Ever since I was about 16 years old, I have had a dream: complete a "Think Week."
I had a vivid picture in my mind that went something like... 1) go to California, 2) stay in a hotel room for a week, 3) spend all day meditating and 4) come out the other side with all the secrets of the universe.
I had moments when I had almost planned this week, but ultimately decided not to.
After spending this week doing exactly (well, not exactly) the above, I know that postponing was a huge mistake.
This is the story of my first think week:
For the past few months, I have been feeling quite "bleh" about my career. I have been making incredible money (for me) doing something that allows me a lot of freedom, but there was something missing.
I knew it was time for my first think week.
I originally got this idea from Bill Gates, who does a Think Week every year to think about the bigger picture of his company, technology, etc. He goes to a cabin with no cell service and spends all of his time reading articles and has a servant...ahem I mean maid bring him meals 3x a day.
I knew the purpose of my think week would be a bit different, but loved the idea of being unreachable for a week.
I scheduled the trip, let my team and clients know, set my email bounceback, and went for it!
The location? Edinburgh, Scotland.
I honestly can't think of a better place to have done this. The city is so beautiful, and the travel was simple from London.
What I Did
- Spent a lot of time journaling and processing past events.
- Went on long walks (One happened to be 26.2 miles)
- Read the entire Book of Mormon in a day
- Copied old journals into my computer
- Organized and cleaned up all of my digital files
- Started creating a "Second Brain" for myself (A database of personal knowledge)
- Sorted through old pictures and information on my phone
- Watched a Couple Movies
- Took my time eating
What I didn't do
- Read. Instead, I organized.
- Work. Goes without saying
- Produce New Content. Instead, I sorted things that would make this easier in the future.
- Try to Plan my whole life out. Instead, I looked back and tried to be present. This was huge for me.
- Set an Alarm. I wanted to sleep for as long as my body needed. I only took one nap.
Overall, my goal was to cultivate enough stillness to have some important breakthroughs.
For those interested, here is the play by play;
THINGS I REFERENCE IN THE PLAY BY PLAY
- List of 100 Life Goals - A list of 100 things I would like to do before I die. It's got everything from Skydive to make $1 Million in a day. It's not done yet.
- Roam - A note taking tool for networked thought.
- Why/Why/Why Method - Looking at the problem at hand, and then asking yourself "why" enough times until you find the answer.
Ok, now here's the play by play:
1 Week Before
Notify team and clients I’ll be gone, get pending projects wrapped up.
Delete all messaging + Social Apps
Set Email Bounceback
Day 1 (Friday)
6:45: Arrive at King's Cross Station early (because I need a bike pass for the train)
7:10: Work on my list of 100 life goals
7:30: Breakfast at the station: 2 cookies, a muffin, and miso soup. Not my best life decision.
7:50: Small walk and listen to Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday
8:10 Board Train
8:30: Train Leaves for Edinburgh
8:30: Remember 3 loose ends I left for work. Send messages for 2, ignore 1.
8:50: Successfully reduce my Macbook storage to about 50%. Rename videos that need to be renamed, delete lots of things.
9:30 Scripture Study
11:00 Start using Roam and do a little bit of journaling
11:45 Revisit 100 Life Goals, this is getting interesting. Looking at how long it takes to swim the english channel, hike K2, etc.
1:15 Arrive in Edinburgh. Walking out of the station I am COMPLETELY STUNNED by the city. It is beautiful.
1:20 Impromptu Bike Ride through the city, since my hotel won't check me in until 2pm. I ride past a place called "The Elephant House" that looks good for lunch. Turns out it is the birthplace of Harry Potter.
1:45 Lunch. Don't quite have the guts to go for the Scottish pigs guts thing just yet, so I get a chicken wrap.
2:15 Arrive at the Hotel
2:20 Unpack, shave, take a bath, turn off iMessage and put phone on airplane mode.
3:45 Run - 8 miles through the city
5:30 Return from run
6:15 Watch Part of the Peak Performance Program - a health course I'm enrolled in.
7:00 Church Meeting - After this meeting I was officially unreachable.
8:00 Venture out for dinner. End up getting pizza at a bar.
9:00 Wind down by finishing this play-by-play and planning tomorrow.
Day 2: Saturday
6:45 Wake Up
7:10 Pray and try to wake up
7:30 Scripture Study
8:15 Breakfast - Traditional english from the hotel restaurant. The Black Pudding was amazing!
8:55 Short Walk
9:15 Start Fasting
9:20 Copy my Patriarchal Blessing to Roam
10:40 Super tired... I think I'll take a nap
12:30 Wow... I needed that nap!
12:35 Journaling. Looking into reapplying to college at BYU
2:30 Continue Journaling - do the why/why/why method
4:30 Leave to go on a walk - hike Arthur's seat.
6:30 Return from walk, Bath, watch the minimalism documentary
7:20 Finish Documentary
7:50 Clean Computer Files
9:50 Finish Computer Files - COMPLETELY FINISHED (Kind of - feels really nice to only have the essentials in there though. I have a mental inventory of everything that is in my computer now)
10:00 Prayer, bed
Day 3: Sunday
6:30am Wake up, Meditation
6:45 Short Walk
7:00am Bill two clients I forgot to bill yesterday
7:05 Begin Reading the Book of Mormon
3:51 Finish Reading the Book of Mormon (Finished the whole thing!)
4:00 Journal and copy old journals into Roam
6:00 Leave for a Walk
7:00 Come home
7:00 Journaling/Processing Trauma
9:45 Another shower
Day 4: Monday
7:15 Wake Up
7:20 Meditate - Had a MAJOR breakthrough during this meditation session.
