Your head will explode in 3, 2, 1, 0. No, just kidding. But do you sometimes have the feeling that your brain is clogged up with more stuff than it can handle? Your brain is a powerful tool but only if you use it efficiently. We constantly put more and more information into it. It’s a total junkyard. It might be time to declutter your brain to free up some headspace. Whenever I feel overwhelmed and stressed I do a brain dump for clarity. In this post, I’ll explain how to do a brain dump and which positive effects you’ll see from it.
What’s a brain dump
Do you remember the world before smartphones? When you had all the phone numbers of friends, family, and colleagues in your head? That’s a lot of information. The same goes for your grocery list, appointments, and your neighbor’s dog’s birthday. At some point, this is more than your brain can handle. Your brain is not supposed to serve as a storage space for unnecessary information. Information you better save somewhere else to leave your brain free to focus. On top of that, there’s this constant feeling that you might have forgotten something. The fear that you don’t remember everything. This can drive you crazy.
When you feel like your brain is in overload mode a brain dump will help you to get rid of the clutter. So if you’re not supposed to save all this information in your head, where to put it? I am sure you’ve been told to write things down because it’ll help you to remember them. Doing a brain dump goes even a step further than writing things down. Though at the core it’s simply the process to get all this information out of your head and onto paper. But letting it sit on paper won’t help you much. In a second step, you have to decide what you do with all this stuff you’ve written down.
You can do this whenever you feel the need for it. When you feel stuck or overwhelmed you simply sit down and download all this information from your brain. Some people do it regularly once a week or even every day. If you have trouble falling asleep at night because as soon as your head hits the pillow your mind starts racing. Here a brain dump can help you to calm down. The same goes for those who have a hard time to decide what to do and in which order when they start their day. Doing a brain dump first thing in the morning will bring you clarity for the day.
How to do a brain dump for clarity
There are different forms of doing a brain dump. It all depends on what works best for you. In its simplest form, doing a brain dump is simply creating a list of all things which occupy your mind. It doesn’t matter in which order you put them down. You don’t have to sort them by importance and you never edit while you write. This way everything ends up together. From ideas you want to pursue over a doctor’s appointment, up to a note that you’ve been putting off to call your dad for too long.
Some people, including me, do this by creating a running to-do list. It’s one huge list where you put everything down no matter if it’s work or life-related. To make this work you need to have this list always with you either in your phone or in a journal you carry with you. Whenever a thought pops up, write it down. Your mind stays free from clutter and can work efficiently. Once a day or once a week, you can go through this list and decide what to do with the items you wrote down. Some of them will end up on your to-do list or in your calendar and some will be discarded because they’re not important.
A second way to do a brain dump is to create categories before you start to make your list. These categories could be ideas, goals, work, home and more. If you prefer to label your thoughts while you put them down this is the best form of brain dumping for you. You also can do a brain dump for only one category you feel overwhelmed with or for a special project. Let’s say you have a big design project coming up, you can put down all thoughts, ideas, and tasks for this one project. The practice of doing a brain dump is versatile and can be adapted to your needs.
Further, there’s a third version possible and that’s how I prefer to do a brain dump. I have a brain dump journal. Once a day, often in the morning, I sit down and put the thoughts running through my head word for word on paper. By not making a simple list I can go deeper into each thought. While I write, I ask myself what’s behind this, what does this include, how do I feel about it? This helps me to analyze my thoughts and ideas and make better decisions about what I want to pursue. You often see patterns and tendencies. If I keep coming back to an idea day after day, I know it’s worth looking deeper into. Journaling this way has taught me a lot about myself and the way I tick while helping me to find more clarity.
Related post: The benefits of journaling
The 3 steps of every brain dump
While it can look different for everybody, three main steps are the same for every kind of brain dump. It’s a very simple process.
No matter which way of a brain dump you choose, you don’t need any fancy tools. A pen and some paper will do. If you prefer a digital version, a simple notes app on your phone will suffice. I think it’s best to do it by hand. Writing longhand forces you to slow down and process your thoughts while writing.
Once you’ve decided which form of a brain dump works best for you, you should try to make it a habit. You’ll see a big change if you do this regularly.
When it’s time for your brain dump, write like there’s no tomorrow. Don’t edit and don’t judge yourself while you write. Try to let your thoughts run freely. Write everything down from tasks over appointments to ideas. Also, include your thoughts if positive or negative. What are you worried about or what are you looking forward to?
Analyze + Organize
The most important part is what comes after writing. Once you’ve put everything on paper, it’s best to reread it. Go into your list and weed out what’s unimportant. Categorize what is important and decide what to do about it. Ask yourself if there are tasks you can delegate. See if there are deadlines and what has to be done in which order. Some of the tasks might be added to your daily to-do list. It’s like organizing your thoughts. This will prepare you to take action afterward. If you skip this step, you’ll end up with a giant to-do list and no plan of action.
How to get the most out of your brain dump
- Don’t hold back on any information because you think you can easily remember this.
- Don’t edit while you write. There’s nothing too tiny or too stupid to make it to this list. Nobody will see it but you.
- Don’t judge while you write. It’s important to let your mind wander and capture everything before you start to analyze and organize.
Related post: A slow living approach to productivity
The positive effects of doing a brain dump
If you’ve done your brain dump right, you’ll feel like a huge weight has been lifted off your shoulders. Confusion and doubt will dissipate and taking action will be easy. I hope the positive effects of doing a brain dump will convince you to try it.
Simply by writing everything down and getting it out of your head, you’ll free up headspace. It’s a huge relief to see everything right in front of you. If you do your brain dump regularly it will reduce stress and overwhelm.
Even more, a brain dump helps you to identify your priorities. You’ll get a full overview and make mindful decisions about the tasks you plan into your day. Instead of running from one task to the other and one appointment to the next you’re in control of your schedule.
Clarity + Focus
There’s one thing which is, for me, the most important effect of brain dumping and that’s gaining clarity. When we’re always so busy it’s hard to feel lost and overwhelmed. We don’t know where to start or what’s important and whatnot. All this clutter in our heads keeps us from seeing clearly. With a regular brain dump session, you can sort out all this chaos. Find the clarity you need to move forward on your projects, goals, and dreams. Your mind will be free to focus on what’s coming up for you.
Think about all the time you spend on wondering what’s up next and worrying you might have forgotten something. Trying to have your sh** together. When all it takes is looking at the whole picture and organizing your scattered brain. As you’re better organized you waste less time. And as your brain has to deal with less stuff you can focus better. This will increase your productivity tremendously.
Have you ever done a brain dump? Let me know if it was helpful for you in the comments below!