This morning I asked for a writing prompt and my friend Seth Clifford obliged:

Filtering out the world when you need to think then prioritizing your thoughts… or cookies.

I don’t know, Seth; I really don’t. There’s alchemy involved. What magic goes into what I think about? Why is it that I can do some things immediately and other things slog for weeks?

An example: I’m going camping with my kids really soon and I haven’t planned it nearly enough. I’m going with a group and I’m leaning heavily on some of the other dads to do a bunch of the cognitive work, but I still need to do some myself.

I’ve had a task in OmniFocus to do this planning for what feels like two weeks but has probably been closer to a month. I’ve only done the barest of bones of planning. During last week’s weekly review, I even changed the next action to “Spend 30 minutes outlining plans for what I need to do for this camping trip”. While the OmniOutliner document does exist for this, I’ve yet to spend 30 straight minutes working on it. I’ve added to it here and there, but not in any way that makes me feel like I’ve made progress.

This isn’t entirely fair to myself, I have made some progress. But, the idea that I’d shut out the world and spend 30 minutes thinking about only one thing just hasn’t happened.

What has happened is:

  • I played Battleships
  • I changed how I receive iOS notifications on my iPad
  • I asked for the writing prompt that’s resulting in this writing

Last night my wife Kat asked me what my plans were for the trip. Fortunately, my months of work at Cognitive Behavioral Therapy gave me the emotional skills to say “I’m really stressed about it. I’ve had a task to plan this for weeks but I haven’t finished yet. I have to do it tomorrow, but now I’m tired and can’t think about it”. (Kat just wanted to help: to receive directions on how she could guide our daughters to prepare themselves when she’s with them and I’m not. She’s pretty great.)

So to come back to your question, Seth, what’ll probably happen is I’ll finish writing this, do a little bit of work for my job, have a relaxing lunch with my friends, and later this afternoon start to feel stress around my lack of plans. But, then I’ll reflect back on this post and turn that nugget of stress into the peace needed to focus on this one thing and get it off my brain forever.

Turns out™ what I need in order to successfully filter out the world is to first get it all out of my head and talk about my feelings with other humans, to feel the peaceful seclusion that can only come with knowing I’m not alone.

And Oreos are delicious.