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The 4 Steps of Brain Dumping

plan your life planning May 23, 2023

Ever feel like you’re going around in circles? You have a million things you want to do, create, and accomplish but it all feels like a big jumbled mess in your head. 

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just start fresh?

You know this is what happens, right? You get a stretch where you are super organized and productive. You plan every day like a pro, and then somehow, everything falls apart. 

Whether it’s caused by a crazy period in your life or you’re feeling tired and unmotivated, it really doesn’t matter. 

The bottom line is, you’ve fallen off the wagon and you’re just not sure how to get back on.

But you know what? It’s okay to fall off the tracks and lose your way a little. Sometimes we need that in order to come back stronger, more focused, and more determined. 

A great way to help get you back on track is to have a brain-dumping session. This helps you get focused again on what’s important to you.


But what is brain dumping exactly? 

It’s so much more than just making a list of all your to-dos. It’s a way of going back to the basics and pretending like you are, in fact, starting from scratch, with absolutely no systems in place. 

It’s like being brand new to the planning game and looking for the best way to create your perfect plan.

It’s also about revisiting your current system and deciding what works and what doesn’t. Asking yourself if there’s anything you need to let go of or if maybe it's time to try something new.

So how exactly do you get yourself back on the wagon? Simply follow these 4 steps!


1) Begin with some brain dumping

First, get out a pen and paper. Having a notebook specifically for brain dumping is great, because it keeps all those thoughts in one place, rather than having them scattered over numerous pieces of paper.

The important thing is to find a system that makes sense to you. Whether it’s just loose-leaf paper, a notebook, or your computer, it’s really up to you.

Now, write everything down. And I mean everything! Even if you know it’s already in your current system, write it down anyway. 

The simple act of writing it down will clear your head and sometimes will help trigger other thoughts and ideas that you haven't captured anywhere else.

Spend as much time on this as you need to. Generally, about a half hour will do it, but it can take much longer than this, depending on what’s going on in your life. 

It’s okay to have several brain-dumping sessions as well if taking a big chunk of your time for this is not a luxury for you.


2) Revisit your current system

Once you’re happy with your list, then it’s time to look at your current system and decide what’s working and what isn’t.

This step is pretty important. Why? Because if something in your current system isn’t working, then there really is no point in putting anything that’s on your brain dump list into it. 

Your system needs to be useful, reliable, and make sense to you. Otherwise, you won’t want to use it. So make sure you set things up so you’ll want to use it. You want to enjoy the process.


3) Decide how your information will be organized

Before you can move anything off your list, you need to decide how you want to keep that information. 

You can choose something like the bullet journaling system. I love the flexibility of this system, allowing you to manipulate your planning, organizing, and time management. You won't feel restricted like you would using a pre-printed planner.

Of course, we all work differently and having a pre-printed planner that gives you a skeleton system might be just what you need.

Then there's always the electronic route, and my Notion system is what I've gone back to and love at the moment. 

There are lots of things to consider here. Keep an open mind as you explore different options. 

You might also want to consider the following: 

Calendar items - anything date or time specific can be moved directly into your calendar system. 

Projects - anything that requires more than one step to complete can be moved to a project list. If anything on your list happens to be a component of a project, then it can be written down underneath that project. 

Recurring items - if anything on your list is something that needs to happen on a regular basis, consider creating a recurring list. You can create daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly lists. Things such as specific household chores, stuff relating to home and car maintenance, and self-care reminders, can go on these lists.


4) Put your information where it belongs

Now that you’ve decided how you’re going to organize your information, you can now go ahead and work your way down your brain dump list and move items to their proper place.

Once you’ve followed these steps and everything is in its place, now it’s time to go do the things!


But before you go, let me leave you with these tips.

Don’t wait too long between brain-dumping sessions. In fact, I would highly recommend adding this to your weekly or monthly planning routine. By having regular brain dumping sessions, you can help to alleviate the feelings of overwhelm. 

Don’t forget to make space for self-care. It should be as much a part of your system as household chores and family activities. 

Have fun! There are many ways to approach all of this but avoid overwhelm by keeping things in a way that will make you enjoy the planning process. 


Need a start-up planning system?

To help support you as you revisit and rebuild your system, consider getting my Ultimate Goals Workbook, which will help you map out your system, from your high-level goals right down to your daily routines.

You can get your copy of the Ultimate Goals Workbook here.

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