Post Updated on May 14, 2020
Picture this. You start the day with a freakishly long to-do list and you don’t know where to start first. You spend an hour trying to decide what to work on and soon you’re way behind with your schedule and don’t know how you’re going to get it all done. Maybe it wasn’t so hard to picture that because it already happens on a daily basis ?
If that’s the case, the brain dump is going to be your new best friend. Ah, a brain dump. Sounds pretty, doesn’t it? Brooke Castillo calls it a brain download which I have to admit sounds a little fancier. No matter what you call it, getting your thoughts out of your head can do a world of good for your mental well-being.
Brain dumps are essential for mental clarity. With a clear mind, you can be intentional with your day without distractions or brain fog getting in the way. Think of a brain dump like a reset button for your mind.
In this post, I’m sharing the brain dump method I use to declutter my mind and organize my to-do list. If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed and indecisive, give this 10-minute brain dump method a try.
What Is A Brain Dump?
A brain dump is a strategic way to get random ideas, tasks, worries, and dreams out of your head.
I’m sure you have separate to-do lists for different areas of your life such as work, home, finances, family, etc. A brain dump helps you to clear the clutter from those different areas so you can a) get things done and b) stop worrying about things that aren’t important.
A brain dump starts by writing a list in no particular order. You write down whatever comes to mind without filtering yourself. Then you organize your list by priority so you know what to work on first.
How often you do this is completely up to you. I write a brain dump list once a week on a Sunday to prepare for the week, but you might want to do a brain dump whenever you feel overwhelmed by your thoughts or to-do list.
“Having a clear mind and a clear space allows you to think and act with purpose.”– Erika Oppenheimer
Why Do A Brain Dump?
There are so many benefits to doing a daily or weekly brain dump, but the best reason is that it helps you to let go of things you don’t need to worry about.
When tasks are accumulating in your head, it tends to feel like everything is urgent and important. A brain dump gives you a better look at what’s important and what’s not. After doing this, you may find that you’ve written down things you don’t need to worry about until a later date.
A brain dump also gives you permission to set aside shoulds. Shoulds are those things you feel pressured to do but never seem to get around to.
For example, you might think you should be running every day because someone told you to, but you don’t have any desire to actually do it (maybe yoga is more your thing). Doing a brain dump lets you see what shoulds you’re holding on to so that you can let them go.
How To Do A Brain Dump
1. Write a list of whatever’s on your mind
You can do this digitally, on paper, or you can grab this free brain dump worksheet to make it easier. Try not to filter yourself or second-guess whether you should add something to the list or not. The goal is to clear out the nooks and crannies of your brain.
2. Dig deeper
To make sure you’re not forgetting anything, here are some things to think about:
- What’s due in the next week or month?
- What appointments are upcoming or need to be made?
- What home tasks do you want or need to do? (e.g. laundry, cleaning, organizing, grocery shopping, grocery list)
- What work tasks do you want or need to do?
- What miscellaneous tasks do you want or need to do? (e.g. get gas, create a budget)
If anything new has come to mind, add it to your brain dump list.
3. Eliminate, delegate and postpone
At this point, your list might be incredibly long. To avoid getting overwhelmed, review your list and see if anything can be eliminated, delegated, or postponed.
- Eliminate – get rid of tasks you really don’t need to be worried about
- Delegate – ask someone else if they can take it off of your plate
- Postpone – take it off your list for now if it’s not relevant for the foreseeable future
4. Create categories
Your brain dump list might be a little all over the place which is totally fine. Let’s make it less daunting by organizing it.
Next to each item on your list, write down the category it belongs to. These categories are totally up to you depending on your lifestyle, but here are some ideas:
5. Create a separate list for each category
In another spot on your paper, create columns labeled with each of the categories you came up with from the previous task. Add the tasks to the corresponding category.
6. Prioritize your tasks
Now that you have an organized list of tasks (which hopefully feels less overwhelming), it’s important to figure out when you’re going to do them. The easiest way to do this is to decide when they need to get done:
- Today – it’s due soon or it’s a personal priority
- Upcoming – it needs to get done soon but doesn’t need attention today
- Later – it doesn’t need attention for at least 2 weeks
With your tasks categorized by timeframe, schedule the ones you need to work on later into your planner so you can stop worrying about them. Now you’re free to only think about the tasks that are marked for today.
7. Plan your daily tasks
Now that you have a super organized and categorized overview of the things you need to do, it’s important to take action. Your ‘Today’ list might be pretty long, so you need to decide what to work on first.
The best way to do this is to figure out what your priorities are. Based on that, you can figure out which order to work on your tasks. For example, my life priorities right now are health & wellness, work, and home (in that order). If I want to work out, write a blog post, and clean my apartment today, I’m going to do them in that order.
Knowing your priorities will help you to schedule your day efficiently without wasting time trying to decide what to work on first.
Related Post: How To Get Things Done When You Have Zero Motivation
Get the Free Brain Dump Worksheet
I hope this post has given you some ideas to help you clear your mind on a regular basis. Don’t forget to download the freebie before you go!