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The COVID-19 learning curve: What do I learn from this unprecedented experience and what do I want to do with it?

Olivier Herold

22 April 2020

All of us are experiencing a significant upheaval of our ‘normal’ ways of being and doing – working from home, educating our children, wearing a mask to go shopping, stepping outside to bang pans and shout our support for health workers struggling to save lives. And for many of us, the pace has slowed as we are required by the situation to abandon many routines. So, how can we take advantage of this extraordinary moment in our lives, to try to build some simple survival mechanisms and create opportunities to energise – both ourselves and others?

One really effective method for me is ‘reflective journalling’. Reflective practice just means thinking about and deeply challenging our own beliefs, assumptions and current ways of being and working as a leader. It is a systematic reviewing process which allows us to make links from one experience to the next, enabling maximum progress in development. In the current situation, it is a powerful way to give ourselves space to understand what we need to do and learn rapidly and deeply from each experience we have. The need for resilience and resourcefulness right now makes this more important than ever.

Over the past weeks, my reflective practice has focused on managing a crisis while at the same time building next steps for the future post Covid-19.


So, how has this been helpful to me?

  • Allowing me to think about my own leadership and how I can enhance it as we find our way in these unprecedented experiences
  • Avoiding stagnation and keep growing by giving myself time to think about my experiences
  • Understanding and acting on real time insights into how I’m impacting those around me at this time of massive disruption
  • Becoming more open to new ways of thinking and better adapted to handling uncertain and volatile situations

I have included at the end of this article, some thoughts on questions to reflect on, and how to journal your thoughts in an effective way.
During the Covid-19 crisis, making changes to our lives is probably relatively easy: for a start we have no choice, secondly it’s much easier to change when everyone else is changing, and thirdly, we probably have a belief that it’s for a defined period of time and then maybe we can get back to ‘normal’. But what is ‘normal’ – or more accurately ‘the new normal’? For me, it’s the embedding of one-off practice so that it becomes a habit: we chose to work from home whenever we reasonably can, we take a very active part in the education of our children, we show respect for others when we are queuing at the supermarket check-out, we show huge appreciation for all those health and other workers who allow us to enjoy our daily lives.
I hope that you can join me and others in learning from this very challenging time, and growing habits which will serve you, your family and friends, your organisations and humanity, as we move forward.
My very best wishes,

Olivier Herold

Questions to reflect on: 

  • What happened that most surprised you?
  • What patterns do you recognise in this experience?
  • What were the most / least fulfilling parts of it for you?
  • What happened that contradicted / confirmed your previous beliefs / assumptions?
  • How do you feel about the experience now?
  • What does this suggest to you about your strengths and where you need to grow / change?
  • How else could you view this experience?
  • What did you learn from the experiences and how did you react to them?
  • What other options did you have?
  • What might you do differently from now on as a result of your reflections on this experience / today / this week?
  • What actions will you now take as a result of your reflections? 


How to conduct effective journalling

  • Keep a journal (laptop or notebook), journalling for a few minutes at the end of each day and for a short time at the end of each week.
  • Using voice recorder on phone or a personal vlog if I don’t feel like writing. 
  • Use walking time as a reflective space, not listening to music as I walk, just allowing the space to think.
  • Joining in a short session with the team each week to allow sharing of any learning from reflective practice
  • Connecting my reflective practice with any feedback I get – ‘joining the dots’