7:40 Prayer and Scripture Study - Learning more about my OCD and looking for scriptures on it
8:40 Short walk to the store for breakfast
9:10 Breakfast - Cottage cheese, honey, pineapple, a red pepper, and an english scone
9:50 Walk again
12:00 Watch Crimes of Grindelwald - I hit a roadblock in my processing above and needed a mental break.
2:00 Lunch - More cottage cheese and pineapple as well as a porridge on the go bar and a snickers
2:40 Watch Effortless Output in Roam Course by Nat Eliason
3:30 Start Transferring old Journals to Roam
6:20 Leave for dinner - Fajita salad at an overpriced Mexican Place
7:10 Try to locate a store with floss. No luck.
7:50 Return from floss hunt, while I was walking today I had the thought of trying a really long walk at some point this week. Read some articles on this topic.
9:05 More Journal Copying
10:17 Plan tomorrow, pray, go to bed
Day 5: Tuesday
7:08 Wake Up
8:00 Scripture Study
8:40 Go to the store to get breakfast
9:35 Head to Edinburgh Castle for a tour
11:00 Come Back, Work on transferring journals
3:30 Transfer journals again, organizing Google Drive
6:00 Bike ride to Portobello (Neighboring city)
6:45 Dinner - Chinese Takeout at Portobello Beach
8:00 Return home, look into potentially going to Loch Lomond tomorrow. Have a bone rattling realization about work. This was the defining moment of the week.
Day 6: Wednesday
6:45 Wake up
7:15 Scripture Study
8:00 Leave to get breakfast
8:35 Breakfast - Muesli, Yogurt, a Red Pepper and an English Scone
9:10 Leave to start the Marathon
6:00 Return from Marathon
7:40 Watch National Treasure
Day 7: Thursday
8:15 Wake Up
8:20 Meditate + Shower
9:15 Breakfast - Traditional Scottish at a Cafe
10:45 Come Back from Breakfast, Scripture Study
11:30 Some Journaling
12:30 Cleaning up pictures/files on my phone
2:30 Lunch - Burrito and some Scottish Ice Cream
4:00 Google Drive Organization
6:00 Phone Organization
8:00 More Phone + Personal Knowledge Management Organization
Day 8: Friday
7:35 Wake Up
8:00 Breakfast - Muesli, Cookies, Sugar Snap Peas and Yogurt
9:06 Scripture Study
9:45 Work on organizing my workflow for writing blog posts and making YouTube videos
11:00 Clean Up Pictures on My Phone
1:45 Return from lunch, write postcards to family and some close friends
2:20 Tidy up a bit
2:30 Reflect on the week
3:30 Shower, Pack to leave tomorrow
4:20 Start looking at messages again + working
Overall, I was really pleased by the pace I took things at. It was just enough leisure to feel like a vacation, but plenty of the right activities that helped me feel like I achieved the purpose of the trip.
What I learned
- Looking forward too much is a thief of joy. It was extremely enjoyable (and productive) to look back. Being present is huge too.
- Organization is highly underrated. This will be a major priority of mine moving forward
- I have religious OCD. It has been a silent guiding hand in my life since my early teens and its robbing me of a lot of happiness.
- I do want a personal brand. I have been scared of potential repercussions with this, but this trip clarified that it was fear, not reality holding me back.
12 Things I'm going to do (or do differently)
1. I'm going to see a counselor about religious OCD and get some tools to work with myself and create a healthier relationship with God.
2. I'm going to post regularly on my YouTube channel. I don't know exactly what this will bring, but I know I care about getting important messages in front of people that need them, and this is the best way I see to do that right now.
3. I'm going to time 2-3 of my meals every day and do absolutely nothing but eat during them for as long as it takes to feel like food isn't a coping mechanism anymore.
4. I'm going to do a think week like this every year. I can't believe it took me this long to do my first one.
5. I'm going to stop worrying about if everything I do is God's will, and just choose what makes me happy.
6. I'm going to get more sleep. No more morning alarms for the time being.
7. I'm going to worry about others more. At the end of the day, I have a really good life and I've set myself up for success quite well. I want to focus on blessing others instead of so much on myself.
8. I'm going to write thank you notes to people from my childhood. Going through my old Journals brought people to mind I haven't thought about in years who deserve to hear their impact on me.
9. I'm going to look at essentialism differently. I realized on this trip that the businesses I choose to work on don't have to be an all-or-nothing proposition: I can keep the money coming in and keep learning from my Marketing Agency, but have an enjoyable creative outlet in my blog/YouTube channel at the same time. At the end of the day, that creative outlet is truly essential for me - and the lessons I'm learning in the marketing agency will make for great content in my personal brand.
10. I'm going to continue with my Personal Knowledge Management journey. I've always been so frustrated about everything floating around in my head and files, but no way to organize them into something that I didn't give up on soon after. Roam is INCREDIBLE and I'm already gaining so much from using it.
11. I'm going to stay off Social Media for a long time. I need a break from Instagram especially.
12. I'm going to practice being unavailable more often. This was so liberating.
Should you do a think week?
Everyone I have talked to after coming home has said "Wow that sounds so nice, I wish I could do that."
I think the biggest thing I learned from unplugging was that you don't need to do it for a whole week to get important things done.
You may not be able to do a think week right away, but you could do a think day, or a think weekend, or even a think evening.
And you can plan think week for some point in the future - please don't tell yourself you can't. It's probably exactly what you need.