When Michel Eyquem de Montagne (1533-1592) wrote: “Get a purge for your brain. It will do better than for your stomach,” he wasn’t thinking about modern-day business. However, his words echo true about stressful living, no matter the century. When you consider how much “stuff” our brains collect and how that stuff can be detrimental to our performance, who wouldn’t benefit from a getting a brain purge?
How many times a day, week, or month, do you find yourself being pulled in several different directions at once? How many times have you written a list to contain your tasks and then equally frequently forgot about or didn’t refer to the lists? Unless they are actionable, lists are meaningless. To the rescue: brain dumps.
Brain dumps are like journaling. If you’ve ever kept a journal, you’ll know that it’s possibly one of the most powerful ways to accelerate your own personal development. By putting your thoughts in writing, you simultaneously free your mind of stress, allowing an opportunity for insights that perhaps you could not (or would not) otherwise be able to see.
A brain dump can also be compared to brainstorming, but instead of brainstorming with a team, you are brainstorming with yourself. Here’s how to do a brain dump. Find a pen and paper or use your iPad, laptop, desktop computer – whatever works for you – and spend up to ten minutes writing everything that’s on your mind. This includes writing down all the things you need or want to do and even ideas that may seem ridiculous.
As you’re writing, don’t sort your ideas or analyze them – just write them. Once created, this brain dump list becomes your “master” list and a space for “freedom” – a place for gathering action items without the responsibility of actually doing any of them.
Brain dumps allow you to take a bird’s eye view of your thoughts and by doing so, you can make better decisions. When you’re ready, refer to your list and take the appropriate action with each item. Is it a required action? Do you need to do it? Can it be delegated? Can it be deleted from your list?
Review and add to this master list regularly (monthly, weekly – whatever works for you). By maintaining this list, you will free yourself of the constant “to do’s” stuck in your head. In addition, you will be better able to solve problems because you are able to “see” the problem instead of burying it in your head. You will gain clarity about the items on your list, and you will also be able to verify your progress by keeping your list current – keeping only those items that have not been dealt with.
And the best thing about brain dumps and lists is that they help you get “unstuck.” They free your mind from the persistent playback mode. And there’s nothing better than getting “unstuck” and moving forward.