brain dump

How to use Brain Dump & Sort out Messy Thoughts

If you are obsessed with organization, planning and productivity you must have come across this term brain dump.

To put it simply, brain dump is the process of capturing your thoughts and ideas somewhere so as to lighten your brain load which frankly we all could do with.

Here in this post I will tell you about a four-step method to practice brain dump and organize your thought process.

The motive of this method is sort out your thought process efficiently and improve your productivity.

A messy brain only increases your risk of forgetting tiny details when it comes to both task and time-management, unless you are a genius.

Productivity expert and author David Allen puts it perfectly in his book Making it All Work, “If it’s on your mind, write it down or record it somehow in a concrete way. It doesn’t matter how you capture these thoughts, as long as you get them out of your head and have them all in some way easily accessible for review.”

What is Brain Dump?

The term brain dump has gained traction in recent years as one of the better ways to manage work-load and stress.

Our brain is a store-house of information. It constantly absorbs and feeds us information and accordingly we go on about our tasks.

If you observe yourself you are constantly thinking – “I have to make that call,” “I have to go now or I’ll be late or work,” “I have to finish that chapter by today,” “I have to have my dinner now.” Sounds familiar? So your brain is constantly buzzing.

Whenever you are not engaged in any activity you are thinking, which is nothing but your brain instructing and reminding you about the work you have to do.

But just like rest of the body our brain too gets tired with this constant nuggets of information

So if you have a good brain dumping system in place where you could just put out all your thoughts, your brain will thank you for it. Secondly, it will help you to create a better task-management system.

Related Posts: 17 Actionable tips for Better Productivity

 The 4-step Brain Dumping Method

brain dump your thoughts

Write down your thoughts

For effective brain dumping, note down each and every thought pertaining to your personal or professional space. Whether you use the simple pen and paper method or an app make sure your write everything down.

This will help to connect you with your thoughts and know what is going on in your mind. You will be aware of what you really want and get mental clarity on your aspirations.

Color-code for Brain Dump

Once you are done with this initial brain dumping process, the next step is sorting out your thoughts. Categorization of your thoughts helps you to be more organized.

You can sort out your thoughts into categories such as goals, wishlist, work etc.

If you are using a notebook or a bullet journal and wish to be more specific, you can use the color-coded method for brain dumping where you use a different color for each of your thoughts.

Like if personal thoughts are be written in red ink, you can use blue and green ink respectively while noting down your work-related stuff and your wish list.

But I find this method a little time-taking instead I have different notebooks. There is one where I write down everything literally everything! For my work-related things I maintain 3 separate notebooks.

Related Post: 121 Journal Prompts for Self-Discovery

Prioritize and Label Thoughts

Once you are through with the sorting process take the next step of brain dumping is to prioritize your thoughts on basis of urgency because There are some things which have to be done as soon as possible while others can be attended later.

To put your thoughts into different categories you can refer to this method of labeling which I find really useful.

1. High Priority tasks

2. Important tasks

3. Negative thoughts

4. Positive thoughts

5. Creative Ideas

6. Goals

7. Bucketlist

This is how I label my thoughts and please feel free to use this or modify/change these labels as per your convenience. I would also love to share with you guys how I categorize my thoughts, ideas and using this method.

IMAGE CREDIT: Key To Inspiration

High Priority and Important tasks

High-priority tasks and important tasks are usually related to my blog, freelancing or personal work like budget, utility bills etc.

So these tasks have to be completed on an urgent basis and most of these tasks make-up for my daily to do-list.

Negative and Positive thoughts

Negativity is a part of every human life, we all experience it and I am no different.

I like to brain dump my negative thoughts to get rid of any toxic vibe affecting my system.

Similarly for every negative thought there is a positive thought. I am a big believer in positive affirmations and writing these down helps me so much mentally

Goals and Bucketlist

As you may have guessed goals are always related to setting personal milestones for yourself.

I like the idea of goal-setting with brain dumping because it gives me a purpose and keeps me focused. 

Bucketlist is again a wish-list of all the books I want to read, movies I have to watch and things I really need to purchase (mostly stationery items) and so on.

One advice that I have read frequently when using brain-dumping is that you must pay equal attention to things that are written in your wish list, since those dreams and wishes are equally important.


The last step is to evaluate your thought process. It so important to reflect on what you think, especially if there are any negativity emotions you might be experiencing.

When you are noting down your negative thoughts most of the time you will see that your fears are unfounded; also at times it just helps you to de-stress.

When you are examining your brain dumping list you may also find some tasks that are unnecessarily bothering you when in reality you won’t even need to do or be worried about those.

A time to time evaluation of your achievements, no matter how small these are, will motivate you so much. Do consider a weekly or monthly evaluation of your goals.

If you fail to achieve your goals or haven’t made much progress towards your goals don’t get demotivated and give up. As long as you are progressing no matter how small that progress is you are fine.

Related Post: How to set some SMART goals in your life

Brain dump V/S to-do list

Many of us confuse brain dumping with creating to-do lists.

The simple difference between the two things can be summed up as your to-do lists can never be brain dumping but only a part of it.

