The brain dump… Sounds rather fecal, but it’s actually a GREAT way for you to keep up with your never-ending to do lists. Learn how to do a brain dump to organize your thoughts, and get a FREE brain dump template to get you started!
I roll over and look at the clock… 12:37am. I got in bed 2 hours ago and I’ve been tossing and turning ever since. I can’t turn off my brain, because I’m constantly going through the things that I needed to get done today (well, technically yesterday), but didn’t have time for, or what we’re going to have for dinner tomorrow, or that important email that I need to send.
Sound all too familiar?
That’s my life a few nights a week.
Do you ever feel like you can’t “turn your brain off“, too? It seems like I’m just ALWAYS thinking about something. My husband makes fun of me because I start so many sentences with “I was thinking…” or “I figured we could…”.
I guess I’m just a planner… I plan EVERYONE’s day. I joke with my husband that he doesn’t need to think about anything, because I’ve done all the thinking for him. He just needs to show up.
But with so much planning and anticipating and organizing and DOING, my brain needs a break. And, I’m bound to forget something every now and then.
So what do I do?
A BRAIN DUMP!
If you feel like your brain is overcrowded too, then here’s everything you need to know about how to do a brain dump to get yourself organized…
What is a Brain Dump?
Merriam-Webster defines “brain dump” as:
Okay, now let’s put it in layman’s terms…
According to that definition a brain dump consists of two main parts:
- Recording ALL of your thoughts and ideas – writing them down
- And NOT being critical of those ideas – there are no bad thoughts or ideas
So basically a brain dump is just getting all of your thoughts out of your head and on to paper.
Why You Should Do a Brain Dump
So You’re Less Stressed
Your brain can get cluttered, just like your home can. Only instead of being cluttered with old newspapers and socks that will never find their mates, your brain gets cluttered with thoughts.
And if we’ve learned anything from this post on How to Declutter Your Entire House in One Week, it’s that clutter causes stress! Just think about how you feel when you walk in to your 7 year old’s room and it’s littered with a too-large collection of Happy Meal toys and a super-dangerous-for-your-feet supply of Legos.
You probably feel stressed by the mess… or you do what I do and put on your imaginary horse blinders and just try to ignore it! 🙂
You can get stressed out when you have too many ideas floating around your head, too. So a brain dump template can help with that!
So You Don’t Forget Things
Call the doctor, pick up the dry cleaning, buy a birthday present, help your daughter finish her science project… You probably feel like you have a million things to do ALL THE TIME.
And it’s easy to forget things if you don’t write them down.
So You Can Be More Present
Not to scare my fellow drivers in East Tennessee, but I don’t know how many times I’ve made it from Point A to Point B while driving purely by God’s Grace! Like I’m SO busy running through my to-do list in my mind that I’m not really focused on the actual act of driving.
Has that ever happened to you? Like you all of a sudden think, “Wow, I made it to my destination, but I don’t even remember really driving here?”.
Or, how many times have you had a full-on conversation with your husband, and 5 minutes later you don’t even know a thing that he said because you were busy thinking about what to make for dinner that night, or what time you had to leave the house to make it to soccer practice on time?
A brain dump can help you clear your mind and organize your thoughts so you don’t feel like you’re having to constantly run down your to-do list in your brain, and you can be more present.
So You’re More Productive
When you’re trying to constantly run through a long list of mental notes, you’re probably not as focused on the tasks at hand. Plus, a well-done, organized brain dump gives you an actual action plan to start crossing things off your to do list.
For instance, by organizing tasks on a brain dump worksheet, you can see that you have to go to the post office and the pharmacy, and you know that those two places are right next door to each other, so it makes more sense to do those tasks at the same time. This saves you time (and gas money!), and allows you to do other things that you might not have had time for if you went to run those two errands on separate days.
You can read more about how a brain dump can increase productivity HERE!
How to Do a Brain Dump
1. Get a Brain Dump Worksheet or Brain Dump Template.
The first step to doing a brain dump is to identify WHERE you will write down all of your thoughts and ideas. Here are just a few ideas for WHERE you can do a brain dump:
- Composition book or spiral notebook to use as a Brain Dump Journal
- Plain piece of paper
- Bullet journal
- “Notes” app on your phone
- Microsoft Word or Google Docs document
- Printable Brain Dump Template
The important thing is to have a designated area to write down all your thoughts that works for you.
