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
Want my FREE Printable Dump Worksheets? You can get them by joining my FREE email newsletter using the form below!
Plus, you’ll get access to my ENTIRE Freebies Library as a gift for signing up!
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!
Comments & Reviews
can’t wait to get organized
I am totally a list maker!!! I can relate!!
Yes! I would be lost without all of my different lists… way too busy to just remember everything! 🙂
Leslje Fraley says
I’m a single working mom of 3 who actually makes less money the more I work. crazy I know, but I’m hoping being able to get my “hot mess” self organized can allow me to see where I can move stuff around n my life and take a long look at my life and get this stress gone. I’m only 42 and can’t remember being happy In my entire life. sure I have sections of my life that individually are going ok, but as a whole, not so much. thanks for the templates to get me started.
Hi! We all go through our highs and lows, and I hope that you’re on the way back up to a high point again soon! I know how it is to be a working Mom and the feelings of guilt that go along with that, not to mention feeling like you never have enough hours in the day. 🙂 Besides doing a brain dump periodically, I also find it really helpful to use a weekly plan and a master to do list… I’ve got some other free printables and how-to’s for that in these posts: https://thesavvysparrow.com/free-printable-weekly-planner/ and https://thesavvysparrow.com/master-to-do-list/ – Hope those help you also! 🙂
I always made a to do list for the next day and would get everything ready for the next day before bed. Wow, it saved a ton of time in the mornings, I could actually get some decent sleep the night before!!
Yes, that’s a GREAT tip! Plus, I feel like I’m way more productive when I wake up with an actual plan of what I need to get done for the day. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!
Never knew this lovely tool existed and I thank you for the info and printable aids… Looking forward to following your “How To” Braindump today… TYVM
Awesome Kimberly! Hope it helps you! This really does make such a big difference in staying organized and being more productive for me. 🙂
I have adult ADD, and have found brain dumps very helpful. However, we had a house fire, and I lost my computer with all my templates on it. I stumbled across yours on my phone, and they look very useful. Thank you!
Hi Jary! I’m SO sorry to hear about your house! But I hope that my brain dumps will help you. 🙂
Not being able to shut your brain down at night is very frustrating
i did my first brain Dump in my mental health planner I’m making. I didn’t separate them I just used it like a to do list.
Yes, sometimes I just do a to-do list style also, depending on how much stuff is on my list… whatever works best for you! 🙂
Christine Phillips says
Thanks so much Christine! 🙂
A friend/work associate of mine just told me about “brain dumping” today. To say I need this is a gross understatement!
Thanks for the great way you explained it and thanks in advance for your “freebies”! I just signed up for your emails!
Awesome! Hope you enjoy all of the free printables in there! 🙂
Hi, I love your ideas for brain dumps and the idea of making categories of things I want to remember. I can’t wait to use them and stop having so many scraps of paper to track down that seem to have all the same reminders on them. Im sure by using your planner I will be able to just glance at my list of categories and see that its already there and say ahhh, ok back to what I was doing.
Thank you for sharing your fantastic ideas.
Hi Sherry! So glad that the brain dumps will help you… they’ve definitely helped me manage my crazy to-do list. 🙂
I really like the way you explained how to do a brain dump. thank you for the information and sharing it with us.
Hi Sharon! Thanks so much! So glad you enjoyed the brain dump tips… doing a simple brain dump every few days really helps me to focus on the tasks that I need to get done. 🙂
Can you tell me what the phone, envelope, calc, and cart are meant fo?
Sure! The icons are just categories to help you organize your brain dump and things you need to get done… you can use them however you like, but I would suggest that you write this info while you’re doing the brain dump: Phone – phone calls you need to make (doctor appointments, etc), Envelope – mail you need to send (birthday cards, etc), Calculator – any financial notes (bills you need to pay soon, etc), Cart – things you need to buy/groceries. I hope that helps! 🙂
I’ve tried multiple times to join your email list and I never get anything but the initial email 🙁 I’d really love this template
Love the brain dump template!
Thanks Diane! The brain dump worksheets have helped me to be more productive and organized… hope they help you too! 🙂
Loralynne Yost says
I did not receive the brain dump printable. Could you email it, please? I’m excited to try it.
Thank you for making a source for people with ADHD to feel understood!
Loralynne Yost says
Hi! They did come through they were in my spam. Thank you again!
Maurice Bryant says
Thanks Maurice! Glad you like the brain dump worksheets! 🙂
GAME CHANGER for ADHD brains – Amy!! Thank you!
Yes, I LOVE doing brain dumps… helps me to get everything organized and prioritize how I need to spend my time. Thanks for the comment! 🙂
Looking forward to trying a brain dump! Thank you for your resources 🙂
Hi Heather! Hope you love the printables! 🙂
KT Willhite says
I need the help!
I’ve tried multiple times to join your subscriber list, to no avail! I love your templates!
Hi Catherine! It looks like from my email service that you may have figured it out… but I’ll email you the templates directly just in case. Thanks for reaching out! 🙂
I love this article so much! I have been talking to my daughters and friends about brain dumping and how much it can help eliminate the constant barrage of thoughts swirling in your mind. Your article was so great to share with them to explain it so much better than I ever could plus I’m so excited to utlize your ideas. Thank you!
Hi Kari! So glad you liked the article! I would probably never get any sleep if it wasn’t for my brain dumps… because I just feel like I have such a hard time “turning off” my brain. Thanks so much for your sweet comment! 🙂
Great ideas. I am inspired!
Hi Juneau! Thanks so much! Glad I could help you get organized. 🙂
Please send the brain dump worksheets. Love this!!
I LOVE the idea! Can I please get a brain dump.
Lovely ideas, brain dump templates!
