During a Break between sessions at a conference for CME professionals, I went into the networking area, eager to talk with other attendees. But everyone I approached was either talking on a cell phone, working on a laptop, or both. Feeling frustrated and deflated, I began to think about how technology, while bringing tremendous advantages to our lives, was in this case impeding one of the most important aspects of meetings — the opportunity to benefit from the perspectives and insights of colleagues.

I brought up my concern at a roundtable for corporate meeting planners that Medical Meetings and its sister magazines convened in Cambridge, Mass. One of the participants said her company has implemented a policy for internal conferences: Anyone who is caught with their BlackBerry in their hand or whose cell phone rings during the meeting is fined $5. Interesting idea. I wonder if establishing cell-phone-free zones in conference break areas would encourage people to share ideas, experiences, and feelings — in other words, reflect with each other.

In CME, reflection is viewed as a valuable addition to programming. CME researchers observe that through individual and team reflection, physicians transform knowledge into action, find solutions for complex issues, and visualize new realities. To incorporate reflection into courses, educators encourage participants to keep journals, and include “stop and think” breaks where they jot down ideas. In her article “Using Reflective Learning to Improve the Impact of Short Courses and Workshops,” which appeared in the Winter 2004 edition of the Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions, researcher Jennifer Moon, PhD, commented that she knew from experience that one of the hardest things to do as a facilitator was to “stop and let there be silence.”

I think this is also one of the hardest things for people to do in their daily lives. Our society places enormous emphasis on being visibly busy. But reflection is as important for any of us as it is for healthcare professionals. The CME community is wrestling with complicated ethical questions. We are not going to figure out how to better manage relationships between pharmaceutical companies and providers while checking e-mail, talking on the phone, and surfing the Web simultaneously. Working through those kinds of issues takes wisdom and the ability to imagine completely new approaches. Consider the term we use in CME to describe the most respected physicians: thought leaders. The phrase itself is a recognition of the value of reflection.

Reflection allows people the space and time to discover their creativity. It is often during my lunch hour or while “doing nothing” after work that I come up with everything from a better way to edit an article to an idea for a new project. Problems that seem insurmountable have become manageable after even a five-minute walk.

As you plan your goals for the coming year, I encourage you to add one more: Take time to reflect. Whether you do your best thinking while you work out, write in a journal, or lie on the couch with your eyes closed, treat that time with respect. Let there be silence. You'll find it's worth it.