Let me paint you a picture. But not a real picture – that’s for the art section. No, a picture in your mind. A brain, a tangled web of thoughts and goals, ideas and memories, to-do lists, phone numbers, names, faces, and the plethora of things you need to remember for work tomorrow. I’m exhausted just thinking about all the things we need to know, aren’t you? Well, here’s a tool that can help – a brain dump.
No, I’m not talking about the website that sells you test questions. Although it shares a name, that’s just a brand that supposedly helps you with test prep. This post isn’t about getting any IT certifications. It’s about clearing your mind of unwanted clutter so you can be the best version of yourself. It’s about dumping the information from your brain so you can deal with it on your own terms.
What is a Brain Dump?
A brain dump is a system of letting all of your thoughts, feelings, and ideas flow out of your brain and into someplace else. It helps you untangle and organize those webs that cause anxiety, brain fog, and the feeling that you can’t possibly think about anything else.
During a brain dump, you just let everything go. You don’t have to be organized in your dump, and you shouldn’t hold anything back. It’s a process of freely recording everything you have in your mind.
What is the Purpose of Brain Dumping?
We are so freaking busy all the time. We have to manage full-time jobs, families, home life, and so much more. It’s impossible to remember every little detail that we are supposed to remember. No wonder most people feel overwhelmed and stressed out all the time. We have too much on our plates.
Brain dumping helps with this. The purpose of a brain dump is to clear your mind. Recording all of your thoughts and feelings someplace else permits you to get it out of your brain, to stop thinking about it. The entire process also helps you determine which thoughts, feelings, and ideas are important and which ones you can let go of.
How Do You Do a Brain Dump?
Completing a brain dump is straightforward. My favorite method is journaling. I grab my favorite journal and start writing. I let all of my thoughts and ideas and the things I have to do flow through me and onto the paper. When I’m done, I pick out the important things and organize them into easily digestible segments.
There are multiple ways to do a brain dump, though some are more organized than others, and some are based on the different ways people learn and process information. Many people find that brain dumping into a to-do list is an easy way to keep their daily tasks organized, while others prefer to use a planner or calendar. Visual learners might prefer to use a mind map to keep all their ideas organized.
There is no right or wrong way to do a brain dump. Everyone is different, and the method that works for you is the method that you should use.
How Do You Untangle Your Mind?
The entire point of a brain dump is to clear your mind. It helps you get your thoughts on paper so that you don’t have to worry about remembering them. Once you get everything on paper, you can pick out what is important and develop an action plan to focus on just those things.
However, some people don’t get much benefit from brain dumping. They prefer to untangle their minds with mediation or exercise. Everyone is different, and it’s okay to go with what works for you. Try a few different methods and stick with whatever works best.
It’s also important to mention that all of the productivity tools and resources in the world may not help in all cases. Some people are mentally ill, and others are so stressed out that writing stuff down isn’t going to help. If this describes you – please note that it’s okay! It’s okay to be struggling, and it’s okay to need professional help. A brain dump isn’t a magic pill. It’s one of many different tools, and it may help, but it may not.
Tools for Completing Your Brain Dump
Once you’ve decided to try a brain dump, you need some tools of the trade! Don’t worry; it’s nothing fancy. All you really need is something to write with and something to write on – the good ole pen and paper method. But if you really want to get into it, getting the right “something” is ideal.
I like to dump everything from my brain right into a journal freestyle. I write down everything, from my thoughts and feelings to my ideas and goals. Then, I write myself reminders and have little task lists in the margins. There’s no rhyme or reason to the order of what I write; it just gets written down as it enters my mind.
Once it’s all out, I start to prioritize my daily tasks, look at any deadlines I have looming, and organize my brain dump. I look for actionable things and move those over to a to-do list, and I ignore the stuff that isn’t important at the time.
One thing that really helps me keep these brain dump thoughts organized is using colored pens. I use blues and pinks, purples, and greens, and these fun colors help me keep track of different types of ideas and thoughts. It also keeps my journal colorful and fun!
My fun pens also make it easier to go over my journal pages and pick out important pieces of information.
A planner can be an amazing brain-dumping tool for those who are more organized than I am. The best planners include space to write out reminders and task lists, and you can use the calendar feature to keep track of deadlines and due dates.
There are two amazing planners on the market, and either would be ideal for helping you with your brain dump and planning needs.
First is the all-in-one planner from Ivory Planner. This amazing tool has daily, weekly, and monthly planning sections. This can help you prioritize your immediate needs and also plan out your longer-term goals.
The second is the Best Planner Ever. The cool thing about this planner is that it includes a vision board, goal tracker, and focus wheel. These visual tools can really help visual learners focus on their own productivity.
Brain Dump Worksheet
If you don’t want to buy a new planner or journal for your brain dumping needs, I have the perfect tool for you. It’s a free brain dump worksheet bundle!
This bundle includes five different brain dumping worksheets, each designed for different types of dumps and different types of people. There’s a page that’s designed as a mind map for the most visual learners and a freestyle page for those who just want to get all their thoughts out. There’s also a checklist for those who enjoy lists and two pages designed to guide you towards certain thoughts and ideas.
You can get this entire bundle for free! Give it a try and see if brain dumping can help you reduce stress and get more done.
There are a bunch of productivity apps that you can use as a brain dumping tool as well. My favorite (really because it’s the only one I’ve used) is Trello. You can create multiple boards with Trello that will allow you to organize your thoughts and ideas. It’s more of a project management app, but it can be used for brain dumping as well.
Toodledo, TickTick, and Workflowy are all organization apps that allow you to make lists, manage tasks, and take notes. Wunderlist used to be the go-to app for this, but it’s been replaced by Microsoft’s ToDo. Each of these has its strengths and weaknesses, but they can all help you complete your brain dump if you’d prefer to have it online than on paper.
Brain Dumping Can Help Increase Productivity
Ultimately, brain dumping is a tool that can help boost your productivity. Emptying your mind of everything and then focusing on essential tasks can help you prioritize and prevent procrastination. There are a plethora of other tools available to help increase your productivity. These might include time management processes like the Pomodoro method (which is where you set a timer and work on a specific task for a set amount of time) and other time management apps or tools. These are all items that you can include in your toolkit to help increase your productivity, manage your time, reduce stress, and clear your mind.
These different tools can be used to help get stuff done, which will ultimately help you be happier in your personal and professional life. A brain dump can be a big help with that. If you haven’t tried it yet, give it a chance. You might be surprised at how refreshed you feel after getting it all out.
This post originally appeared on Partners in Fire and was republished with permission.