The 30 Day Mental Cleanse

by Dan Walsh


Like a time capsule for my sanity.

Once again I find myself in a position with far too many demands on my time and attention. It’s my own fault. I put myself here. After years of blissful productivity on a few focused projects, I forgot my lesson and started piling them on again.


I have one giant project that must succeed. If I am realistic with myself, this project will consume me. It will require more than 100% of my efforts. Yet I have over a dozen projects that are in various stages of completion. Some are simply ideas that steal attention and thought cycles. Others have much of my time and money invested in them already. I don’t want to, but I must break ties with these projects.

But how?

How do I move on without feeling like I’ve wasted time and money? If I stop thinking about a project – stop relentlessly adding it to my weekly to do list – I might forget about them. If I forget, then my previous efforts feel like a waste. There’s an opportunity loss as well as a resource loss. It is this fear of waste – of missed opportunities – that makes it hard to let go.

Yet, I must close the open loops if want to move forward.

I’m going to use a shoebox.

That’s right. A shoebox. Like a smoker trying to kick the habit, I need to remove all reminders of the undesirable habit. There are physical reminders of my projects strewn about the loft. I’m putting all these bits and pieces into a shoebox so I can tuck them away in my closet.

I’m also storing nascient project ideas in the shoebox. Anything that is a floating idea gets written on a notecard and tossed in the box. Each notecard is a single idea. This way I can get them out of my head with very little investment. I tried doing something similar with Evernote, but the ideas felt like they were getting lost. By putting them on cards and storing them in a box in my closet, I will know exactly where all my “good ideas” exist and I won’t have to worry about losing them. In essence, I’m using the human brain’s natural propensity to remember concrete locations better than abstract ideas. It’s like a reverse Loci Method. My brain will also be freed from the task of remembering to remember these ideas, which, let’s be honest, is a huge waste of mental energy.

My shoebox so far.

My shoebox so far.

Projects Going Into the Shoebox

Every project that isn’t this blog or the GIANT (undisclosed) project is going into the shoebox (including all the excuses to keep them OUT of the shoebox). These includes the coffee siphon prototype (it’s so close to a patent!), Tangents & Distractions (but it’s a great site!), a book about Kickstarter marketing, listing my WordPress plugins for sale on Envato (but the passive income!), a bathroom innovation (which might be my best invention to date), an app called Ketosiz, and a whole slew of other things.

Small Commitments, 30 Days

This shoebox is a new system for me. It’s an experiment. There will be growing pains so I have to commit myself to at least 30 days on a strict mental regiment. I’m giving myself permission to forget about them for a month. I can reassess the shoebox method when the test is over.

The only way I could convince myself to stop worrying about these project was to agree that the arrangement was only temporary. I’m not ending these projects. It would be too painful to end them. I’m just laying off for awhile, which isn’t really much of a sacrifice. I’m just taking a break.

Negotiating with oneself is an odd feeling.

I’ll post again on this topic 30 days from now!