Get it Done :: The Power of a Brain Dump

Get it Done :: The Power of a Brain Dump

Do you ever find yourself lying in bed at night with thoughts of unfinished tasks swirling in your mind? Do you wake up in the middle of the night with your brain buzzing, unable to shut it off? If so, you’re not alone. Many of us experience this phenomenon, known as “open loops,” where our minds become cluttered with unfinished business, slowing us down and hindering productivity.

I keep computer tabs open until I finish a task. However, I have been known to have over 100 tabs open at once and wonder why my computer doesn’t run as smoothly as it used to. Just like a computer with too many open tabs runs slower, our minds can become bogged down by the weight of unfinished tasks and unorganized thoughts. The solution? A brain dump.

A brain dump is a powerful technique for clearing your mind and organizing your thoughts. It’s like hitting the reset button on your mental clutter, allowing you to start fresh and approach tasks with clarity and focus.

So, how do you conduct a successful brain dump? Here’s a step-by-step guide that we followed this week:

1. Prepare for a Productive Session: Find a quiet, comfortable space to focus without distractions. We had a group session at Salon 22 surrounded by like-minded individuals all striving for personal development and improved productivity.

  1. Gather Your Materials: We had notebooks, pens, assorted paper, Post-it notes, and highlighters, and we asked participants to bring their laptops, planners, and current lists.
  1. Set a Timer: Dedicate a specific duration to your brain dump session. We started with 15 minutes and extended in 5-minute increments until we felt finished. Fifteen minutes allows enough time to delve into your thoughts without feeling rushed or wasting time.

  1. Start Writing: Let your thoughts flow freely onto the page without filtering or editing. Write down everything that comes to mind, whether tasks, ideas, worries, goals, or anything else occupying your thoughts. I provided prompts to jumpstart the brainstorming process.
  1. Keep Going: Continue writing until the timer goes off, allowing your thoughts to flow uninterrupted. Don’t worry about organizing or prioritizing at this stage; the goal is to empty your mind of clutter.
  1. Review and Organize: Once the timer stopped, we reviewed our writing and organized our thoughts into categories or lists. We identified a time frame – this month, quarter 3, or quarter 4. After the first pass, we counted how many items we had in each time frame. I had 42 identified with 16 days left in the month, which was too many. Next, we separated May items from June or the other quarters. That decreased my list by 15! Then, we looked at which items we could delegate, eliminating another five from May and 26 from the rest of my list.
  1. Process and Take Action: With your thoughts organized, it’s time to process the items on your lists. Identify priorities, set goals, and create a plan of action to tackle your tasks systematically. We also committed not to add anything else to our May lists! Remember, the key to maintaining productivity is regular maintenance, so make brain-dumping a regular practice to keep your mind clear and focused. We will schedule these twice a year.

A brain dump is a simple yet effective tool for managing mental clutter and maximizing productivity. By dedicating time to clear your mind and organize your thoughts, you can approach tasks with renewed energy and focus, ultimately achieving greater success and fulfillment in your personal and professional life. Let me know if you would like a guide for a future session!


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