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Brain Dump: A Powerful Method for Increasing Productivity

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As solopreneurs, we are susceptible to overthinking. With the number of things we have to juggle, we can easily get overwhelmed. You need ways to release the torrent of thoughts swirling around your head to be able to regain clarity for solving problems. That’s where the brain dump comes in. In today’s article, I’m going to talk about the purpose of a brain dump, some of the benefits, and tips for success with this powerful exercise.

What Is It and What’s the Purpose

You may have heard the term, but what effectively is a “brain dump”? Simply put, a brain dump is an exercise that helps you release the endless stream of thoughts you’ve accumulated over the course of the day onto some external medium. Think of a brain dump as metaphorically taking out the garbage. Once the trash gets full you have to take it out before it overflows or starts to stink, which then can affect the cleanliness of your home. 

In much the same way, a brain dump serves as a removal of the garbage in your head. Let’s face it, most of the thoughts we have are unproductive and cause unnecessary clutter, which can distract and fog up our mental lens. A brain dump can help you to regain focus and spark new creative ideas. The mental chatter will cease and you’ll feel physically lighter and energized. 

On a philosophical note, there’s no escaping the mind. Evolution has given us the gift of consciousness and for the ambitious thinkers of the world, sometimes our minds can overwhelm us. Naturally we have many thoughts about our experiences, some good and some bad. 

A lot of the time though, negative thoughts slip by unnoticed and they can cause perpetual frustration throughout the day. Rumination plays a large role in detracting from our emotional wellbeing. So many of us live outside of the present moment ruminating, for instance, on a less than ideal client interaction we’ve just had. As a means of letting those thoughts go, the brain dump exercise can be transformative.

How To Do a Brain Dump

Sit down, crack open your journal and start writing. It’s as simple as that. Now, you may find that in doing this, especially at first, it’s hard to start writing. Your mind may wander or you may procrastinate. What I’ve found to help get me going is to set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes. This creates a sense of urgency and gets you writing fast. There can sometimes be a barrier to entry with writing because you’re not sure how to start which causes procrastination. Having a timer is like an external accountability device to help you start.

“Productivity is less about what you do with your time. And more about how you run your mind.” – Robin Sharma

Intention

With this style of journaling, the goal is not necessarily to have creative breakthroughs or work through specific problems. Although as a byproduct of the exercise, you may get creative breakthroughs after the fact because you’ve emptied your mind allowing new ideas to flood in. However, the ultimate goal is to release all thoughts in a stream of consciousness style. You don’t have to worry about structure or grammar. It doesn’t have to follow any linear path, just write thoughts as they come to you and try to keep momentum without pausing.

You don’t need to worry about length either. If you feel clear after writing a half-page, one page or several, there is no right amount. The goal here is to cultivate a sense of emptiness and refreshment. The end result is increased clarity and focus. Once you start to feel lighter you can stop. This may sound like an indefinite way to go about it – feeling your way through, but you’ll know when you’ve reached that point. 

Tips for success

While doing a brain dump is relatively straight forward, I’ve provided a few tips to help you get more out of the exercise. 

  1. Choose a specific time. I’ve found it helpful to do this exercise either at the end of the day or early in the morning. You may find that doing it at the end of the day is best because it clears your mind before bed and eases you into sleep. 
  2. Choose your medium. I recommend writing in a journal, but if you find that typing works better for you then do that.
  3. Get on a routine. Build a habit of sitting down and emptying your mind each day.

Benefits of the Brain Dump

There are many benefits derived from the brain dump. As mentioned above, its ability to refresh and help you regain clarity and focus is paramount especially for the number of problems we have to solve on a daily basis. Another benefit I’d like to mention is its ability to help you wind down from the day. I know a lot of solopreneurs including myself struggle with “turning off work mode”. How do you effectively wind down from the day to get restful sleep?

It’s challenging to turn off the problem-solving brain and get some shut-eye. This is where the brain dump may be more beneficial to you if done at the end of the day. Sit down with your journal away from any distractions and keep your writing space clutter-free. Put your phone and other devices to bed and block this time out for yourself. 

I hope you find this exercise helpful and a way to refresh your mind to increase clarity and focus while building your business. As Henry David Thoreau said, “Renew thyself completely each day; do it again, and again, and forever again.” Add this exercise to your toolkit and do it every day to see the best results. Over time, it can be transformative for your productivity.

I’m Matt Perry, founder of upwardself.com, a website dedicated to help first-time solo-entrepreneurs better manage themselves so they can effectively grow their businesses. Having built a successful handyman business, I know the emotional ups and downs of growing a business by yourself and want to share what I’ve learned to help others lead happier and healthier lives.

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