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The challenge in my life really is keeping the balance between feeling creatively energized and fulfilled without feeling overwhelmed and like I’m in the middle of a battlefield. Amanda Palmer

A brain dump is a simple technique to help you declutter your mind and thoughts. I’ve covered it before as it’s a tool I use myself very often because it helps me to focus on the things that need doing. It is kinda like dumping the contents of a bag onto a table when you are looking for a pen or your phone because you really need it and sorting through the bag itself is just too much bother. You will spill out stressors, nagging thoughts, new ideas and unfinished projects - all of the pesky annoyances that have been clogging your mind - and writing them down so that you can actually see and interact with them.

All you have to do is open up a valve in your mind and let all those thoughts spill out onto the page or the whiteboard in front of you. Write until you feel like the pressure inside of you is lessened and you can take a big breath.

The process will help you to escape the feeling of overwhelm by a clearing your mind of all the useless junk that has been building up in there. It reminds me of when I used to have to defrag my computer hard drives to make them run faster and retrieve information more quickly but this is a wholly the non-digital affair and I suggest you use a blank sheet of paper, a big one if you have it or a white board as your working space.

A brain dump will include everything from small tasks that have been niggling away at the back of your mind, to the shopping to get this week. It will include half thought out ideas and projects you have thought of sometimes years ago but that you’ve never actually taken the time to write down or take action on. It will include fitness and health matters, errands and family matters – I must write down all my relatives’ birthdays would be an example of that – Anything and everything that’s been on your mind and which makes you feel as if you are drowning will come out of your brain and onto the page.

Sometimes, your brain is a mess. You might be anxious, worried, stressed, or so full of ideas and to-do lists that you can’t focus. It’s a frustrating condition that can lead to even more stress. I find that when my brain is especially restless and haggard, I begin to fall out of my healthy routines and habits. How do you fix this overwhelming sensation? Well, I like to use a method called the brain dump. Shelby Abrahamsen

Brain Dumping also involves removing the “over thinking” thoughts from your mind and placing them somewhere else. This can help you live more freely throughout each day as the things that are troubling you are being resolved. It can hep to free you from the symptoms of anxiety, “over thinking” and “ruminating.” The reason it will help your anxiety is because part of anxiety is the problem of too much unresolved clutter in your mind. Brain Dumping helps organize this clutter into workable pieces, which are easier to resolve than a jumbled mess.

The main purpose of this exercise is to simply remove the clutter from your mind and placing it outside of yourself It makes your brain feel satisfied that the problems are being acknowledged, categorized, and removed.

And once you have done a brain dump and you feel satisfied with your work, you have a few options for your next step.

  • Now that you have it in front of you, you will more easily be able to identify the stuff on there that doesn’t really matter. Identifying the unimportant stuff will allow you to delete these thoughts from your head. If what you have is a waste of time, holds no interest for you or is in fact just someone else’s problem, just delete it from your mind by crossing it out. Sometimes just seeing an idea you have been ruminating over for months at a time can help you to acknowledge just how unimportant it is, and free up that processing energy for something else entirely.

  • Next look at your list and identify what is stressing you out, and make definitive plans to tackle those problems. Sometimes, you don’t need to do anything in particular. You may feel like you should take action, but there are moments where you simply need to acknowledge your problems and then take care of yourself.

  • Finally take the stuff from he list that warrants further thought and break it down further. For me this would include project ideas or screenwriting concepts, business and income planning matters, and fitness and relationship stuff. Whatever is important to you expand on them a little and in effect file the ideas in writing.

Remember that you become 42% more likely to achieve your goals and dreams, simply by writing them down. That’s yet another benefit to the brain dump.

Once you have identified the important stuff, and separated off the little bits and pieces that are important too, I suggest that you prioritize your list and tackle one thing at a time. You may find that a load of small matters will take you only a day to resolve so I’d deal with all of those first and close the door on them. If you have too many large projects then choose one and file the rest away. You are never going to achieve your goals if you try and sort them all out at once. Look back to the 12 week year, the last new year show, if you want to know more about actioning your goals successfully.

On a personal level, I do a "brain dump" where everything that's in my head that needs doing gets written down. It gives your brain a rest. And then I give myself permission not to do everything on that list. I'm much clearer about my priorities: What are those moments of connection that are most important to me? Today is a busy workday but it's also a snow day, so I'm going cross-country skiing with my husband. And then I'll come back and finish my work. Brigid Schulte

So, a brain dump is a productivity technique that will take care of your own mental health by letting it serve as a sort of pressure valve. It’s a great self-care exercise to reduce stress and clear your mind so you can take a bath in peace. Once you have done one you will immediately feel a difference in your stress and anxiety levels and when you see just how much rubbish you have in there that doesn’t really matter you will sigh a mighty sigh of relief too.

The next time you start to feel yourself getting overwhelmed with too much brain activity, settle down for a brain dump. It doesn’t take long, but it is a great way to help you tackle your problems, relax your mind, and take care of yourself. This regular maintenance is as important as cleaning – once you’ve emptied your brain of these pesky problems, it will give you back mental space for new ideas and thoughts to take root.

Call to Action

That’s your call to action today. Grab a piece of paper and a pen or use a white board if you have one and untangle your mind with a brain dump. This is the sort of thing you can do at the end of each week if you like too, you don’t have to wait until you feel overwhelmed to do it.

In the next episode I will be following up on last weeks show with 3 more TOXIC ARCHETYPES so if you liked last weeks show tune in for that one too.

I’ll end with these words from Phil Jackson, who said If you have a clear mind . . . you won't have to search for direction. Direction will come to you.


This episode is sponsored by Craig Steele

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Season 8 Executive Producer: David Richard Thompson


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