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The Beauty of a Brain Dump

If you are at all like me, you have a running to do list in your head at all times. There is constantly something to remember to sign up for, an email to send or a project to finish. I’m usually pretty good at keeping it all straight but every once in awhile (or maybe closer to once a month… ) It all gets to be too much and I’d rather bury my head under the pillow than to do one single thing. In those moments, the “brain dump” has been a lifesaver. Moving me from paralysis to action, the beauty in the brain dump is it can take ALL THE THINGS and break them down into just “things”. There is no perfect way to do it, but give the below structure a shot and keep tweaking until you find the process that’s right for you.

Step 1

Set a timer for 3 minutes, get a pen and paper and turn off all electronics (better yet leave the phone in another room!). Close the door.

Step 2

Start the timer. Dump everything in your brain down onto paper in one continuous writing stream. Write in a circle, write in a straight line. Write concepts, write feelings, write full statements. Don’t stop to re-read what you have written or wonder if what you are writing is “right”. Whatever is taking up your mental space get it out! If you hit the time limit and are still going, re-set the timer and keep moving.

Step 3

When there is nothing left to write about, take a deep breath and look at your brain dump. Read each item and notice how each one makes you feel as you read it.

Step 4

Go through your brain dump and break it down. How you break it down will depend on the nature of your energy drain.  

Is your issue that you don’t have enough time? Circle, underline or highlight what’s most important to do or deal with right now, then tomorrow and then this week. Of these, what can only be done by you or what can you delegate? Do you have all the info and tools you need to complete these tasks? If not, write down what you need to enable you to take action.

What item gives you the most anxiety?  Is there a tough e-mail or conversation you need to get off of your plate? Is it a deadline you know you won’t meet?  Anxiety over a looming event affects the way you show up to everything. Deal with that one thing. Do you have what you need to do so? If not, write down what you need.

Step 5

Now that you have the important tasks or energy drains highlighted and know what you need to deal with each one, block time on your calendar to deal with each individual item. Start with what needs to get done immediately and work backwards from there.

Tip: This exercise can also give you important insight into which area of your life needs the most attention right now. I use a highlighter for each “bucket of my life”. Personal – pink, Business – green. Sometimes I go even further using a different color for family, vs. exercise, vs. work etc. See which color takes up the most space on the page. What does that tell you about where you are right now? Are you spending your energy in the right places?

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Amy Young

I'm Amy, a marathon-loving mom of three, who guides others towards intentional living based on my own journey of feeling unfulfilled despite seemingly having it all.

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Hi! I'm Amy.

I’m Amy, a marathon-loving mom of three, who guides others towards intentional living based on my own journey of feeling unfulfilled despite seemingly having it all. I stress the importance of aligning life’s choices with my inner values rather than societal expectations, which often leads to a disconnection from true happiness. By advocating for self-awareness and intentionality, I seek to prevent others from feeling lost, urging them to redefine success to find genuine fulfillment.

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