I find that pen and paper are actually really good for me when it comes to instrospection. Sit down with some blank paper and just start writing: 1. How am I doing; 2. What would I like to change; 3. How am I going to do that?


Wish there was a way to add my own quotes and stuff to an app like this.

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