You might be asking, “What the heck is a brain dump?” A brain dump is simply dumping all your thoughts on paper so you can stop trying to juggle them all in your beautiful brain. It allows you to free up your mind so you can focus on the important. I’ll explain it in detail, but don’t worry, I also have a freebie to help you get started!
Grab a Pen & Paper
In order to do this, you need a pen and paper. I know you love tech, but please do this on paper! Why? Because writing down ideas makes them stick as opposed to typing them. If you really must type, it’s a free country, but I think writing will cement these things better in your brain.
The process starts with listing everything you need to do, want to do, or might do on paper. Don’t worry about categorizing them, just dump it all. Get every thought that’s been rolling around your cranium out and you will feel like you just completed a marathon. Honestly, it’s a stress reliever!
Narrow the List Down
Once that’s done, go through and check off the things beyond your control. Sometimes you might list things like “pick up dog poop” but it’s snowing. Ain’t gonna happen, so check that one off. You can “dump” that one on a future list. (ha ha, sorry.)
Next Steps: Categorizing
Now it’s time to do something a little boring with all those ideas, tasks, and so on. Take your list of chaos and categorize it. Work on a list at a time. Create a page for each category: MUST, WANT, and MAYBE.
- Must – Things you are committed to and must do
- Want – Things you would like to do, but have no commitment to it yet
- Maybe – Possible things you want to do if you are able
You can put anything on the list you want. Need to buy diapers? List that. Need to write an e-book? Yep, that goes on the list. How about calling your mom? Sure. Get it all down on paper and free your mind. Feeling better yet?
For the MUST list, organize it by week, month, and future. That way, you’ll know what things need to get done this week, this month, or in the future.
- Sign up M for driver’s Ed
- Pay phone bill
- De-Clutter Kitchen Cabinets
- Paint hallway
In this scenario, I need to do the sign up for Driver’s Ed next month, so I could mark that as “future”. The phone bill is due next week, so I’ll pay it this week and mark it as “this week”. De-cluttering the kitchen cabinets is something I’ll be doing this month, but not this week, so that can be marked “this month”. Also, painting the hallway can be marked as a future event since it’s snowing here and I can’t open the windows to paint unless I want to suck fumes.
To take this a step further, you can associate your tasks as mentioned above and create sub-headings in each category (Must, Want, & Maybe):
- Personal – Personal growth, learning, medical & dental, and tasks for yourself.
- Family – Same as above but for your spouse & kids.
- Relationships – Relationships outside your spouse and kids. This could be extended family, parents, friendships, or co-worker relationships.
- Work – All the things relating to work.
- Home Management – Finances, house work, car maintenance, organization, and so on for the things you do at home.
You can create other categories if you want to. This one can get you started. The idea is to organize your thoughts so you can make time for creativity. So you can either have a running list to check off and keep it somewhere you look often, or you can break it down further.
Turning the Brain Dump into Tasks
To break it down further, you can create to-do lists. I use an app called ToDoist that helps me with this. Todoist is something that works on my iPhone, but also can be accessed from a browser on a computer. It is merely for organizing tasks. Which leads me to state that tasks and calendar items are 2 different things. Putting tasks on a calendar simply bothers me. Calendars are for appointments that have set times and places. Tasks are things I must accomplish and may or may not have deadlines attached to them. So I put my appointments from doctors, meetings, etc., on a calendar and I put the things I need and want to get done on a task management tool like ToDoist.
Getting More Organized
In ToDoist, you can use those same sub-headings as I mentioned above (this is best done through a computer browser as the app lacks some of the functionality) and then set up your ideas/tasks/thoughts and assign the sub-headings as categories in ToDoist. Example: The “Personal” sub-heading would be listed as a category in ToDoist and then “Read Allegiant” would be listed as the task under that category. Since you already went through and assigned them with “this week”, “this month” and “future”, you can now break it down into when you want to complete the task. If they are things that repeat, like household chores, you can assign those as a once-a-week task.
Another thing you can do is create deeper levels of your categories. Here’s an example of mine. My main category is Family Management (“Home Management” from above) and then I created sub-categories to keep it more organized. Again, this is best done from the ToDoist website, not the app.
All of this can seem quite time-consuming, but if you set it up correctly, it becomes really easy to adjust or add new items as you go. Even if you don’t have the time to put your task into a category, you can just put the item in the “Inbox” on Todoist and then set it later to a category. I like to look at it in the mornings and then edit the tasks that aren’t assigned yet. Once a week, I set aside a time to re-evaluate my lists or I do another brain dump session and adjust as necessary.
Need help getting started? Download my Brain Dump – Organize Your Thoughts List and get going!