I’ll be honest, my brain needs a good dumping every once in a while. And I’m willing to bet that if you have a creative brain, yours needs to be dumped as well. The big question is, have you been doing it regularly? Or are you finding yourself feeling overwhelmed and frazzled more often than not?
So what do I mean when I say I dump my brain? It’s a simple concept, and sometimes it takes longer than other times to accomplish depending on how much needs to be dumped. Basically, one takes paper, a notebook, or digital device and starts listing out every nugget of unfinished information still stuck in the RAM (LOL or your short-term to-do list) of your brain.
Here’s what happens if you don’t clean out this pocket every once in a while: You get bogged down, overwhelmed, frazzled, forgetful. Your brain is keeping track of too many open loops that have yet to be finished, and when it gets overloaded, you lose energy to accomplish things. This also means that creativity is the first thing to go out the window to allow your brain power to be diverted to your list of undones. So you’re not able to come up with new ideas as easily or quickly.
To remedy this situation, simply start listing until every unfinished item on paper. Then that item (along with all the items) is no longer required to be tracked by your brain alone. However long this takes, it is worth the effort.
David Allen, in his book Getting Things Done, does an excellent job of describing this scenario, and the best way to remedy it. I’ve always done this at times when my brain feels overloaded, but it was good to have someone validate my practice, and provide a system for staying on top of the problem. His system is a great way to get on top of it, but it’s also a great way to stay ahead of it. My life is not so complicated that I need to implement his full system (although I imagine some people benefit immensely from it). I only need to keep lists and that takes care of the problem for me.
What I do (and what is recommended by Allen) is to have a place that you consistently put your new tasks in, that way your brain is never responsible for a growing log of tasks and events — which will ultimately end back in the overwhelmed state. Don’t let it get that far! Just keep something that your brain knows can be trusted, that you ALWAYS write it down in, and then there will never be the worry or stress that you’re forgetting something. Because it’s always in that trusted and reliable place. It’s a discipline at first to keep making those notes, but it’s a worth practice because your brain begins to rely on that external list instead of sucking brain power to the hamster wheel of to-dos.
I keep a bullet journal. I’ve always kept a notebook, but I recently discovered bullet journals and I love the permission to format the book however I need. It keeps all my notes in one place, and it’s all indexed in the beginning. I don’t know why, but for some reason, I always thought that I’d have to have a separate notebook for project notes, to do lists, keeping track of receipts… I had notes all over the place, and it was a mess. This way of notebooking – bullet journalling – lets me combine everything into one book, organized by chronological order. I don’t know why I need permission to do it this way, and frankly, I don’t know why I didn’t think of it myself! LOL Oh well, it works. And for my brain, it helps me keep the peace. I know everything is written down in there, and I can always go back a few pages and see what I haven’t done yet and add it to today’s list. My brain has begun to trust the system and I don’t get freaked out like I used to when I had notes splattered everywhere, and no idea what I was supposed to be doing. And if I go a day or two without writing it down, I just take a few minutes before I start working for the day, and make a list to clear my brain.
What this practice does for me, is #1, makes sure I don’t forget anything, #2 gives me peace in my brain because I’m not constantly churning over the list of things I’m supposed to remember, and perhaps most importantly, #3 it frees up brain power to allow for creativity. And let me tell you, being a super creative person, when my creativity is stopped up, it’s annoying. I’m used to it flowing, and when it’s stopped up, I almost can’t function. I lose my drive to do anything. I know, I’m weird. But maybe you’re like this at times too, and maybe you just didn’t realize you need a good old-fashioned brain dump! It’s energizing! Try it, you’ll feel lighter and more energized to tackle the things you need to accomplish on your list!
While I prefer plain old paper and pen, I do use some apps from time to time to help me declutter my brain. Wunderlist is what I use for my grocery list because it never fails that, even though I write down the groceries on paper, I leave the paper behind… I always have my phone, so Wunderlist keeps my grocery list available when I’m at the store instead of trying to remember what I wrote down on that list I left behind… has happened more than I care to admit.
So here are some resources to help you start dumping your brain, either on paper or digitally:
- Chaos Control (a mobile app for your brain dumping — this one is excellent! I used this exclusively before I started with the bullet journal. It’s awesome in that you can set deadlines and reminders, it’s very robust, and doesn’t cost a ton. The downside for me was that I still had to have something separate (like a notebook) for my project notes. While CC did a great job of organizing tasks and projects, notes were nested pretty deeply and I had to follow a rabbit trail down to get to my notes. So I kept CC digitally, and project notes on paper… until I just consolidated to paper only. CC is great and I still think about going back from time to time, and I may yet do that and go digital with CC and evernote… who knows! LOL)
- Wunderlist (a mobile app list maker that’s sync-able between multiple platforms)
- Things (a mac-based multi-platform app for the GTD system)
- Evernote (good for stashing multiple types of files digitally so your brain doesn’t have to)
- Pinterest (needs no explanation. Pinterest can be a good brain saver, and idea keeper…. but it usually turns into a time waster. I’m sure you know all too well.)
- Google Keep (kind of like google’s version of evernote, but easy to make little notes to yourself that look more like a pin-board on pinterest. Very similar to springboard R.I.P anyone remember springboard? I loved it and then they got bought out by evernote… sad day…)
- Habit RPG (this one I have not used but it looks amusing. It’s a to-do list, but as you cross things off, you up your score and improve your RPG character, defeat enemies. It also goes the other way too, if you don’t do things on your list, you lose health, get defeated by enemies, or lose progress to the next level. It looks like a fun way to motivate yourself to get things done, if you’re into gaming. But it doesn’t seem to be a super robust productivity tool… although, why would it be? It’s a gaming interface for your to-do list! If you’re needing productivity, this might be the opposite! It’s perfect for those who want to try to get habits incorporated into their daily lives in a fun/non-conventional way. haha)
What do you do to keep your brain happy and creativity sparked? Let me know in the comments below!