Whether you call it a Brain Dump, Mind Dump or Brain Download, it’s the same thing.
It’s a way to declutter your mind so that you can attend to the task at hand.
Imagine this: The sensation of a million thoughts whizzing through your mind. So many things… So many jobs and to-dos and items to be taken care of. Thoughts and feelings and events…all jumbled together in one big mess. A million things that keep whizzing and soon you’ve spent an hour overwhelmed and stressed trying to figure out where to start.
It’s this plethora of thought that is affiliated with “overthinking”, and overthinking is commonly understood to be associated with Anxiety.
There are many coping skills that are helpful for managing anxiety, but Brain Dumping is a step above a coping skill. It is a technique.
What is a Brain Dump?
A brain dump is a strategic way to get random ideas, tasks, worries, and dreams out of your head.
Brain dumping is an exercise in differentiation. It is similar to cleaning out and organizing a closet. The reason it will help your anxiety is because part of anxiety is the problem of too much unresolved “clutter” in your mind. Brain Dumping helps organize this clutter into workable pieces, which are easier to resolve than a jumbled mess.
Brain Dumping involves removing the “overthinking” thoughts from your mind and placing them somewhere else. This can help you live more freely throughout each day as the things that are troubling you are being resolved. They are essential for mental clarity. With a clear mind, you can be intentional with your day without distractions or brain fog getting in the way.
Think of a brain dump like a reset button for your mind.
Why do a Brain Dump?
There are so many benefits to doing a daily or weekly brain dump, but the best reason is that it helps you to let go of things you don’t need to worry about.
When tasks are accumulating in your head, it tends to feel like everything is urgent and important. A brain dump gives you a better look at what’s important and what’s not. After doing this, you may find that you’ve written down things you don’t need to worry about until a later date.
A brain dump also gives you permission to set aside shoulds. Shoulds are those things you feel pressured to do but never seem to get around to.
For example, you might think you should be running every day because someone told you to, but you don’t have any desire to actually do it (maybe yoga is more your thing). Doing a brain dump lets you see what shoulds you’re holding on to so that you can let them go and reduce that mental clutter.
How to do a Brain Dump
This process involves getting out your journal or notebook, and writing anything in it that comes to mind. This is a sort of free-floating, free association process of jotting down anything and everything that is in your mind.
The purpose of this exercise is to simply remove the clutter from your mind and placing it outside of yourself. In essence, your brain feels satisfied that the problems are being acknowledged, categorized, and removed.
If you do nothing else with the information other than writing it down, consider this progress. You are helping yourself manage your thoughts in a very practical manner, by removing them from your mind and placing them on paper. This is helping your brain relax because it no longer has to remind you to focus on the issue because you have recognized it.
A simple checklist would be to explore the following:
- Thoughts – Just write down all your random thoughts without thinking about them too deeply.
- To-Do – Write down all thoughts related to things you need to accomplish.
- Gratitude – Write down the things you are grateful for.
- Top 3 Priorities – Go back to your To-Do list above and write down the top three things on that list that are most important to you.
With this in mind, you want to be sure to include the basics, outlines below:
1. Write a bullet-point list of whatever’s on your mind
You can do this digitally, on paper, or you can grab this free brain dump worksheet to make it easier. Try not to filter yourself or second-guess whether you should add something to the list or not. The goal is to clear out the nooks and crannies of your brain.
2. Revisit the list and add/revise
To make sure you’re not forgetting anything, here are some things to think about:
- What due dates are coming up in the next week or month?
- What has been on your mind?
- What appointments are upcoming or need to be made?
- What home tasks do you want or need to do? (e.g. laundry, cleaning, organizing, grocery shopping, grocery list)
- What work tasks do you want or need to do?
- What miscellaneous tasks do you want or need to do? (e.g. get gas, create a budget)
- What personal issues have arisen and what are your thoughts and feelings behind them?
If anything new has come to mind, add it to your brain dump list.
3. Eliminate, delegate and postpone
At this point, your list might be incredibly long. To avoid getting overwhelmed, review your list and see if anything can be eliminated, delegated, or postponed.
- Eliminate – get rid of tasks you really don’t need to be worried about
- Delegate – ask someone else if they can take it off of your plate
- Postpone – take it off your list for now if it’s not relevant for the foreseeable future
4. Create categories & organize
Your brain dump list might be a little all over the place which is totally fine. Let’s make it less daunting by organizing it.
Next to each item on your list, write down the category it belongs to. These categories are totally up to you depending on your lifestyle, but could include Home, Work, Family, Health, Finances, etc.
In another spot on your paper, create columns labeled with each of the categories you came up with from the previous task. Add the tasks to the corresponding category.
5. Prioritize your tasks
Now that you have an organized list of tasks (which hopefully feels less overwhelming), it’s important to figure out when you’re going to do them. The easiest way to do this is to decide when they need to get done:
- Today – it’s due soon or it’s a personal priority
- Upcoming – it needs to get done soon but doesn’t need attention today
- Later – it doesn’t need attention for at least 2 weeks
With your tasks categorized by timeframe, schedule the ones you need to work on later into your planner so you can stop worrying about them. Now you’re free to only think about the tasks that are marked for today.
6. Plan your daily tasks
Now that you have a super organized and categorized overview of the things you need to do, it’s important to take action. Your ‘Today’ list might be pretty long, so you need to decide what to work on first.
The best way to do this is to figure out what your priorities are. Based on that, you can figure out which order to work on your tasks. For example, my life priorities right now are health & wellness, work, and home (in that order). If I want to work out, write a blog post, and clean my apartment today, I’m going to do them in that order.
Knowing your priorities will help you to schedule your day efficiently without wasting time trying to decide what to work on first.
7. Allow yourself some space to process
Taking a moment for reflection, release and surrender is an effective strategy in allowing you to step back from overwhelm and anxiety. Process the emotions and feelings around anything that has been on your mind and allow youself a moment to facilitate clarity.
Release the need to control, surrender to focusing on ‘the now’ and take a break from thoughts or worry.
Finally, it is important for you to remember to work with yourself and your own limitations and strengths. Pick any process that works best for you. If you find yourself over-thinking often, you might feel satisfied in having mini-brain dumping sessions throughout each day, where you write down your obsessive thoughts and worries as they come, jotting them in a journal to be dealt with at a later time.
This exercise will definitely help your mind feel better because you are telling it that you are taking your problems seriously and they have been written down, which means you won’t be forgetting them. Your brain can stop ruminating because it feels that its concerns are being addressed or going to be addressed.
If you’re struggling or simply wanting change, I can help.
Katrina Murphy is a Professional Intuitive Mindset and Confidence Coach in Ontario, Canada, serving clients across Canada and internationally. Katrina helps professionals to change the relationship that they have with themselves so they can reconnect both in their relationships and at work. She’s been featured in various publications and is the creator of the Power-Passion-Purpose Framework.