Brain-dumping is basically writing down all thoughts, ideas and tasks that has been nagging you and everything you want to do while your task list is actually your task list.

Why this method works?

how to brain dump your thoughts

Frees up your brain space

Have you noticed when you have some urgent work to do and you don’t complete it your brain time and again reminds you of that task.

You may be the laziest of creatures but your brain isn’t so it will remind you and at times it results in a lot of build-up stress that remains till you complete that important task.

To counter all such problems a brain dump would be helpful to give you a sense of clarity and free up some of that brain space.

Helps in preventing memory slips

There are some tasks that we absolutely need to do on a daily basis or almost every day. Like attending office, travelling for work, eating our food, cooking, bathing and so on.

So as per your situation there are some basic daily tasks you absolutely have to do.

Along with these daily obligatory tasks you also have some other additional tasks that you need to complete.

As mentioned earlier your brain is constantly keeping an account of what tasks you have done, what you need to do or any problem you are experiencing.

But unfortunately our brain is not programmed to handle so much information and whenever there are too many thing going in your mind some tiny details may slip from your memory.

A brain dump in such situations will help you to remember things.

Related Post: How To be Less Lazy try these 11 tips and hacks

Problem solving and stress-management

I rely on brain dump a lot when it comes to problem-solving and taking some stream off my brain and mind.

This is something that I have experienced every time I come up with a problem both in my profession and personal space.

When a situation or an obstacle seems too big to resolve I write it down on a notebook in as much details as possible like for example – what is the issue I am facing? Why and how is it affecting me? So through this self-questioning and answering process every-time I come up with a solution.

To put aptly this method helps me in untangling all those knots in my brain and lets me breathe easy.

It’s a different story altogether that I feel so embarrassed when I read my rants later but nevertheless it helps.

If any of this makes sense to you then I would really urge you to try this method of writing your apprehensions. 

Whenever you feel too stressed or bogged down by life in general try writing down your problems, deep down you will discover an answer.

Becomes a Reference Point

A very important benefit of brain dumping is that it becomes your reference point for things. Like I have already mentioned it helps you from forgetting stuff.

You can always refer to your notes and check whether you have missed doing a particular work.

When you are sometimes demotivated with some tasks you can always refer to your brain dump notes and remember why you started in the first place.

Brain Dumping Prompts

These are some common brain dumping prompts you can use to sort out your thought process please feel free to alter these or add some of your own questions. These prompts are very similar to journal prompts.

– What am I worried about?

– Incidents that affected my peace this day/week

– People who bother me

– What made me happy today/this week?

-What I have to do urgently this week/day

-What do I keep on forgetting frequently?

-What home-tasks I have to complete this week/month?

-What office related tasks I have to complete this week/month?

-How can I divide my time between tasks?

-What I want in life?

-What do I want to achieve this year?

-Setting Goals for each year/month

-How can I tweak my daily routine

-Social events I have to attend this month

-Tasks I didn’t get time to do

-People who have to call back/ whom I have been meaning to call

Final Thoughts

If you want to set up an organized system of managing things with unobstructed workflows in place, use the brain dump method, it is really gives a clarity to the thought process and improves your productivity.

The best part about this method is that you can apply it in any situation.

You could be a student, a business-owner, professional or a home-maker and use this method to get stuff done or just to let some worry off your shoulders.

So here we are at the end of this post if you liked this write up please share it with others.

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  • Nancy

    I am all about brain dumps! I write down everything so I avoid forgetting. Having a mind map works as well. Thanks for sharing all of these tips for putting together a brain dump. I pretty much do the same thing. It makes it so much easier to focus on other tasks. Thanks for sharing!

    Nancy ♥

  • amy

    Lengthy, but comprehensive! I enjoyed reading this post and picked up quite a few tips. You
    highlighted the practical uses and benefits of brain dumps really well. Everyone ought to do it!

  • Jamilyn

    I have so many thoughts as it is, and I need a strategy to keep them all together. I think I will give it a try. Most of the time, I leave the creative side to my husband for new material, but I need to get good at this too! Thanks for sharing!

  • Kaye

    Did try doing this but maybe understood it wrong, but now thanks to your post I have realized that Brain Dump is not the same as to do list, and should never be. Thank you for the information.

    Amalog –

  • Honey Reyes

    A benefit that I found from this is that when I notice I keep dumping the same item over and over and it never gets done, I am able to remove it from my to-do list because I can visibly see how many weeks it failed to be a priority for me.

  • Beth Gray

    Great post about brain-dumping – I do this regularly before going to bed, if I find my mind is still too active. Then, in the morning, I come back and read through it all, and take what is important for getting done.

    It certainly quietens down the monkey mind!

  • Kendra | Self-Care Overload

    Great read! Brain dumping is one of the most satisfying things to do when you have a mind full of clutter. I appreciate all of the amazing information listed here. Especially, prioritizing your tasks. It makes things so much better when you have put your tasks in order and it also allows your brain to have relief when knowing you don’t have to worry about everything at once. Thanks for sharing these tips!

    Kendra | Self-Care Overload