It never fails. I lay my head down on the pillow ready to drift to sleep. But my mind won’t shut off.
If you were to take a tour through my brain at this point, I imagine it would look like a circus and marching band competition all happening simultaneously. The elephant is doing cool tricks, and there’s a fascinating tight rope performance happening overhead. The marching band is moving in impressive formations and blaring their brass instruments. And a guy in the aisle beside you is yelling “Popcorn, peanuts, cotton candy!”. There are so many cool things happening that it’s difficult to know which direction to turn.
That’s how my brain feels sometimes. Does yours? All I want to do is turn off the noise and distractions so I can go to sleep or get some work done, but my mind is going a million miles a minute and the more I try to will it to turn off, the faster it starts spinning.
It’s important to know how to slow down those thoughts so we can get past the overwhelm. A good way to do this is by completing a brain dump. It helps declutter our minds so we can give ourselves space to think and dream. Brain dumps are also a great way to sort through thoughts on a project so we can figure out where to begin.
When your mind is on overdrive, you have probably noticed that it’s difficult to accomplish much of anything. Your brain is like an internet browser with 34 tabs open…you cannot focus because you are too busy bouncing from tab to tab with no clear direction. Writing things down is the best way to clear your mind of the mental chaos.
How To Brain Dump
To do a brain dump, all you need is a piece of paper and a writing utensil. Your goal is to write down absolutely everything that comes to mind. You want to focus on recording your thoughts without worrying about what to do with them. Just jot down every thought on paper. Don’t stress about it being messy, and don’t try to organize it. Write it all down on paper right now, and you will process it later.
Think of it like KonMari-ing your brain. The KonMari method of organizing tells you to take absolutely everything out of your closet before you start sorting through anything. That way you can see exactly what you have and can only put back what you’ll actually use. The rest gets tossed. The same goes for those thoughts and ideas inside your head. By getting them all out onto paper, you can see everything all at once and assess the best way to organize it all. And then you free up space in your mind for the task currently at hand.
I’ve started doing brain dumps before bed most evenings, and it has really helped me fall asleep faster. If I feel my mind racing with ideas or to-dos at the end of the day, I get everything out into a notebook before getting ready for bed. This helps me go to sleep with peace of mind knowing I’m not going to forget anything overnight.
I often brain dump during the day as well. I do so whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed and stressed, or when I have so many projects happening all at once that I feel myself struggling to focus on anything at all. Writing everything down gives me a chance to sort through all that mental clutter and make room in my brain for actual work.
Some of my brain dumps are a page of bullet points, others turn into several pages of mind maps and scribbles. It really doesn’t matter what your brain dump looks like, but it is important to write it down on paper so you can process it.
After The Brain Dump
Once you feel like everything in your mind has been transcribed onto paper, your brain can shift to organizing and problem solving mode. Take a look at your brain dump and start sorting through it. Look through the list and cross off anything that is irrelevant or doesn’t require action. Then transfer everything else onto your calendar or a to-do list.
I keep an ongoing master to-do list in Evernote (part of my daily to-do list process), so this is where most of the items from my brain dump get moved to. My master list is organized by categories, so it’s easy to sort things accordingly. Other items from the brain dump go straight to my calendar so I don’t forget them. And there are usually a few items that need to be added to my grocery/errand list, along with a couple things I can delegate. As I transfer each brain dump item to its appropriate list or calendar, I cross it off of my brain dump page.
If I’m feeling overwhelmed at work, I’ll do a brain dump right away in the morning and add those things to my to-do list. For my evening brain dumps, I usually dump everything into a pretty journal before bed and then sort through it the next morning when I can look at it with a fresh perspective.
Brain dumps have really helped me keep track of all of the to-dos and ideas floating around in my head. By getting them all out into a notebook, I don’t have to worry about forgetting any of them and I free up space in my mind to focus on the tasks I’m currently working on. Writing everything down also helps me process my ideas, and it safeguards me from forgetting things.
If you are feeling overwhelmed and not sure where to start on a project, or if your brain is running so fast your struggle to focus on anything, try doing a brain dump and see if it helps you get your thoughts in order.
Do you find brain dumps helpful in organizing your thoughts and clearing your mind?
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