I talk a lot about the importance of aggregating tasks from all of your inputs...and one big input is your brain. The method for getting these tasks out of your head and into a system is called a brain dump.
Most of us hold WAY too much in our brains. We’re trying to remember everything what we have to do, and I think, deep down, you know how well that works. (Spoiler alert: not very well.)
A brain dump is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It’s a way to get all your tasks, all your lingering open questions, all the big projects you don’t yet know all the steps to, all of that stuff, out of your head.
Getting everything out of your head and into a system is freeing. It’s what will enable you to stop spending time thinking about the same things over and over. Once it’s in the system, you mind knows it can let go. Once it’s in the system, it can be prioritized. Once it’s in the system, it won’t be lost and it won’t fall through the cracks.
So here’s how it works:
Sit down with a writing implement (pen, keyboard, finger)
List everything that comes into your head that you need to do
Add it to your system
It’s that simple.
Now, if you’ve never done this before, there’s going to be A LOT of stuff circling around in your head. And it might feel overwhelming to write it all down. But guess what? It’s the same amount of stuff whether you write it down or not, and keeping it in your head is guaranteed to create more stress than looking at it outside of your head.
When people first start using this strategy, they have a tendency to focus on only the large items. But to get the full value of this technique, you’ll need to brain dump all the stuff, no matter how small. So, “buy my niece a birthday gift” and “get a haircut” belong up there with “figure out my next career move”.
How else can you use this strategy?:
If you start to feel overwhelmed, take 5 minutes to do a brain dump.
Before you leave work, take 5 minutes and do a brain dump.
Before you go to sleep, take 5 minutes and do a brain dump. ( In fact, studies show that people who do a brain dump before bed actually fall asleep faster than those who don’t.)
You’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish, and how much easier it is to focus and stay on task, when you are regularly getting your tasks out of your head and into your system.