Brain Dumping as an Overwhelm Shifting Tool

Get Accomplished with Heather

Life and business can be overwhelming. We have so much to do, so many choices to make and a finite amount of time available to us.

Brain Dumping is a quick and easy tool to shift us from overwhelmed to in control, so that we can get rid of the mental clutter, reduce stress, increase productivity and self-awareness, improve energy levels and get things done!

A brain dump is the act of getting the abundance of random thoughts in our head down on paper.  It’s a simple exercise which can bring us instant clarity and relief from overwhelm by creating mental space.

Writing things instead of keeping ‘all the things’ in our head makes it way easier to prioritise.  It’s a simple yet powerful process which is available to us all at any time. If you’re prone to overthinking, it’s a great way to clear your mind.  You can use brain dumps whenever you feel less than good.

No matter how good or bad our systems and habits are in business and life, there will always be more stuff which comes up for our consideration or action. 

When we try to hold all this “stuff” in our head, things can become blurry, fuzzy, or overwhelming. We can begin to feel like we’ve got too much on our plate. Like there’s way too much to do, or that we can’t cope.

Fortunately brain dumping can bring us instant and powerful relief from these crappy feelings. It’s easy, simple, free and there are several ways to do it so pick which ones work for you. Different ones  work at different times so play around with them.  You could have a go at a different brain dump technique whenever you start to feel overwhelmed.

7 Types of brain dump –

A brain dump doesn’t have to take a lot of time, it’s not a big deal, it’s a great way to get clear, get focused and get results! 

With each example, you can either write very generally, about everything that’s on your mind, or focus on a particular topic or subject. 

Write down whatever comes to mind, don’t censor it – it’s all filling up your mind and it’s all good.  Get your thoughts out of your head and onto paper, or a screen if you prefer. Let it out, let it flow!  

The following are all actionable steps.  I encourage you not to read them and think ‘that’s a good idea,’ rather, see which one feels easiest, most useful, most intriguing, most likely to work for you……. and DO IT!!!!  Go on, give it a go. 

1. Make a List

Simply list everything that’s on your mind, keep writing until there’s nothing left to write. You can hand write it onto paper, in a journal or notebook or bullet journal, but no need to write with pen and paper if you don’t want to,  you can do it on your phone or laptop.  It doesn’t matter where you do it….just do it.  This is different from a to-do list.  Of course this list can be used to create a to-do list and there’s nothing wrong with that, but this is more of a free writing exercise, enabling you to clear your mind making room for the important work of prioritising. 

2. Mind Map

Grab a piece of paper (the bigger the better) and write everything on your mind in circles all over the paper. You can colour code each item/theme and draw lines between items which are related. For example, you may have several things you need to do in town. So you write town in one circle and each of the things you need to do in town gets written in a circle surrounding the ‘town’ circle and join them up. (see photo illustration.)

Example of a mind map brain dump

3. Dot or Bullet Points

Similar to writing a list, but possibly less comprehensive and more focused. It’s a way of getting your main thoughts on a particular subject or project, out of your head and recorded. You can then see what you’re working with and what your priorities are with more ease.

4. Write a Letter

This letter is not designed to be sent.  It’s for you to express how you think and feel.  You can let it all out uncensored.  You can write to yourself, it could be a part of yourself, an injured body part for example, or your future self, or past self, be creative.  Or you could write to someone else, someone you’re having challenges with – and that can be in the past or present.  Or someone you’ve got a lot of ideas to share with or just a lot to say to.  The purpose is to get all the stuff out of your head, NOT to send or give it to the person.  In fact if you’ve written to someone else, it’s often a good idea to burn it afterwards!!!  Regardless of what comes out on the paper, show yourself compassion.  Know that it’s ok to be angry, sad or any other uncomfortable emotion in this exercise, you’re just increasing your self awareness about how you really feel and allowing the feelings to move through.  Of course if you are finding the feelings too difficult to navigate, seek professional help from a therapist.

5. Print a Whelm Wheel

For when you’re wanting a holistic overview of everything you’ve got going on, or desire to have going on in your life and business, (Check out this blog post) I’ve created a beautiful PDF for you to print off, stick together and make your own. It gives you all the areas of your life that you might need to consider in order to create a well grounded, stable and abundant life and business. If you’d like a copy, download it here.

6.Use an Organisation App

There are many digital options available. Trello, Asana, Slack, Evernote to name but a few. You’ll find tutorials on You Tube to see which one might work best for you.

7. Write on Post-it Notes

These are really good to get all your ideas down and then be able to move them around as you tick them off, or decide to make them of higher or lower importance to you right now.

Use whichever brain dump exercise works for you.  A different method may well work better for you, at different times.  The mind mapping versions as opposed to the linear versions often allow our beautiful brains to get more creative in their thinking.  Use coloured pens to categorise if you find it helpful.  Using colour is always more fun – don’t you think? 

Another way to add pleasure to your brain dumping is to use a favourite good feeling pen or pens.  If you don’t have one – treat yourself!  There’s nothing quite like using (or the retail therapy buzz of buying!) your favourite stationery.  (I’m totally OTT with stationery check out my love affair with my pen here!) Make this a fun and simple exercise, brain dumps work!!!

As a planning and accountability coach, I encourage my clients to create a brain dump in our Monday morning co-working sessions.  We use the headings Accomplishments, Challenges and Action Steps to get all our thoughts and ideas down on paper.  I do this myself along side them, the act of writing a review of the previous week and what’s coming up in the coming week is guaranteed to release the messy mind and start the momentum for the week as I declutter my mind. It allows you to get clear about what you plan to take action on and as a result are much more likely to remember those things!  I find it REALLY helpful.

Whichever methods you choose, have fun with it, get out of your head and notice how your body feels as you begin to get those things down on paper.  At times you may be able to notice the physical releasing of resistance as you write.  See if you yawn, stretch, take deep breaths, or your eyes water.  These are all physical signs of releasing resistance.  Know that you’re moving closer to your goals with more ease when these things happen.  Exciting!!!  Also notice the space you create in your mind when you truly allow yourself to write until there’s nothing left to write. See how much easier it is to prioritise as a result!

For a free printable holistic overview where you can capture ALL that is important to you – Click here to join my mailing list and bag yourself a free and colourful WHELM Wheel.

Join us on Mondays to do your own brain dump during a free co-working session in my in my Free Facebook Group. You can use these sessions to develop a regular brain dumping habit.

Heather from 'Get Accomplished with Heather' writing a mindmap brain dump