What is Brain Dumping?
Welcome to this post, “What is Brain Dumping?”!
If you’re like me, you think the phrase “brain dump” is kind of weird. I mean we all know “taking a dump” is not exactly a flattering term, but what exactly is brain dumping?
Regardless of how weird I think the phrase is, brain dumping has revolutionized my life. I might even go as far as saying that it has been the single most powerful method I’ve used to be productive and organized.
Today I want to share with you what brain dumping is, some of the scientific benefits of brain dumping, and how you can start to brain dump yourself.
Let’s get into it!
My Biggest Pet Peeve
Let me start by sharing one of my biggest pet peeves. During the school day, you bounce from class to class. You do some assignments, take a test or two, and talk to friends. You get home and start to kick back and relax. But, as soon as you sit down you feel like you’re forgetting something. You remember that you had some sort of homework to do, but you can’t remember what it was. No matter how hard you try, you can’t remember what you told yourself you had to do when you got home. So, you brush it off and show up to class the next day only to realize that you now have a missing assignment.
Relatable, right? I know this is a pretty basic example, but I’m sure we can all relate. Sometimes we get into such a rhythm throughout the day that we forget to record things that come up. My biggest pet peeve is when I remember I have to do something, but I can’t remember what I have to do.
What Is Brain Dumping?
Thankfully there’s an easy solution to this problem…brain dumping. Brain dumping is when you write down thoughts in your head on a piece of paper or a digital list.
As you go throughout your day and notice you have to do something, write it down. It doesn’t matter how big or how small it is, write it down.
The key here is to write things down the second you think about them. If you wait, you risk forgetting what it was you were going to write down which is the entire problem we’re trying to avoid. It’s hard to make this a habit, but do the best you can.
While this first kind of brain dumping may help you remember things, there’s another way of brain dumping that helps get things off your mind.
Sometimes there just seems to be a million thoughts floating around in your head. You may find it helpful to sit down, pull out your brain dump, and literally write down every thought in your head until you can’t even think of anything any longer.
I prefer to use both methods of brain dumping. I write down thoughts throughout the day as they come up. But, at the end of the day I also sit down for one big brain dump where I try to write down every thought in my head that I might have missed earlier.
I want to emphasize here that just because you write something down does not mean that you have to do it now, at some point, or ever. The idea is to just get thoughts out of your head and decide what to do with them later.
Why Should Someone Use a Brain Dump?
If I haven’t convinced you yet of why you should start brain dumping, here are several scientific benefits of brain dumping:
Obviously one of the main reasons behind brain dumping is to remember things. When you write thoughts down as they come up, you’re more likely to remember them later both in your mind and on your brain dump list.
I can’t tell you how often I’m not able to focus on a task at hand or on enjoying time with family because I’m trying to remember what I have to do. The ability to write these thoughts down and get them out of my mind has allowed me to be way more focused on a day to day basis.
The craziest part about brain dumping is how thoughts immediately vanish from your head the second you write them down somewhere else. It’s like giving your brain permission to let certain thoughts go and let certain new thoughts in. You’ll find this new space in your mind allows for creative thinking that will take your life to the next level.
You’ll start to realize how much more organized you become when you brain dump. Instead of forgetting things, you remember almost everything you have to do and you just feel more organized and on top of things.
Check out more organization tips in our self-improvement category.
More On Your Plate
With this new found organization, you’ll find that you can both better handle what’s already on your plate and you’ll be able to add more to your plate. For me personally I have been able to take on more and more responsibilities now that I have this brain dump system in place.
Despite taking on new obligations, you’ll actually be less stressed. When you know you’re not forgetting things and that you have a system in place to remember things that come up, you’ll be way less stressed with everything going on in your life.
Speaking of emotions like stress, brain dumping can help you process your emotions and thoughts. Brain dumping almost acts as journaling in a sense as you’re taking the thoughts you are feeling and writing them down. You’ll be surprised at how much better you’ll get at processing your emotions and understanding yourself.
The biggest benefit of brain dumping has to be mental clarity. When you consider all of the benefits above you start to realize how much mental space is freed up by brain dumping. I can’t even begin to express how much mental clarity you gain from brain dumping. You’ll just have to give it a try to see for yourself.
