The Brain Dump List

I’m a big big big list maker.

But for some reason, sometimes I get too specific with my lists, and it’s hard for me to tackle whatever is on my list for that day. One day a few weeks ago, I decided to try a brain dump list. I just word vomited all of the random things I had to do — whether they were for the blog, for work, for appointments, for random errands — I just wrote them down.

The weirdest thing happened — I felt like I had some mental clarity after doing that. The brain dump list I created was really like a reset button for my mind. So if you’ve been feeling overwhelmed and indecisive (and therefore feeling unproductive). A brain dump starts by writing a list in no particular order — seriously WHATEVER comes to mind. I try to do a brain dump at least once a week (and if anything comes up throughout the week, I’ll add to it).

We accumulate so many tasks in our heads that it tends to feel like everything is so urgent and important. A brain dump helps me feel like I can visually look what what’s important and what’s not. Often times I find myself writing things down that I don’t necessarily need to worry about until a later date.

How To Write A Brain Dump

Start a list of whatever is on your mind

I got a cute notebook to start my list. This is definitely just a personal preference. I very much enjoy writing things down – pen to paper. I know many people prefer the digital route, but seriously, anything works. At the end of the day, the goal is the same: Clear out your brain.

It’s random, but really think

After you’ve really dumped everything that first came to mind as you started the list, eventually you’re going to run out of things you need to do. Once you’ve done the random stuff, it’s time to think a little more. Think about what’s due in the next week. Think about any upcoming appointments you need to make. Think about what you want to accomplish at home. Anything else that comes to mine, just write it down.

Time to delegate (and eliminate/postpone)

It’s okay if your list is getting long. If it starts to get overwhelming, start to review your list.

  • Delegate: Can anyone take this off your plate (someone on your team, your significant other, a sibling/friend)
  • Eliminate: Get rid of anything you don’t actually have to worry about
  • Postpone: If you don’t need to get it done in the foreseeable future, take it off

Create categories

Since your brain dump is going to be all over the place, creating categories may help make it less daunting. Next to each item on your list, write down a category. I don’t always do this…only if my weekly lists are super hefty. I like to color coordinate them as well (using a highlighter).

  • Home
  • Errands
  • Work (Lou & Grey
  • Blog
  • Appointments
  • Personal
  • Finances

Take it step further

If you’re severely into making lists like I am, you can go a step further and create a separate list for each category. Then, it’s time to look at your tasks and see what needs to be prioritized. Does this need to be done today? Does an item need to get done, but doesn’t need attention today? Is there anything that doesn’t need attention for at least a week or two?

When your tasks are organized by timeframe, you can take a step back and REALLY focus on what needs to get done that day. For things that I can worry about later, I schedule into my planner, so I can add them to an upcoming list.

Focus on today

After I have my organized list of things I need to do, it’s time to take some action. Some days my “today” list is long, and other times it is not. Each day might have a different priority, and that’s okay. I love seeing all of the things — both big and small — that I need to get done written on paper.

While these steps may seem long, this only takes me about 10 minutes. Some people do daily brain dump lists, but I focus on weekly ones. Knowing my priorities help me schedule my days efficiently without wasting time trying to decide what I need to get done first.

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  1. 9.22.21
    Lisa said:

    I love seeing how other people do brain dumps! I like how you categorize yours and color code! It’s so helpful, isn’t it? I don’t do them regularly but MAY schedule it into my weekly rotation. I feel like I’m already so much of a planner that adding a brain dump session might be overkill. But we’ll see, ha! Great organized post, Dana!