It was on a Sunday, and I should have been asleep 2 hours ago.
My body was taut with weariness, but my brain was focused on denying me a wink of sleep. One idea would crop up, and before I had the time to ponder over it, another would rush in uninvited. I agonized, tossed, and turned, willing for my brain to shut down so I could sleep at least a couple of hours.
Sometimes my mind is like this. Thoughts, ideas, anxieties, worries, and occasional replaying of conversations keep me up at night. I’ve learned to anticipate when it happens, and now I know what to do.
However, before this, I did not know what to do with all the happenings in my brain. I would be studying for a test when a myriad thoughts would rush in, and I would lose my focus. Sometimes, I would be working, but the nagging in my mind would not let me concentrate.
So a few weeks ago, I found a solution to declutter my mind and gain more focus on the things I need to be doing.
What is brain dumping?
Brain dumping is decluttering your mind of thoughts, ideas, anxieties, worries, and any other issue that has been plaguing your brain. A brain dump is usually done on paper. It is an intentional but not an organized technique.
The goal of brain dumping is not to think of what you write on paper. The main objective is to put to paper what you have been thinking. Every thought, no matter how small, should go on the paper. At this time, you are not trying to make sense of your thoughts. You are just emptying all that has been going on inside your mind.
Then, later on, you can categorize these thoughts into coherent groups and start working your way through them.
How does one do a brain dump?
There are two major techniques you can use for brain dumping. The first is the classical pen and paper. Using this technique, you write down your thoughts on a paper without arranging them into categories. Here’s an example of a recent brain dump I did this week.
Basically, you are listing thoughts as they surface, giving no importance to whether it is viable or not.
The second brain dumping technique is the mind map method. This method is best if you love exploring your ideas through diagrams or visually. To start, you write one thought that’s been on your mind for some time, then continue adding more thoughts, worries, and issues as they emerge.
Again, this technique doesn’t have to make sense as you create your mindmap brain dump. I’ll share how you can categorize your brain dump outputs into coherent ideas later.
Why brain dumps work
Thoughts are fleeting.
They are intangible. You can’t see the thoughts, so they feel more unreal, yet they keep plaguing you throughout the day. When you write your thoughts on paper, they become tangible.
You can see them.
Instead of a half-baked thought running through your mind for hours, a written thought is fully formed. It’s also easier to make a decision when you have tangible thoughts. On paper, it’s not just a thought. It’s more of a reality that you can transform into a task.
Why do we need to brain dump?
We are living in a world of information— too much information sometimes. As we try to make sense of everything happening in the world, our faith and life, it’s easy to clutter our brains. Here is how getting rid of brain clutter can make your life simple and healthier.
It’s good for your mental health
If not released, anxiety, worry, ideas, and other issues are a breeding place for developing mental health disorders. By decluttering, you will get rid of your stressors and anxiety-provoking thoughts. I find that I go on a high anxiety drive if I don’t try to make sense of fleeting thoughts.
Brain dumping will help you pinpoint habits that lead you to anxiety, depression, worry, and mood swings. At the end of a brain dump, I promise you will be freer and less stressed.
Clarity of vision
Too many ideas and thoughts only hinder you from your calling. God intends for us to be focused on the things he called us to do. He wants us to be alert, receptive and continuously listening to his voice.
With a cluttered mind, it’s hard to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. And hence, it will be hard and almost impossible to achieve our God-given goals.
I’ve experienced firsthand what a cluttered mind does to your sleep. You won’t be getting them 8 hours of sleep. And if you do, it will be fitful and full of tossing and turning.
Brain dumping is your way out of eye bags and grogginess in the morning.
Whenever my mind feels cluttered, I spend a few minutes brain dumping, and as a result, I’m able to sleep better.
How often should you do a brain dump?
It’s really up to you.
In my case, I feel overwhelmed if I go for a week without checking in on my ideas and the minor issues that overwhelm me. Look for cues and try to declutter before you get overloaded with thoughts. Here are a few instances where you need to brain dump ASAP.
- When you are confused
- Stuck at solving an issue
- You can’t sleep
- When things feel like they are going everywhere but the one palace you hoped.
How to organize your brain dumps into coherent tasks/plans
I know I said don’t arrange your thoughts into coherent categories, but now it’s time to do just that. After you hold every thought captive on paper, it’s now time to arrange them into tasks. We’ll also use this time to cancel the thoughts and ideas that are invalid and unimportant.
Organizing your brain dumps using the Eisenhower Matrix
It’s clear from my example of a brain dump that not everything will be important or urgent. We need to organize every thought into either of the four quadrants to have some form of control.
The Eisenhower method is the easiest matrix to divide everything into the correct category. Below, I show you how you can make the grid+ a template you can download for free. The matrix has four main quadrants:
1) Urgent and important
2) Important but not urgent
3) Urgent but not important
4)Not urgent and not important.
Urgent and Important
These ideas/ issues/tasks are essential, and they have a set deadline. If you don’t do them, there will be dire consequences.
Important but not urgent
Issues that fall in this category are essential. They add value to your life, and if you don’t do them, there will be a consequence. However, they don’t have a set deadline and are often overlooked and procrastinated. They are mostly the big picture goals.
Urgent but not important
These matters have a set deadline. They probably also have a consequence when not performed. Additionally, they can cause stress and burnout since you might not like them. The best way to deal with the issues is to delegate or automate.
Not urgent and not important
The matters don’t add a lot or any value to your life, neither are they urgent. But they can blind you into believing they are important and should be done. For instance, browsing your social media and watching a popular movie just because you can fall into this category.
Here’s a graphical representation of my brain dump outputs placed in their proper category.
Finally, it’s time to place your urgent and vital matters into your daily planner or task management system. You can now focus clearly on what matters to get to where Christ called you to serve.
Will you be trying a brain-dumping exercise? Download this Brain dumping toolbox for free. It’s simple, straightforward, and enables you to organize your tasks and ideas to clarify better and understand your vision. What’s inside?
- Multiple-page brain dumping checklists
- The Eisenhower matrix printable template