Colin Nederkoorn

What to do when your brain gets too full

I wanted to share a technique with you that has helped me tremendously. Once every few months do a brain dump.

(Is this from another task management system?)

How to do a braindump

To brain dump, you write down everything you have to do that’s stored in your head. Clear your mind, don’t try to do any of the things as you’re thinking about them, but just get them out of your head and on to paper or your favorite text editor.

My favorite place to do a brain dump is in an airport or on a plane. You need a place where you’ll be uninterrupted, and preferably where there’s no wifi (you can turn it off).

What types of things come out in a brain dump?

A lot of it is work related. Beyond that I brain dump vacations to plan, theater tickets to buy, articles I want to write.

I started running out of things at 103 items. That’s 103 discrete tasks that need to be done that I was keeping in my head and probably in my email, on paper, or on my computer.

This isn’t your todo list

It’s tempting to look at this brain dump and just start working your way through it, but that’s not the right way to approach it.

This is the starting point for your todo list. Some things naturally organize themselves in to related projects or items. Other things you can delegate to someone (all at once). Some others you want to plan to do them later.

My recommendation is to hunt and peck for the most urgent our lowest effort items. Get a few successes under your belt.

Then organize the rest in to a to do list application like Hog Bay Software’s Taskpaper, Asana, or Wunderlist. Pick your short list of things you’re going to do today. Check off or delete the things you’re never going to do an prioritize the other things for the next few days.

If you’re like me, a lot of these items don’t ever get done. Your goals and priorities change and they just fall by the wayside.

Get started brain dumping

Stop what you’re doing. Get a piece of paper (a big one), or open your distraction free editor and start getting everything that’s in your brain out.

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