IN THIS POST: We’ll examine the process of how to do an effective brain dump for overwhelmed overthinkers to declutter your mind and increase your productivity. Get those swirling thoughts out of your head and in a place where you can make logical sense of them and create a productive goal setting action plan for each next best step. Plus, grab your own printable ‘brain dump page’ to print and use every day.
The term sounds kind of weird, doesn’t it? Say it out loud. ‘Brain dump.’ Actually, it sounds pretty gross.
You can pretty up the terminology if you want. Call it journaling. Or making a list. Or free writing.
I don’t really care what you call it. I just know it’s an amazing tool. So let’s discuss…
What is it?
Why is a regular brain dump perfect for overwhelmed overthinkers?
When is the best time to do a brain dump?
How do you actually DO a brain dump?
How can a brain dump help you be more productive?
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What Exactly IS a Brain Dump?
It’s exactly what the words imply… You’re literally dumping all the crap out of your mind.
Why would you want to do this?
Well, there are at least a couple of reasons:
1. When you’re an overthinker, and there’s SO much going on in your brain, you fall so deeply into your thoughts that you get lost in your own mind. You end up following endless rabbit trails of ‘what if’ and ‘but first I need to’ ways of thinking.
2. When you’re overwhelmed and trying to keep track of EVERYTHING in your head, it’s inevitable that something is going to slip through the cracks. You simply can’t handle the volume. You forget things. Which leads to missed appointments, not keeping to any sort of schedule, not eating regular meals, procrastinating… and on it goes.
Save yourself from these things. Do a brain dump regularly.
How often? At least once a week. But there’s nothing wrong with doing one every day. An evening brain dump is the perfect end to your daily routine…
Get your thoughts and tasks out where they’re visible and won’t get lost, and you’ll sleep so much better!
Okay, first — download and print a few copies of the Brain Dump Page. If you’re a Filling the Jars subscriber, you can get it from the Resource Library. If you’re not yet a subscriber, click here to sign up and a printable copy will be on the way to you in just a few minutes.
Make sure your writing instruments are ready. I always used to do brain dumps in pencil (the kind you have to sharpen!) until I recently got a set of Frixion erasable pens in COLORS. These pens have seriously changed everything. I can make lists in pen without worrying about ‘messing up’ — and then go back and make notes in different colors to highlight or group important items. In pen. In color. With no scribbles. (Picture me making heart eyes here.)
Grab some sticky notes. I can’t do much of anything in life without sticky notes. I made two of the boxes on the Brain Dump Page the right size to hold my favorite small sticky notes. I can make lists or single important reminders on these notes and then move them directly into my planner.
Now, turn off notifications on your phone and computer.
Find a quiet place if possible. It isn’t absolutely necessary to have complete quiet, but it’s nice to have 10 or 20 minutes to jot things down without being interrupted. Sometimes wearing headphones helps block the noise and signal ‘busy’ — even if you’re not actually listening to anything.
Set a timer for 10 minutes. If you have a LOT on your mind, you might have to set it again once it goes off the first time.
The Brain Dump Process
Write down every.single.thing. that is on your mind. Get your thoughts out as quickly as possible. It’s okay if your list is very long. Go two or three pages if you need to. Don’t hold back, write down EVERYTHING.
When the timer goes off and your brain feels better, you may or may not be done.
If your goal was just to get the stuff out of your head, congratulations! Now it’s all in one place and NOT swirling in your brain. Skip down a couple of paragraphs to the Lightbulb Thought.
If you feel like your list looks scrambled and overwhelming, that’s okay. It’s time to break things down.
Group your tasks by project or importance. Go ahead and use a fresh Brain Dump page for each area. You can also place tasks on existing master lists if you’ve already made them.
Once you’ve sorted your tasks, look at each page, one at a time. What important idea strikes you about each page? This is your ‘Lightbulb Thought.’ It might be a task you need to do RIGHT NOW. It may be a realization that you don’t actually want or need to do any of the things on that particular list. Write it down in the orange section.
The Lightbulb Thought on each page will help you refine your list and decide what task or area you need to focus on. This will help you be more productive — with a solid focus instead of spinning your wheels every day.
More Ways to Brain Dump
There are several variations on how to brain dump. Here are a few you may want to try.
I’ve done both digital and paper brain dumps. Honestly, they are both useful. If you have a strong preference for one or the other, do what works for you. But I would suggest you try both.
Sometimes digital works well when you’re making a big list of tasks. It’s so easy to copy/paste later into a separate and appropriate list. When I do a digital brain dump with a timer, I almost always use a spreadsheet. I love being able to duplicate or combine page tabs and add cells and columns to make nice lists.
If you need to get your thoughts out and you’re away from everything except your phone, open a note in Google Keep and make a checklist of ‘stuff.’ Later you can download the list to Google Drive and do whatever you want with it.
Still, there’s a lot to be said about the action of writing with pen and paper. The tactile feel, the flow of the writing instrument, the ability to lay out all of your pages and see everything at once… oh, it makes my heart go all pitter-patter. I’m mostly a paper girl, in case you hadn’t noticed. 😉
Sometimes I’ll do a brain dump on a lined notebook paper if that’s what’s available. Or a blank piece of copy paper. The blank paper is fun because you can put one main topic in the middle and branch out from there with different subjects or sub-points. Plus you can make everything different colors if you use those Frixion pens. 🙂
Sticky Note Dump
Another fun way to do a brain dump is with a large whiteboard or wall area and a bunch of 3×3 sticky notes. Write each thought on a sticky note and place it on the wall. When you’re done, go back and group your notes either by type of task or importance.
If you don’t have a whiteboard or wall area, you can also do the same thing with smaller sticky notes on a table or desk. Group your notes by sticking them on plain white pieces of paper.
With the sticky note method, when you finish a task, just throw the note away.
I would love to hear how brain dumping works for you! Feel free to email me at [email protected]
For more tips and steps to focus on your important projects, read “The ONE FOCUS Method.” This quick-read book will kick up your motivation to make REAL progress on MAJOR goals in as little as two weeks. Available here: www.fillingthejars.com/one-focus-kindle
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