Learn about two ways to do a brain dump so your mind can finally rest! Create systems to help you remember your to-do list and relax.
Our world can be fast-paced, stressful, and overwhelming. Sometimes, we feel like we can't possibly remember (or get to) all of the things we want to accomplish. Our brains are constantly working overtime, trying to help us remember everything. And, it's exhausting.
In this article, you'll learn about these two ways to do a written brain dump to help you clear your thoughts:
- A to-do list brain dump – for all of the things you need to remember to do, work on, etc.
- Morning Pages – to help you process your thoughts and clear your mind
The Benefits Putting Pen to Paper
The act of writing something down on a piece of paper forces us to slow down.
And if you're someone who feels like their mind is racing non-stop, this slowing down can help you be more intentional about how you spend your time.
The more you practice writing as a way to clear your mind, the more effective it will be for you.
And unlike other types of writing, this doesn't have to be perfect. In fact, it would be counter-productive to try to make a brain dump perfect. Just focus on getting your ideas out of your mind and onto the page.
One thing you can do to combat this feeling of desperation is to give your brain a break from trying to hold all of these little bits of information. Instead of having your brain do the heavy lifting, create a system that will do it for you.
I first heard about doing a brain dump when I read David Allen's book, Getting Things Done.
The idea behind doing a brain dump is to get every single little thing you want to do, remember, complete, take on, invent, make, complete, on paper.
How to Do a Brain Dump
There are a lot of suggestions for how to properly do a brain dump, but I'll share with you what works for me. It's very similar to what David Allen recommends in his book.
- Grab a pad of paper and a notebook and start writing. Write down all of your to-dos, ideas, and things you want to remember. Number your page as you write them all down. Don't leave anything out. You can eliminate things later if you want, but now the goal is to get everything out of your brain and onto the page. Be prepared to write out a lot, and spend a good chunk of time doing this.
- Bring a little stack of notecards with you to write down more ideas. I like to put two or three notecards in my back pocket or purse, and as I think of things I want to remember throughout the course of the day, I write them down.
- Once you get back home (or to your office), add the to-dos from your notecards to your brain dump list. Discard the notecards.
- Gather all of the papers around your house or office, and go through them as quickly as you can. If you need to take action on the papers, and you can do it in just 2-3 minutes, take action (example: text an RSVP for a party and add the event to your calendar). If you need to take action, but it's going to take more time, add it to your brain dump list.
Take at least 2-3 days to complete your brain dump list. As you go about your day, you'll think of more ideas that have been floating around in your brain that you'll want to add to the list. Bring the notecards with you, and write things down.
The end result will be a super-daunting to-do list.
Be warned, that list will probably freak you out a little bit.
But, having everything in one place can help you actually start to take action on those to-dos instead making your brain work overtime to try to remember them all.
After you've done your brain dump, set aside time to take action on your to-do list.
Eliminate the tasks that aren't essential.
Make a separate list of ideas you love, but don't have time to complete right now (David Allen calls this a “Someday” list.)
Morning Pages: A Brain Dump for Your Thoughts
If you struggle with overthinking, or just need a way to work though your problems, journaling can help you work though some of the ideas that you've had knocking around in your brain.
One way to do this is by doing Morning Pages.
I first learned about doing Morning Pages when I was in college, and a friend recommended that I read The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.
In the book, Cameron recommends starting the day by journaling by hand and not stopping until you've filled 3 pages of your notebook.
Write about whatever comes to mind…a grocery list, how your neighbor's wind chimes are driving your crazy, feeling nervous about giving a presentation at work, worrying about being able to pay for college, a business idea you have, how you love watching reruns of The Office. Anything goes! If it comes to mind, write it down.
And don't stop until you've filled 3 pages.
When you did a brain dump filled with to-dos, and things to remember, the page quickly fills up.
But when you do Morning Pages, you may be surprised to find that it's difficult to think of things to write about.
Work through that feeling and just keep writing about whatever comes to mind.
Tips to Help You Fill Your Morning Pages
- Write with the idea that no one will ever read what you wrote. Even you. This will help you feel less self-conscious so you can be more open and honest in your writing.
- Think of the Morning Pages like a huge brainstorming session. Nothing is wrong. Just put what you're thinking about down onto the page.
- Don't worry about spelling, grammar, or neat handwriting.
Journaling can help you put “space” between your ideas and the words you write on the page. The act of writing down your thoughts helps you see them in a different way, and can actually help you process them more fully.
You may find that some ideas you've been thinking about for a long time are untrue, or silly.
And you may find that other little ideas you had actually held a lot of truth, and they'll help you move forward in a helpful way.