Overwhelmed to Organized With a Brain Dump
BY LAUREN CARTER
If you’re anything like me, you have a million thoughts running through your mind at all times. You try to focus on the task in front of you, but you suddenly remember another task you need to be doing, and then another. Before you know it, you have an entire to-do list swirling around in your head, and you have no idea where you are going to find the time to do it all. It can be overwhelming and sometimes even paralyzing to the point where you don’t do anything.
When this happens to me, I grab the nearest pen and piece of paper and write down all of my thoughts, tasks, worries, and dreams. I don’t overthink it, and I write until I can’t think of anything else. Once I’m done, I immediately feel better.
This simple exercise is called a brain dump. It is exactly what it sounds like — you take everything in your brain and “dump” it onto paper. You are clearing your mind of the chaos and clutter and giving yourself the space to breathe and refocus.
A brain dump is my favorite way to go from overwhelmed to organized. You can do one anywhere or anytime, and it doesn’t need to be complicated. Sometimes just writing out your thoughts before bedtime is enough, but I find adding on a few extra steps and doing them monthly (and reviewing them weekly) works best for me.
Here is my entire process:
Write Everything Down
I grab a pen and notebook and start writing. I write down everything I’ve been thinking about – immediate tasks, upcoming tasks, tasks I’d like to get to one day, worries I have, dreams I have, items I need to buy, items I want to buy, and so much more. As I said, I don’t overthink it, and I write until I can’t think of anything else. I also don’t order my list in any way. The moment I think of something, I write it down.
Take a Break
After I’ve finished the actual brain dump, I close my notebook and take a break. It’s such a relief to have everything written down and out of my head, but that feeling is temporary. I find that if I sit and stare at the list in front of me for too long, I’ll start to stress about it. I’ll usually take a walk, cook dinner and have a glass of wine, or get a good night’s rest before coming back to it.
Organize, Prioritize and Schedule
Once I’ve taken a break, I feel refreshed and excited to start organizing and scheduling out everything in my brain dump. I’ll grab my pen and notebook, open to a new page, and start re-writing my list. This time, I’ll organize the items into categories. I change up the categories depending on my list, but they usually look like this: personal, work, chores, errands, and fun.
Next, I’ll prioritize and schedule what I can. Some tasks, such as texting a friend back or dropping off a package at the post office, are easier and I’ll do right away, but others, such as researching for a trip or creating a social media content calendar, take time, and I’ll block out the time for them on my calendar. There are always a few tasks that don’t get scheduled, and I’ll either delegate to my husband or save for a later date (I can only do so much!).
Life can change, and some weeks I have more energy than others, so I like to review my monthly brain dump at the end of every week (usually a Friday afternoon or Sunday evening) to prepare for the week ahead. I’ll add any new items, redetermine my priorities and reschedule certain tasks if needed.
This is my entire brain dump process, and what I’ve found works best for me over the years. My favorite part is the actual brain dump, but organizing, prioritizing and scheduling the items are what make this process truly work.
The next time you have a million thoughts swirling around in your head, try doing a brain dump. Feel free to adapt my process to your needs. Some prefer to take notes on their computer, and some prefer to organize their tasks, take a break and then schedule everything out. Everyone is different, so I recommend finding what works best for you, so you can have a clear mind and stay organized.