The Brain Dump!

Sometimes you just need to get “stuff” it out of your brain.  As ideas fill in your brain it can sap your productivity and you can easily lose focus on what’s important to you.


Clear your mind to make room for more great ideas.


I have a regular habit of doing  a brain dump every other day. I think it’s a great habit to have. Some of my best ideas come when I have a bunch of thoughts circling around in my head.


“Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.”

David Allen

When and why to do a brain dump:

  • When you have several thoughts/next actions/great ideas/new projects milling about in your head.
  • When you need to define a project – Don’t just dive head first into a project. Think about it and define it. What is the end goal? Ask how do I know when it’s done?
  • When a project get’s “stuck” – You just can’t figure out what’s the next on this project. If that happens then it’s time to do some free thinking on this project and see what comes out.

Remember this is about getting it out and not processing it. You process it all later. Right now don’t process, just think and get it out of your head.

Most times any piece of paper will do but I love the following tools for brainstorming:

  • Whiteboard – This is a pretty low tech option but it’s my favorite. Also, get a few different markers when you buy your whiteboard. I love the TUL markers. They have chisel point & fine point markers. I love both and they come in a wide variety of colors. Just make sure you get a big board. You don’t want to run out of space.
  • Post-it Big Pad Evernote Collection – These are really big post it notes. The pad has a cardboard back so you can even write on it while it’s on your lap. It’s also a post it so you can hang it on most surfaces. It also works with Evernote and you can set the color of the post it note to work within the app. For instance I have the limeade color go right into my inbox.
  • IThoughts App – You need a great mind mapping app. I’ve tried many and this one is the best. It has lot’s of feature and is pretty easy to use. Mind mapping allows you to draw spider webs of thoughts and then weave them together. Being on the iPad makes your maps portable and infinitely adjustable.
  • Workflowy App –  Sometimes I just want to outline and make a list. Workflowy is pretty basic and does just that. It does it very well. You can expand or collapse any list as far as you want. This can give you focus.

One last tip I can give is that you should journal everyday. Tim Ferriss talks about the “monkey mind”.  Those nagging “I’m not good enough” or “you really messed this up” thoughts that can float around in the back of your mind. Get those out on paper work through them . They are going to be there and by acknowledging them and their presence you can deal with them.

After I do a brain dump session I find I’m really clear and focused on what has my attention. When I turn this “stuff” into actionable items I feel really confident that I working on what’s important to me. This is an important step and is sometimes overlooked.

What do you think? Let me know about it on Twitter.