How a Brain Dump Can Boost Your Productivity

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If you’re like most creative or business-minded people, you have a lot on your mind and often wish you had more time to do all that you need to do. What if I told you there was a way to get some extra hours in the day?

When our task list isn’t done in a way that encourages us to get to work, we lose a lot of time and energy spinning our wheels. If we feel overwhelmed by our tasks, we’re more likely to procrastinate. And if our tasks aren’t clear, we waste time trying to figure out what to do next.

It’s time to reevaluate your task list. And the first step is to do a brain dump of everything rolling around your head.

Step 1: Do a brain dump

Forget about your current task list for a moment. Open a blank note or grab a blank sheet of paper, and write down everything in your head. People to call, errands to run, ideas you have, things you’ve been meaning to do.

Step 2: Identify your to-dos

Now that you’ve got it all in one place, draw up a list of tasks based on these items. You don’t need any fancy software to do this. Look for actionable items and think about simple steps you can take to achieve or resolve the items on your list.

Step 3: Know the anatomy of a good to-do

Be sure that you structure your to-dos appropriately. For example, if you had an idea for a blog article that you included in your brain dump, don’t just put “blog article” on your list. Include a verb, e.g. “write”, a purpose or topic, e.g. “about productivity,” a due date, e.g. “tomorrow,” and a location or context, e.g. “at home.” Thus, a good to-do would read “write blog article about productivity on [date] @home.”

Step 4: Break down big tasks

Sometimes, an innocuous-sounding task can be a daunting project. If you find yourself constantly skipping a task, it might be too overwhelming in its current form. For example, if the blog article you want to write requires you to do research, it would be ideal to break down that task into subtasks, or at least put the task that’s actually first (e.g. “look up productivity science on Google”) first on your list.

For bigger projects, you definitely need to identify the steps needed to complete the project rather than putting something like “write book” on your to-do list. A good rule of thumb for a task is to define it by something that can be done from start to finish in one sitting.

Step 5: Create a system for regular brain dumps

It might be helpful to set a schedule for when you’ll do your brain dump. Some people do it on a weekly basis; some do it daily. Either way, be sure that you build a habit of clearing your head and regularly shuffling tasks into your task management system.

Keeping a lot of tasks in your head — or scattered across notes with no specificity — is a recipe for stress and lost productivity. When you don’t have your tasks in an actionable way, you’re much more likely to struggle with being overwhelmed or feel an urge to procrastinate. Doing a brain dump not only clears your head, but it also forces you to process your tasks into a to-do list rather than relying upon your memory. Make a brain dump part of your routine and enjoy greater productivity across all aspects of your life.

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