TRIED AND TRUE TECHNIQUE
Work-life balance feeling not so balanced? Brain dumping is the technique you need to eliminate stress and free up your to-do list. We’ve all experienced the ways that worries from your personal life can spill over into your work, and vice versa. Particularly for small business owners, freelancers, and entrepreneurs, hectic schedules and massive workloads can lead to feeling overwhelmed. Brain dumping can help you relieve an overloaded mind, clearing up your mental capacity to more efficiently tackle tasks or areas of your life and career one step at a time.
WHAT IS BRAIN DUMPING, ACTUALLY?
At its core this exercise is a kind of mental sprint, wherein you set aside a moment to list everything you can think of, with the intent of clarifying your goals, the steps you need to take to reach your goals, and ordering what needs to get done. This exercise is especially helpful when navigating periods of change in your life, like job changes, moving, or managing health concerns.
HOW IT HELPS BALANCE YOUR LIFE
Brain dumping is a great tool no matter what you’re trying to sort out. Here are some of the ways I use brain dumps to give me a sense of clarity:
- Preparing for an event (vacations, drafting a proposal, or organizing a community function)
- Planning for a new or ongoing project (taking a class, crafting a workshop)
- Visually organizing areas of life
- Relieving stress
- Centering goals
HOW TO START
1. Set aside materials – that includes TIME
You will need:
– 30 minutes of thinking time
2. Drain that brain!
The BEST way to clear your head is to get every single one of your thoughts out. So for the time you’ve blocked off, treat this like a mind sprint. List your thoughts in bullet points so you can see each thought as individual items (this prevents from clumping three ideas into one, for example), but most importantly, try writing down everything you can think of as it comes. Yes, this means even the lingering thoughts of ‘did I check the mail yesterday?’ or ‘did I put on matching socks this morning?’. Yup. All of it. The point of this step is to not censor yourself. Try not to edit out thoughts that seem silly or unimportant, they need to get out of your system if you want to get to the things that are lingering in your mind.
3. Let it rest
Take a step back from your desk, walk around. Consider blinking, maybe. Most importantly, leave the list alone! Do not come back to it for at least a whole day, but preferably a week, if you can swing it. This is vital, that way you can…
4. Return to review and edit as needed
After letting the ideas settle, it’s time to revisit the list. Briefly reread your list, adding to the bullet points as necessary. Remember, this technique is intended to establish clarity and balance to your thought process, so use your energy wisely, and try not to overwhelm yourself.
At this point, you can begin going through your list and grouping your bulleted items, while crossing off the items that are of no real importance or are otherwise unnecessary to think about going further. Doing so lets you visualize how you are clearing out the extra stuff from your brain that is taking up critical brain power.
You can use a color coding system or add a symbol before each bullet point to begin organizing tasks into larger categories. These should be directly relevant to the thoughts you wrote down before. For example, for students, useful categories might include individual classes, administrative tasks i.e. scheduling meetings with your advisors or professors, internships, and housekeeping activities. For entrepreneurs categories might look like social media content, networking events, tasks per client, and the like.
To go the extra (albeit optional) mile, you can also prioritize the tasks within each category. I’d advise to pick the top three most important tasks in each category, and decide from there what is the most urgent to complete.
Congrats! You now have a clear picture of how to establish balance in areas of your life and career that deserve attention, and what particular steps you can take to tackle your to-do list. Remember, focus on the step in front of you, not the whole staircase.
My last piece of advice is to complete this exercise at least once a month, or whenever necessary. Brain dumping is a simple yet practical way to streamline your thought process and break projects down into actionable tasks, effectively transforming the billions of items on your to-do list into ideas you can actually work with.
For more advice on in-depth brain dumps, check out Stationery Nerd’s master post.
Looking for more advice on how to achieve work-life balance? We’ve got you covered.
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