Yes! I couldn’t live without mine… I keep a printable brain dump template on my desk at all times also, so when I think of something new (something I need to do, blog post to write, etc), I just jot it down immediately. 🙂
I have signed up, but I haven’t received an email.
Hi Shawna! My email service shows the email was sent… maybe it ended up in your Spam/Promotions folder? I will go ahead and email you the files directly. Thanks for reaching out! 🙂
David Fernandes says
Id like the brain dump template and any other free template thatll assist adhd to the 10 power
I don’t see your free download…just takes me to another download that I don’t want
Hope your Christmas was Merry & Bright!
Hi Karen! Do you see the box to sign up for my email list at the bottom of the post? When you sign up and confirm your subscription, then you should receive an email with instructions on how to access my entire library of free printables, and you’ll get the 2 different versions of the brain dump sent to you as well. I can go ahead and email you the templates directly though. Thanks for reaching out, and have a great day! 🙂
Amy McGinnis says
I’m having the same issue!
Belinda Breedt says
I have a fulltime job, high stress job and take care of my family, plan meals and keep my house organised and clean with thousands of lists.
Thank you for this insight!
Hi Belinda! Wow, sounds like you’re super busy! Yup, I find that lots of lists are the key to managing it all. Glad you enjoyed the post, and thanks so much for the comment! 🙂
April Ranta says
Thank You for this blog and how encourageing you make being a scatter brained person not feel so overwhelmed in our everyday live. And that its okay just get organized. Love it I am a newb to Planning so all of this is new to me. 😀 Life Is Good.
Hi April! Thanks so much for your sweet comment! Baby steps, right? 🙂 And then you’ll slowly get more organized and it will just naturally become part of your routine. Have a great day!
David Fernandes says
Id like the brain dump template and any other free template thatll assist adhd to the 10 power
Michelle Reader says
Oh this is exactly what I need! May I please have it? TIA
Hi Michelle! Sending the brain dumps right over to you! 🙂
Jill Shelley says
I would like the brain dump templates, please.
Hi Jill! I’ll send them right over! 🙂
Melissa Maarschalkerweerd says
This is so annoying. I have followed all steps, read through the ENTIRE (Way too long) page and still don’t have access to the “free” printables?
Hi Melissa! Sorry about that… my email service shows that the email was delivered. Can you check your spam/junk folder? In the meantime, I will just email you the freebies link and the brain dumps directly. Let me know if you have any other questions, and thanks for reaching out! 🙂
I also signed up for the newsletter but never received the email with code for the brain dump. It isn’t in my spam folder either
Hi Alex! I’ll send over the freebies email right now… sorry about that – My email service shows the email as delivered. 🙂
I signed up too and did not receive an email. Checked Spam Folder. Nothing
Hi Samantha! I just checked my email service and it looks like you received the email… if you still can’t find it just let me know and I’ll send you over the brain dump worksheets and the info for the other freebies. Thanks! 🙂
Hi Julie! I don’t see your email listed with my email service, but I will go ahead and send you over the brain dump worksheets and freebies info. Would you like me to add you to my email list also so that you’re notified when I have new freebies/posts available? Thanks for reaching out! 🙂
I signed up but didn’t get an email
Hi Selena! Sorry about that! Maybe check your spam folder? My email service shows that the email was delivered. I will also go ahead and email you directly with the brain dump worksheets and info for the freebies library. 🙂 Thanks for reaching out!
Brain dump work sheets? Signed up your link is broken please if you can email a link thank you
Oh no! Thanks for letting me know! I will send them over right now. 🙂
Amy Wallace says
I never received mine either 🙁
Oh no! I will send them over right now, plus the link to the entire freebies library… Sorry about that! 🙂
another whoops! found it!
jennifer cottrell says
WHOOPS! I did get the email but can’t find the Brain Dump…
jennifer cottrell says
hi! I signed up for your newsletter and never received the link fo rate brain dump printable ;-(
So sorry about that! Can you send me your email address to [email protected] and I will get it to you (plus the instructions for accessing ALL of the free printables!) right away? Did you check your spam or promotions folder also?
can’t wait to get these!!
Hi Amy…as all the other posts I also didn’t receive the brain dump pdf. May you please assist me.
Hi Felicia! Sorry about that… I will send them over right now! 🙂
Dee Lerma says
Please place me on your email list.
Emalie Randall says
Hi- I signed up and received the password via email and even downloaded another freebie sheet. But I do not see the Brain dump freebie.
Hi Emalie! It’s under the section called “Free Printables for Planners and Binders”… but I will go ahead and email it to you directly so you don’t have to search for it. Thanks for reaching out! 🙂
Richard Patterson says
Signed up for the newsletter as well and have not received the pdfs
Sorry about that! Did you check your spam/promotions folder? My email service shows that it was sent… I will re-send right now also. Let me know if you still don’t get it. 🙂
I entered my email for the printable’s, got the verification email, confirmed my subscription, but haven’t received the Welcome Email with the password to access them I also checked my spam folder… nothing. How do I get the password?
Sorry about that, Melissa! There must be something wrong with my email service today, because you’re the second person to let me know about the brain dump templates! I’ll send them right over with the Freebies library password. 🙂
I entered my email for this printable, received the verification email, confirmed subscription, but haven’t received the printable. It’s not in my spam folder either. Help!
Hmmmm… You should have received a Welcome Email with the password to the freebies library after you confirmed. Did you see the password for the Freebies library in the email? The brain dump template (plus a TON of other free printables) are in my Freebies library for you to download. Let me know if you don’t see it, and I will email it to you directly. 🙂
Fahrut Alama says
I had the same problem. I was sleeping for 4-5 hour each day. And it was because i could not turn off my brain to think about everything. later i went to the doctor, but it didn’t help. After one month of life like this i was so tired and i start changing my life. It was similar to your advices and it helps.