November 18, 2023

Issue #16 - Solving Problems

Recently I was filling out some annoying tax documents. Those who aren’t accountants know how complicated these are to understand. I couldn’t figure out either two of them the first time around, but I did end up getting both done on the second sit down!

This little occurrence reminded me of a simple yet overlooked problem solving habit. One that everyone knows but ignores when push comes to shove…

Walk away from the problem and come back to it.


Sleep on it.

I think part of our reluctancy to let a problem simmer comes from always being connected, “you have no excuse to not solve the problem NOW.” I think part of it also comes down to our hustle culture.

Anywho, I think there is one thing that should be specified:

You should walk away for at least the time it takes for the problem to clear your conscious mind. In other words leave the problem until you stop thinking about it.

When you do this your unconscious mind knows that eventually you’ll be returning to the problem and it begins to work out solutions in the background.

You have probably noticed this phenomenon before. I know I have. Whether it be on a boulder problem I was working on, a guitar chord progression/strumming pattern, or my bench press.

Or…tax documents.

I have left a session defeated and frankly sometimes annoyed, only to come back later and crush the problem with ease.

“But I can’t ignore the problem, I’ll get stressed, and it won’t leave my mind.”

This is common argument, a very fair one, one I understand completely.

There are some problems we can’t walk away from mentally, due to a time crunch, or because of where it lays on our personal value hierarchy.

However, understand this; many problems are more lenient than you think and don’t have to be solved the instant they arise.

Those tax documents were very important, if I didn’t want to get into a bunch of trouble with my finances. And although money is not super high on my value tree, the freedom it gives is. Despite this I was able to take a day, forget about the documents, and come back to them.

Secondly, if you have trouble walking away mentally. You have a focus problem. You’re not letting go of the problem which is affecting your ability to focus on the present.

Practice letting go and train your focus through tools such as:

  • Meditation

  • Journaling

  • Visualization

  • Breathwork

I’ll give you two meditations I enjoy for increasing my focus:

Counting Breaths:

This is exactly like a mindful breathing meditation. In which you focus on each inhale and exhale and the sensations of the breath throughout the body.

The difference is you’re going to add counting. Count each breath; one inhale and one exhale counting as a singular breath.

Let’s start with 10 breaths.

The goal being to count up to10 then to count back down from 10 to 0.

Do this all without losing track of your count, if you lose track restart.

Staring Meditation:

This meditation is exactly as it sounds. You stare at an object of your choice.

I prefer a small lit candle or a beautiful flower.

Bring your awareness to the characteristics of the object you chose, notice things about it, describe it to yourself.

If your watching a candle look at the colour of the wick versus the tip of the flame or the way the flame flaps with the wind.

Find out how long you can comfortably do this without wanting to get up and leave then add 2 minutes.

If you’ve never done anything like this before, 20 seconds in you’ll likely want to do something else. In this case push yourself to 2 minutes.

Thanks for reading!

That’s all I have for you guys today.

I hope it gave you at least a nugget of value!

If so may I ask a favour in that you share it with others in the hopes that they’ll gain something as well.