How To Start Brain Dumping
So now we’ve gone over the benefits of brain dumping, but we haven’t discussed how to start brain dumping. Here’s a few tips from what’s worked well for me:
What Do I Write In My Brain Dump?
I think a lot of people reading this right now are probably thinking, I wouldn’t have anything to write in a brain dump. That’s not true whatsoever.
Start by writing down things that other people ask you to do. It could be your teacher giving you an assignment, your boss asking you to fill out some paperwork, or your parents giving you chores. You can start by brain dumping to-do lists with these action items.
Once you start to master these external inputs, look internally. You can start brain dumping about personal obligations, goals, and commitments.
Finally, use your brain dump like a journal. Write down your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. When in doubt, just write down what you’re thinking about!
Here’s the method I use for finding things to put in my brain dump.
- When trying to think of things to get off my mind, I start by looking at my current day so far. I think about what has come up that I haven’t dealt with yet. I then look to the future to see what I need to prepare for based on what I know is coming up.
- If I’m still trying to get things off my mind, I go through each area of my life (life bucket) and write down tasks I have for each.
- Once you get some things written down, you can start to read back through it and you’ll think of more things based on what you wrote down.
While I try to stay on top of my brain dump throughout the week, sometimes I find it helpful to leave items in there for a day or so to continue to process, ponder, and think about next steps before I am ready to empty my brain dump.
When Should I Brain Dump?
I have found it beneficial to have dedicated times to allow your mind to wander. So often I just go throughout my day without allowing my brain to think. During mind wander times, I like to be in a secluded, distraction-free environment for 15-30 minutes.
These are times where I try to do big brain dumps to get things off my mind. I don’t try to force a big brain dump, but want to give myself plenty of time to do so. This has been very helpful in allowing my mind to rest at night and giving me peace of mind throughout my days.
Brain Dump Sorting
Unfortunately your brain dump won’t do you much good if you don’t take the time to sort through it and clean it out. If you just create a massive list of actions, thoughts, and ideas without ever doing anything about it, you’re just creating a second brain for yourself. This second brain wouldn’t reap any of the benefits of brain dumping.
Instead, I try to stay on top of my brain dump by sorting it every day and emptying it every week. I sort items in my brain dump into several different categories that each warrant a different response:
- Action Items (Things I can do right now and get out of the way)
- Schedule (Things that I will schedule for a later date)
- Questions (Questions I have for people)
- Thoughts (Thoughts I have that I may want to reference later)
- Waiting For (Things I’m waiting for other people to do)
- Someday Maybe (Things I might want to do someday maybe)
I use a Notion database to quickly sort items into their respective categories. This database is then filtered into different lists that I can reference accordingly.
Even despite daily sorting, this system tends to get messy quickly. As a result, I like to completely empty it once a week.
When I empty my brain dump, it doesn’t mean that I’m permanently getting rid or thoughts and actions that haven’t been completed yet. It just means that I’m moving things to where I can reference them in a more organized manner.
I might move items to Google Calendar, Google Drive, or to more organized list or databases on Notion. Doing this once a week allows me to stay organized and reset for the week.
Best Brain Dump Tools
You might be asking, what tools should I brain dump on? The answer, anywhere that you can. I prefer to have sticky notes, notepads, paper, or a digital device where I can write things down anywhere I go.
Some people prefer to keep their brain dumps in a notebook. But, I prefer to keep my brain dump digital so that I can access it anywhere.
I started by using Google Keep on my phone, but have since switched to using Notion as it’s more customizable and organized.
Whatever tool(s) you choose, make sure that you can access them wherever you are.
Despite trying to always have a device with you, you’ll still run into times when you have nothing to write your thoughts down on (ex. shower, pool, etc.). If you think of things you would like to write down in these situations it’s a good idea to have a way of remembering these things temporarily until you are back with your device.
I like to do use two different remembering methods. The first is one I call the brute force method which is trying to remember the thoughts in your head in a sequential order. However, I find the second method to more helpful to try to remember things by associating a person, verb, or adjective to them.
That’s it! I hope you enjoyed this post, “What is Brain Dumping?”! You should now understand brain dumping, the benefits of doing so, and how to get started! Please feel free to leave comments, questions, and concerns down below! Otherwise, best of luck implementing brain dumping into your life!
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