Increase Your Productivity with Brain Dumps

Brain Dump in planner

Every morning, when I open up my planner, I do a 5-minute brain dump.

I’ve been using brain dumps on and off over the years. I’d learned that when I make an effort to do them, my productivity increases. I stopped doing them when life got crazy during the holidays–which is when I needed them most.

With the new year and my new planner, I’m starting them back up. I figure we’re all looking for ways to increase our productivity, so I want to share how brain dumps have helped me.

I did a short video to show you my brain dump section in my franken bullet journal. You can watch it or read the tips below.

What is a brain dump?

Does it sound like something your toddler did behind your back while you were on a very important phone call? I still remember that time one of my kids walked up to me (while I was on a training phone call) and proudly showed me their dirty diaper–by pulling it out of their diaper!

A planner brain dump is way different. At any given time, I’m thinking about 3, 4, or more things that I need to do. I’ve always been like that. Before having kids, I could easily juggle all my tasks in my head. Thanks to kid-induced sleep deprivation, many tasks slip through the cracks if I don’t write them down.

Brain dumps are when you write down all the tasks that are floating your head. Sit down and list everything you need to do. It doesn’t matter how long it is or what it looks like. The goal is to get everything out of your head and onto paper (or digital notebook).

How to do a brain dump

Each morning, before I do anything else, I open up my planner and and write down all of the tasks swirling around my head. That’s a lie. I make myself a cup of coffee first.

The most important part about brain dumps is you want to do it first thing in the morning. Before you check your email, before you check social media–don’t get distracted by work yet.  You don’t want to add more tasks to your already full brain.

Note: some people like to do their brain dumps at the end of the work day or before they go to bed. So their task lists won’t keep them awake. I’ve tried both methods, and the morning one works for me. Try both for a week and see what works best for you.

Don’t worry about how your list looks. It’s like brainstorming–don’t judge. Just write. Dump it all out. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.) Take a moment after finish and congratulate yourself on getting everyone out on paper.

Prioritize your brain dump

No, the answer is not to flush it. (Sorry.)

Here’s the hard part of brain dumps–figuring out how you’re going to manage it all. My tough love answer: you’re not.

Driven, optimistic people always believe they can do more than humanly possible. We have good intentions of  crossing off as many items off our to-do list as we can, but there’s just not enough hours in the day. Plus, burnout is no joke.

Take a few minutes to triage your list by asking yourself these questions:

  • What are the top 3 things that need to be done today? I call this my Top Priority List or Must Do List.
  • What can wait until tomorrow? (later this week, next week, next month, etc)
  • What tasks can you delegate or eliminate completely?

Don’t think too hard on this or you’ll end up adding more tasks to your list. The object is to increase productivity and set yourself up for success.

Follow your gut when choosing your top 3 things. Don’t pick a task because it’s easy. You might be tempted to add more than 3 items to your priority list. Don’t. Be realistic and set yourself up for success.

Once you complete your top 3 tasks, then you can move on to your “wait” list. Make sure you do an “I’m awesome” dance to celebrate knocking off that priority list!

There you have it. That’s how I increase my productivity with brain dumps. They allow me to clear my head and helps me prioritize my to-do list.

Have you ever used brain dumps? How do they work for you?