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How To Use a Brain Dump to Get Organized

My 5-step Brain Dump Process

When I was teaching, I remember every Sunday around 3 or 4 in the afternoon I would start to get very anxious about the week ahead and all of the things that I had to do. At the time, I made lists upon lists and realized that what my brain was trying to do was create order in the chaos. Enter a brain dump. I realized when I wrote everything down and got it out of my head, I was able to see the tasks, prioritize them, and take action. In this article, I am breaking down my 5 step brain dump process to get organized.

First Step: Write it all down

Step 1: Write it all down- How to Use a Brain Dump to Get Organized
Step 1: Write it All Down; How to Use a Brain Dump to Get Organized

Step one is the very essence of a brain dump. You literally write down everything that you “have” to do. Everything. All the things. EVERYTHING!! Get it out of your head and onto paper. This does two things: 1) It gets these tasks out of your head, and 2) It gives you a visual action plan. Once these tasks are down on paper you can start to make sense of them and start to prioritize which tasks are the most important.

Next: Prioritize your tasks

Step 2: Prioritize Your Tasks: How To Use a Brain Dump to Get Organized

Now that you have your tasks written down on paper, start to prioritize which tasks you HAVE to do. Which tasks NEED to be done? Which ones can wait? Using my template, I go through and mark H, M, or L (High, Medium, Low) next to the item on my list. Prioritizing the tasks in this way really helps me form a plan of attack for step 3 when I start to tackle all the tasks.

Third Step: Tackle the Tasks

Step 3: Tackle the Tasks- How to Use a Brain Dump to Get Organized

Just like in my 5 Step Paper process, the action step is the one I procrastinate the most!! But, most of the time when I just dive in and decide to tackle my to-do list, I can knock things out pretty quickly. I try to tackle all the “H’s” (high priority tasks) first. By taking on the “high” priority tasks first, I feel productive and motivated to keep going. I love checking off those boxes!

On a normal week, I don’t get through all of my tasks. I write down way more tasks then I have time in the week! But, I’ll move those low priority tasks to the next week OR take them off the list if I realize they are not important. Looking for a little motivation? Check out my 5 tips now. These tips really help me when I’m not feeling it on certain days.

Next: Create Lists for Different “Life Zones”

I normally have a few different “Brain Dumps.” One is for work, one is for The Organized Military Life, one is for family/home items, and one is for ongoing organizing projects that I want to tackle. This helps me focus on one area at a time (especially since I work from home!). To do this with my template, I simply choose “4 copies per page” and then I can keep it all in one place. See the example below:

Step 4: Create different lists for different zones of life
Step 4: Create different lists for different “life zones.” How to Use a Brain Dump to Get Organized

Last Step: Designate a time each week

Step 5: Designate a Time Each Week to do your Brain Dump – How to Use a Brain Dump to Get Organized

Even though I’m not teaching anymore, I still get that anxious feeling on Sunday afternoons. I try to take this time to do my Brain Dump so I can get it all out of my head and prepare for the week ahead. I dedicate my Mondays to tackling those BIG tasks. This way, if I am not able to complete a task in one sitting (email exchanges, missed phone calls, etc.) I can normally finish it up by the end of the week.

If you’re anything like me, your list will be a mess by the end of the week. I edit my items, cross things out, add little notes and generally keep coming back to the list as I work through the week. But, for now, I use the Brain Dump to get organized, to stay focused, and to work through those endless “to-dos.”

How do you think a Brain Dump could benefit you? Do you have a similar process? Let me know in the comments. Wanna read more from The Organized Military Life? Make sure to sign up for monthly newsletter where I will share tips, good reads, and great products. Have organization questions? Head over to my Facebook Group and ask them in there! I’m having a lot of fun acting like a dork on Instagram…come be a dork with me! Looking for help with digital organization? Click here to read about my 7 Day Digital Declutter Challenge. Thanks for reading, and happy organizing, y’all!

7 Responses

  1. I’m working with someone right now who had done a bunch of brain dumps into the equivalent of notes on his phone. He then printed these out, and then they get stacked in a pile and forgotten. I found them and we realized all these tasks he wanted to do but had forgotten about. I love how you keep the tasks prominent and prioritized. Capturing the tasks is definitely step 1, but then we need to have a way to make sure we actually remember them. This can be hard if there are many, but it has to be done. I like your categories. Having my tasks in buckets always helps!

    1. I keep all my “ideas” in a running journal so I can reference back to it. I think this would work for any brain dump activity too so tasks, ideas and thoughts don’t get lost. Thank you so much!

  2. This is great stuff! I enter stuff that pops into my head into Todoist. Then I assign a date if it’s something I need to do soon, or leave it blank if it’s just to think about in the future.

  3. Nothing bitter than a brain dump…get it all out of your head down on paper!! great tips! I am a big fan of the brain dump for many reasons.

  4. I have a word document on my computer with my brain dump items – each Sunday, I revisit it and revise it – marking off things that are now complete or no longer relevant then I add to the list and print it off.
    Then I open up my calendar for the week and plug the most important ones into the calendar while keeping my list on my desk in case I have time and want to tick off another item.

  5. I conquered that Sunday afternoon feeling 20 years ago by making Monday my admin day; it’s not for everyone, but it makes the week so much more approachable. 😉

    And I love a good brain dump, and I’m always up for different formats. In a blank Evernote note or Word document, mind-mapped on a piece of notebook paper, and especially effective, one idea per sticky note, up on the wall, and then sorted/categorized, prioritized, and scheduled. All hail the brain dump!

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Jana Arevalo

Hello! I'm Jana

Hi! I’m Jana! I have been a military spouse for 18 years, and I am experienced when it comes to PCS moves, organizing new spaces, and creating more efficient systems for my family. I understand the feeling of anxiety and overwhelm that can come with clutter, and that’s why I love helping military spouses, busy moms and small business owners declutter and organize their homes, digital lives and paperwork!

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