Gain Focus With A Brain Dump

I had stacks and stacks of yellow legal pads with ideas and to-do lists from many years past.

I was very proud of the fact that I had so many items on my to-do lists. It made me feel productive. But in reality nothing was getting done.

My brain was overwhelmed from overload.

I ran across a podcast episode from Brook Castillo about getting rid of your to-do list.

Brook Castillo – Throw Away Your To-Do List

I was reluctant to get rid of my treasured list. It was a badge of honor to me. At least, that was the story I made up in my head.

I learned how to brain dump, write down everything swirling around in my head. That was life changing.

Not only did she teach me how to brain dump but I also learned how my to-do list was killing my productivity.

I went through all of the boxes of legal pads I had and threw them all away and started over with a good brain dump. That day I filled up 5 pages of nagging thought that were stressing me out.

Why Should You Brain Dump

Brain dumping clears out the stuff swirling around in your head creating stress and anxiety in your life.

Brain dumping helps people whose stress type causes them to be anxious and have a racing mind. The act of taking something from your brain and writing it down diffuses the intensity of the issue, at least long enough to allow you to get back to the task at hand.1

As you write down everything that’s floating around in your head, your brain begins to learn that you are going to remember it, without having to keep it top of mind. This allows for other ideas and creative thoughts to come to the forefront.2

The Process

Write down your thoughts, ideas, anything nagging at you. Write down things in your control and not in your control. Basically, If you’re thinking it write it down.

This is not the time to edit or argue with your thoughts.

If you need help you can use the topics below:

Intellect – mind and skill improvement
Emotional – fears, dreams, desires, loves
Physical – your health
Marital – partnership relationships
Parental – relationships with kids
Social – relationships with everyone else.
Vocational – your current jobber what you want your job to be
Avocational – hobbies
Financial – your current reality
Spiritual – Your connection to God.

The steps:

  1. Don’t limit yourself. Set aside time on my calendar to do this.
  2. Write with no distractions – Get your mind in a place to free flow
  3. Write everything that pops into your head no matter how small
  4. Don’t organize into categories. Just let your writing flow from thought to thought
  5. Cross off everything that is out of your control
  6. Cross off everything you don’t want to do or you can delegate.
  7. Put everything else on the calendar NOT back on a to-do list.
  8. This is where you realize what is important and what is not. If you can’t find space in your day for things they don’t matter to and need to be crossed off.
  9. Crumple up the list, throw it away and forget about it. Start living out of your calendar.

When should you brain dump?

You should be brain dumping every time you start to feel overwhelmed or stressed by the ‘voices in your head’.

I recommend brian dumping on a regular basis to keep that from happening in the first place. I brain dump every Sunday evening to start the week off right and keep my head clear.

Brain dumping should be the first thing you put on your calendar. When are you going to get it done? Day and time.

Alternatives to writing on paper:

Google Docs
Mind mapping – I use Mindmeister
Any other online note-taking platform

Alternatives to writing:

Voice memo apps
Voice recorders
Smart phone reminders
Otter app – My personal favorite. It transcribes as you speak

Do your first brain dump today. Block out some time and turn off all distractions. Then let me know in the comments how you feel getting all of that out.


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