Recently, I went home to visit my parents in Traverse City, Michigan. If you’ve never been, it is a gorgeous part of the United States, filled with great lakes and endless forests. Fortunately, my parents happen to live in the midst of one of those endless forests. It is always a joy, not only to visit my amazing parents, but to rest and find renewal in the peaceful surroundings of mighty oaks and great pines.
Seeing these forests cloaked in the heavy snow of a Michigan winter is nothing short of breathtaking. But there exists a special, little time period that lies in between the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring- “Sprinter,” perhaps? Well, Sprinter is not beautiful. Sprinter is a mess. The winter winds and the weight of the snow have broken down the weakest branches and nature’s floor becomes a turbulent sea comprised of brown, muddy, twig-filled waters. However, as a result, the trees rise above it all, pruned and ready for new growth. Much like these trees, singers accumulate and hold to a great dwal of these weak twigs. This intanglible clutter is made up of ideas, worries, and tasks that can grow to monstrous proportions within out limited, human brain. The only way to get it under control is to prune that tree! Let the snow fall inside your mind, and allow it to weigh down and break off the branches you no longer need. Empty your brain and make way for new growth.
How do you do this? The answer is brain dumping. I will be the first to admit it is not the most elegant term. But as a person with a noisy mind and an endless stream of ideas, I can tell you that brain dumping has grown to become my saving grace in this crazy life and career. It provides me with the opportunity to make my boundless stream of thoughts, tasks, worries, and plans tangible. It is amazing the sense of peace that can be achieved by emptying the noise of your brain onto a simple sheet of paper. Follow the simple steps below to execute your very first brain dump:
How to Brain Dump: 5 simple steps
*Warning! Side effects of brain dumping may include: diminished stress, increased creativity, and heightened inspiration.
1. Find a comfortable, quiet place and bring along a notebook. A real notebook. Made of paper.
Call me a ludite, but a list-making app on your phone will just not cut it when it comes to brain dumping. The act of putting pen to paper and having a palpable result is where the magic lies in this process.
2. Start writing. Don’t judge what comes out- just write.
It is imperative you write every thought that comes to mind. It could be trivial such as "Out of mascara...go to Sephora” to things of greater importance, "I'm worried about x, y, and z.” or “Finish memorizing Act I finale.” The key here is to pay no attention to order or category. Just write. The noisier the mind, the longer the list. Let the thoughts flow.
3. Once the stream runs dry, say “Hello!” to your new paper brain, and let your real one relax.
Take comfort in the fact you don’t have to remember anything that is on this paper. Now you can just read it!
4. Make categories, assign corresponding colors, and go through the list, highlighting accordingly.
Every person’s categories are different. Good basics to include are: career tasks, personal tasks, goals, and ideas.
5. Keep your brain dump notebook close at hand.
Build it and let it become your little comforting assistant in life. Cross things off as ideas come to fruition, as to-dos are completed, as worries are resolved, and when things are no longer relevant. And, of course, continue to add to it whenever needed.
Congratulations! You just brain dumped. Like those mighty oaks and great pines, you are now free to rise statuesque above the twig-filled chaos of an overbooked, overstimulated life. Just as buds come forth in the spring, your results from this practice will emerge in no time. Your stress will diminish, ideas will flourish, and your unencumbered brain will will be ever so thankful if you maintain the practice!