2. Write down ALL your thoughts… however small or insignificant they may seem.
This is kind of like brainstorming ideas for a group project in school… where there are no bad ideas. Just DUMP out all of your thoughts on paper.
I find it easiest to do this step of how to do a brain dump on lined paper, rather than a Brain Dump Template or worksheet. Don’t worry, you’ll organize everything that you write down in a later step. Here’s what this step may look like for you:
*Side Note – Did you notice my awesome pens? Be sure to check out my post on the BEST Planner Pens – I tested 12 different popular colored pens and I’m sharing my favorites with you!
Your brain dump items could include task-oriented thoughts (or to-do’s) like:
- Schedule eye doctor appointment
- Pick up dry cleaning
- Call Grandma and wish her Happy Birthday
- Pick up cable clamps from hardware store
Or, you could write down other thoughts that aren’t necessarily specific things to do like:
- A quote that you just heard that inspires you
- Something you’re thankful for – A Gratitude Journal is also great for this and has been scientifically proven to have a host of health benefits… Read all about How to Start a Gratitude Journal HERE!
- Something funny that your daughter said today
- A new show you want to look up on Netflix
3. Organize your thoughts.
After you’ve got all of your thoughts out on paper, they probably look like a jumbled mess, so you may find it helpful to organize everything that you’ve just written down into categories. This is where a Brain Dump Template can come in handy, because it has pre-printed sections to help you organize your thoughts.
One popular way of sorting through a brain dump is to organize things by urgency, for instance, things that need to be done today, tomorrow, this week, etc.
You can also include other categories in your brain dump organization for things that aren’t necessarily specific to tasks that need to be done. I’ll give you some more ideas for how to organize your brain dump down below!
4. Cross things off your Brain Dump Worksheet.
Once you’ve done your brain dump, it’s time to actually take action! Start crossing things off your to do list, or organize larger ideas and goals into actionable steps.
For instance, if your brain dump includes a larger task like “Plan family vacation” you should break that into smaller jobs that can be crossed off your to do list more easily, like “Book a hotel”, “Research flight options”, etc.
You should also take action on items that take 3 minutes or less of your time, like “change the laundry” or “pay electric bill online”. Getting these smaller tasks done, rather than putting them off, will help reduce the size of your future to-do lists.
Plus, who doesn’t LOVE the feeling of being able to put a big old checkmark next to something on your to-do list?!
You can do as many brain dumps as you want. Work mini brain dump sessions into your daily routine (maybe each night after you tuck your kids in), or just do brain dumps once a week when you feel your thoughts starting to pile up.
Categories for Your Brain Dump
A brain dump isn’t very useful until you organize it and use it as a plan of action. Here are some ideas for how to organize your brain dump into categories:
Tasks Organized by Urgency
One popular method for organizing your brain dump items it to group tasks by urgency. We each only have a limited amount of time, so it’s important to have a list of things to do based on priority.
You can organize your brain dump to focus on those items that need to get done first like this:
- Things that are URGENT and need to get done TODAY
- Things that need to get done TOMORROW
- Things to do sometime THIS WEEK
- Things to do NEXT WEEK
- TOP Priority
- Top 3 things to get done for each day
- Errands to run
- Calls to make
- Mail to send off – Amazon returns, bills, birthday cards, etc.
- Emails to send
- Appointments that need to be made
Household Management Tasks
- Meal planning ideas
- Grocery lists
- Household chores schedule
- Kids’ activities for the week
- Home maintenance that needs to be done – Check out my Ultimate Home Maintenance Binder HERE, and see how it can help you sell your house!
- School projects that need to be done
- Bills that need to be paid
Work Tasks and Reminders
- Appointments with clients
- Due dates for upcoming projects
- Action steps for work goals
- Ideas to pitch to your boss
- Presents to buy for co-workers, etc.
Fun Stuff to Remember
- Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu shows you want to watch
- Songs you want to add to your playlist
- New recipes you want to try
- Date ideas
- Doodles – Yes, you can also include some fun drawings in your brain dump if you’re more of a visually creative person.
Free Printable Brain Dump Template
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Have you ever done a brain dump? Or maybe you make to-do lists everyday, which is pretty similar? How do you keep track of all of your gazillion things to do? What works for you?
I’d LOVE for you to leave me a comment down below!
And happy nesting!