Emerge and Spread Your Wings

The Art of Brain Dumping

I’ve recently been reminded of the value of the brain dump: the art (or science) of writing down everything that is filling your thoughts at one time with the purpose of unloading willy-nilly – before you prioritise, before you delegate, or let stuff go – like verbal purging.
You know the scenario – you are already having a busy day, your To Do list feels unending, you’ve not even had lunch yet and it’s 2 pm, and then as you are about to walk out the door the phone rings and another task lands on your plate…..

If you are feeling anxious you are going to drop one or more of the balls you are juggling, you’re having trouble getting off to sleep, or waking in the early hours with thoughts going round and round in your head, this tool is for you.

How to Brain Dump?

This is a highly sophisticated method:

  1.  get a piece of paper or your diary or journal
  2.  get a pen/pencil
  3.  write down everything you are thinking about including what needs to be done, what you want to remember to do, who needs what, what’s bothering you, bills to pay, birthdays, phone calls, etc
  4.  write down more – completely unload. Don’t try to come up with solutions yet
  5.  rinse, repeat.

Then What?

Sometimes after dumping I can feel much clearer and able to just get on with my day knowing I have considered everything. Mostly, however, I feel the need to organise the “stuff” into a more manageable and less overwhelming state.

  • Block tasks – make lists of all the emails and phone calls to make. Put that list into your diary/planner. List all the bills or similar tasks.
  • Create other groups – I have kid stuff, house stuff, holiday stuff, business stuff, etc and then put them onto my master to do list for the week.
  • Prioritise – identify your MIT’s (Most Important Tasks) for the day/week and write them into your diary/journal.
  • Look at what is left – can the task be delegated/left or done quite quickly to get it out of your mind? Maybe set the timer for 20 mins and get through as many of the quick and easy task so they don’t drag on.

How Can a Brain Dump Help?

  •  before bed, to help racing thoughts. For those early morning worry sessions keep a pen and paper beside the bed to dump onto.
  •  before weekly planning to get everything out before trying to make a plan.
  •  group brain-dumping – use a brain dump at the beginning of a group planning session to unload – everyone gets a chance to be heard without judgment.
  •  to gain perspective – often little things left to percolate in a busy brain turn into big things (not coffee).
  •  you can choose to pick up only the stuff that is important – some of it might be other peoples’s stuff.
  •  you can be proactive – make your own choices about what is urgent and what can wait.
  •  getting clear on your FROGS – untangle the why behind the tasks you are procrastinating on. See this blog post for Eating Frogs
  • the result is a clearer mental state, so that you are in a better place to tackle what ever you have next.

Use brain dumping as a regular tool to help with your planning, stress management and well-being. Happy dumping…