Fight Overwhelm with a Brain Dump

Posted October 13, 2016 by Thirty-Something Angie in Organize / 1 Comment

 I've found that a great way to help me organize the thoughts in my head is to brain dump.  It's a really silly name for a highly effective productivity tool!

Sometimes, there’s just too much going on in your head. At least, that’s how I feel some days (okay, a lot of days).  When this happens, it makes it hard to know where to start in order to get things done.  I’ve found that a great way to help me organize the thoughts in my head is to brain dump.  It’s a really silly name for a highly effective productivity tool! If you’ve never tried this technique before, you should read on so you can try it next time you feel overwhelmed.

What is a Brain Dump?

Like I said above, brain dumping is a really silly name for a simple, yet effective task.  It is a time that you take to figuratively “dump” all of the extra thoughts out of your head, so that you can concentrate and make sense of it all.  You might find this effective if:

Brain dumping: A silly name for a very effective organizational task! Click To Tweet
  • You have a really busy week and keep losing track of every little thing you need to do.
  • That to-do list has gotten so long you have given up.
  • You’re really stressed out by being pulled in too many directions.

I find that when I get too overwhelmed, I can’t figure out where to start.  I end up sitting on the couch, unable to make a decision, and just stress about all of the time I’m wasting, instead of actually doing something productive.  This is usually the perfect time to try this technique.

Related: My 2017 Ringbound Planner Set-Up

What You Need

This is an incredibly simple technique, that requires very little.  You don’t need a fancy planner or bullet journal.  It’s not very effective to pretty up the pages with doodles or wash tape, either.  You probably already have everything you need on hand.

  • A simple notebook or loose-leaf paper
  • A pen (or pencil)
  • Coffee (totally optional, but I can’t function without it, so it’s always on my list).

Once you have gathered your supplies, all you really need is a hard surface, so that you can write, and (if you can) a few minutes of peace and quiet.

Related: Your Planner Isn’t Helping You Get More Done

Brain Dump

How to Brain Dump

The trick to a successful brain dump is to not think too much about what you’re doing.  Don’t try to write in your neatest handwriting, or stop and think about what makes the most sense.  Think of it as if you were playing that “first word that pops into your head” game and just run through everything as fast as you can.

Your original list won’t be organized, or neat, or pretty.  It will most likely be chicken scratch, and a little bit of gibberish, but that’s okay.  We’ll come back to that, later.  The important thing right now is to empty your brain, as quickly as you can.  If you really stop to think, it’s more likely that you’ll forget something and start stressing out again.

Organize Your List

See, I told you we’d come back to that list.  This step is really important for me.  Unless I’ve organized my thoughts, I still can’t make sense of them.  (I mean, I still outline my blog posts, if that tells you anything!)  Now, it’s time to come back and re-write your list in a neat and orderly fashion.  If you want to, this is where you can break out the different colored pens to help differentiate between categories for your tasks (home, school, kids, etc). That’s totally optional, though.

On a new sheet of paper, or maybe even a new page in your bullet journal, you can now start making sense of the gibberish you wrote on your first list.  One by one, put each task on your new list, in it’s new place based on how you want to organize it.  Scratch it off the first list as you go, so that you don’t accidentally write it twice. Continue in this fashion until every item on your list has a place.

The way you organize your list will be unique to you.  I like to break mine into categories, and then include a category for top priorities.  I’ll have separate columns for tasks for the house, tasks for my business, and tasks for the kids.  Then, I’ll figure out what is most important out of everything and put those in a separate list, to be completed first.  This tends to be a little over board for some people though, so do what works best for you!

Related: My Small Business Organization System

Get to Work

Now, your thoughts are organized and prioritized.  It’s time to get to work! Having your thoughts organized is really important for productivity.  As you finish one task on your list, you’ll be able to move on to the next without needing to stop and think about what’s most important.  When you’re overwhelmed and feel like you’re being pulled in too many directions, a brain dumping session might be just what you need!  A little clarity can go a long way towards helping you be more productive when you need it most.

Love organization?  I’ve got more where this came from! Check these out:

My Experience with a Bullet Journal

How I Use My Inkwell Press Planner


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