We’ve all been there. We have all had that brilliant idea in the shower, sitting in traffic, or on the way to the most important meeting of the quarter. Then, we forget. Some of the most successful people keep a notepad, sketch pad, or bullet journal and do daily brain dumps to de-clutter their minds and increase their productivity.
There are a few ways to do a brain dump. Some people find it useful to do when they first wake up. Others perform this process in their car after work or as soon as they get home. For some people, it is the last thing they do before they go to bed. Whatever your process, just do it. It will change your life.
What Is a Brain Dump?
A brain dump is five quiet minutes you spend with yourself and put every task you need to complete on a piece of paper. Maybe you jot things down in different colors based on importance. Maybe you draw a chart. Allow it to be as organized or disorganized as suits you. There will be time to clean it up later. The bottom line is that taking a few minutes daily or weekly will ensure nothing slips through the cracks.
If you have any other thoughts cluttering your mind, write them down. You can’t stop thinking about how your roommate keeps all your utensils in his room. You are worried about your presentation at the office next week. You want to make homemade tortillas for your tacos next week. Get everything out, whether it is a full-fledged thought or a keyword.
We will discuss later step-by-step how to complete a brain dump, but what if you just can’t quiet your inner filter yet? Maybe when the timer starts, you can’t think of anything at all. That is okay. Create your categories first and allow them to jog your memory and inspire you like a trigger. If it is helpful, create a template to guide your future brain dumps. Once you get the creative juices flowing, you may come up with ideas or thoughts that do not fit into a particular category. This is great.
Take the time to figure out what works for you. Keep the results of your dump on your person at all times if possible. Keep it in a bullet journal in your purse or laptop case. Store it on the cloud, so you can access it anywhere you have your phone. See if typing it out works better for you, because you type much faster than you write. Or use the speech-to-text feature on your favorite note-taking app. Another rewarding way to de-clutter your mind is to write your ideas down on sticky notes and stick those notes to different pieces of copy paper for each category. As you complete each task, throw away the note.
How Does It Work
There are many ways to perform a brain dump, and the beauty of it is you can use whatever method is most effective for you. If you are the first to rise in your household and have a few minutes of peace and quiet, use those quiet, early morning hours to your advantage. If you need to accomplish what you can at work today before you know how to allocate your time tomorrow, try to perform a brain dump while you are still at work if you have to come home to loud kids.
Or, unwind with one when you come home from work. If you are a night owl, perform one right before you go to bed so you can calm and empty your mind right before bed. It does not matter what time you do it. Here are the steps.
1. Write It Out
As we discussed earlier, write everything down that comes to mind. It’s okay if they fall into separate categories like colors for your wedding invitations and what you want to eat tomorrow and nine financial goals you have and the ways you wish to achieve them. You get the picture.
Filter nothing in this stage of the process. Some people feel overwhelmed their first time. That’s okay, too. Set a timer for three minutes and do your best. You can do anything for three minutes, right? Do your best to filter nothing, but if you do, go easy on yourself.
2. Review and Organize It
Once your timer goes off, or you feel you are done with your brain dump, take a look at what you wrote. Organize it into categories in the notes section of your daily planner. Then, decide when each item needs to be completed. You are much more likely to get things done when they have a deadline. Seeing your thoughts in categories such as wedding, work, domestic chores, and household finances can help you delegate the tasks later on when you need help getting it all done.
3. Action Time
Now that you have prioritized everything in your brain, create an action plan for it. This can include scratching it off the list or deleting it. It is okay to say no for any reason. Maybe you can’t go to the bar tomorrow because your daughter has a dance recital. Maybe you put your Grand Canyon private helicopter tour with champagne on your dream board and give it no more thought for now.
4. Take a Break
Congratulations on completing the first four steps for your brain dump. Take a step back and let your mind focus on something else. Then, come back to your list, this time making sure you have all your ducks in a row. Circle everything you can accomplish today, such as writing a thank you note, responding to an e-mail, or grooming the dog. Then, get started. It will feel great when you can document your first achievement.
How to Increase Your Productivity Using the Brain Dump Method
The brain dump method improves your productivity by allowing you to see everything that needs to get done today, this weekend, or next week. When you write everything down, you are more likely to remember it; and if you forget, it is in your brainstorming journal to refer to. Otherwise, you can use notes, digital calendar reminders, or a significant other to remind you to complete your tasks.
Brain dumps are particularly useful for increasing your productivity because you can prioritize your resources. Look at everything you wrote down and write it down again in a more permanent place in order of importance. Start with the three things you need to accomplish today. Maybe you need to pay your mortgage, pick your kids up from soccer, and buy transmission fluid. Call this list something descriptive like “Top Priority”, “Must Do,” or “911.”
Continue organizing your brainstorming session in this manner until you get to the point that you can’t accomplish everything by yourself. By now, you probably have a list of things you want to get done today on top of your necessities, things to get done this week, things to get done next week, and things to get done later this month. Once you reach your point of overcapacity, delegate or eliminate the tasks you cannot complete by yourself.
Brain dumps are great motivational tools. Our brains cannot tell the difference between a dream and reality, so if you write down you will row 10 kilometers by 9 o’clock tonight, that is much more likely to happen. Plus, if there is room in your journal, you can add stickers next to your task list as each objective is met. This is a great way to visually track your progress and may make you want to complete more objectives more quickly.
Anxiety can be crippling. You don’t want to write your letter of resignation to your supervisor or boss, so you browse social media all night instead of doing the dishes and laundry and taking the recycling bin to the road. Your mood is also improved once you see all the progress you made.
Did you successfully cut your grocery bill by $45? Great! Did you finish your budget variance analysis for your CFO at work? Fantastic! Did you make pancakes from scratch for your family? Way to go! Taking little steps and crossing small things off your list is like lifting little weights off your chest. This leaves you reinvigorated, refreshed and ready to tackle those large projects with a renewed vigor.
Brain dumps are a great tool for everyone and ideal for de-cluttering your mind. You may schedule one daily or weekly, or do one when the moment strikes you. Do it before your cup of morning coffee, on your lunch break at work, or right before bed. Get all your ideas out of your head. You can use colored pens and sticky notes. You can use dry erase markers and a white board. You can even make a voice recording or use a speech-to-text app.
Whatever you do, get every idea out of your head so you can visualize it, organize it, prioritize it, and let your worries go. Accomplish what needs to get done today and delegate what you need help with. This tool will help you relax and keep you motivated to work even harder while showing you where you need help.