How to Get Started With Brain Dumping in 2023 [+Templates & Tools To Make it Easy]

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Wait, you’ve never done brain dumping before?

Stick with me kid, because this is going to CHANGE things for you.

Ever thought about why, when the trash gets full at your house you can take it out back and have some strangers come pick it up – but when your brain is full of garbage, there’s no such option?

Oh, but there is. 🙂

The Brain Dump Toolkit

Here is a helpful toolkit I created for you to get started with brain dumping. It includes:

  • Tips for a better Brain Dump
  • Brain Dump Template
  • Prompts/triggers – You can use these to keep that stream of consciousness going and make sure you don’t forget anything
brain tornado

As much as I hate to admit it, there are plenty of times when I start feeling down about my work or what’s happening in my life.

It feels like my brain is caught in a tornado and I can’t have a solo thought for even a second before another comes whooshing in.

Do you know how hard it is to get decent work done when this happens? Yea, of course, you do.

I think the word is “overwhelm.” There’s not much else to it.

It’s also the step right before burnout – which is a massive topic for another day.

Anyway, there’s a tool that I have used in the past to help deal with this, and for some reason I got away from it – honestly due to pure laziness of not making it a priority.

Why You Need to be Brain Dumping

You know when you start taking on more projects and just know you’re going to be able to handle it all? After all, you’re superwoman/man!

Then after a few weeks, you start feeling stuck, unproductive, and keep getting distracted. You’ve let things build up and start feeling really far behind.

You have 100 tabs open on your internet browser, and you need them all.

When you have 100 tabs open on chrome

You start having a hard time falling asleep, or keep waking up in the middle of the night with a million thoughts flying through your head?

Hello, overwhelmed human – welcome to the club.

But What is a Brain Dump?

According to good ol’ Wikipedia, a brain dump is “the transfer of a large quantity of information from one person to another or to a storage and retrieval medium.”

In other words, a brain dump is the act of getting all of your thoughts out of your head so you are able to focus on one idea at a time, and not have to worry about forgetting the other stuff.

If you don’t get all of these ideas out of your head, your brain will keep bringing them up over and over, leaving you feeling overwhelmed and stressed.

Even if you are a Type A person who plans by the minute and have journals and day planners, post-its, etc. – they are going to fall short because, as humans, we have hundreds of little micro-tasks that don’t necessarily relate to any project you’re working on.

Why Do Brain Dumps Work?

Putting all of your thoughts on paper is just one of those “woo woo” exercises, right?


Getting all of these little (and big) ideas, thoughts, questions, and projects can seriously change things for you. It can reduce stress, help you feel satisfied, and get those to-do lists out of your head and onto paper.

As you write down everything that’s floating around in your head, your brain begins to learn that you are going to remember it, without having to keep it top of mind. This allows for other ideas and creative thoughts to come to the forefront.

When you’re not keeping a mental list of the 23 things you need to get at the grocery store, you’re giving your brain the space to think about other things. You can start to fully flush out thoughts and come up with new ideas, instead of just briefly thinking about them before your brain reminds you that you need to add coffee to the mental grocery list.

Goodbye, brain tornado.

When to do Brain Dumps

David Allen wrote a book called Getting Things Done in the early 2000’s, that spread the word about this concept of a “brain dump.”

He talks about going through a brain dump before you start organizing your life and business, but doesn’t talk much about it being a regular brain dump exercise to do.

As for me, I’m going to start doing this once a week, at least until I feel like I’ve gotten most of those little buggers that float around my head down on paper.

Going through a brain dump once is great, but the power of this is to keep your brain clear and able to focus on the projects you’re currently working on.

I’m trying to get this done towards the end of each week, on a Thursday or Friday, because I find that so many new ideas and thoughts come to me throughout the week.

Here are some other times it’s good to get all of your thoughts down on paper:

  • When you have a busy schedule (cough, cough, all the damn time!)
  • When you feel “unbalanced” or “off”
  • When you’re getting frustrated with work
  • When you have lots of new projects or clients
  • After a client call or important meeting (I would do a shortened version, but make sure you get your thoughts and great ideas down on paper)
  • Before writing a blog post – yes, go ahead and just explode onto the paper so you make sure you aren’t forgetting anything
  • When you’re planning out the next month, quarter, year, etc.
  • After learning something new Brain dumps can be a powerful tool to use after you learn something – even teachers in academia are trying this out, it’s worth a read.

How Do You Brain Dump?

Now that I’ve convinced you this is a great tool, how exactly do you go through the process of brain dumping?

It’s easy.

  1. Get out a piece of paper and pencil
  2. Write down every single thought that comes to your head. Yes, all of them.

You’re done.

Okay, so there are a few more steps, but that’s the main gist of this exercise.

Here are the steps I generally follow when brain dumping:

1. Open up a Google Doc (or use pen and paper)

I type much faster than I write and find that I fall behind my thoughts if I try to write them instead of typing.

2. Set up one bullet point to start with

You know, like this:

I much prefer this to a blinking cursor on a blank page. While this is totally unnecessary, it’s how I like to start my brain-dumping process.

3. Set a Timer If You Have Limited Time

The first time you do this it’s going to take a lot longer than normal, so try to give yourself around 30-45 minutes at least.

4. Start Writing Everything That Comes to Mind

This includes all of your upcoming tasks, thoughts, ideas, more ideas, shiny objects (I see you, entrepreneurs), errands you have to run, etc. Get everything out, not just work stuff.  You can use the toolkit below for some ideas if you need a little prompt here and there.

Here is me actually doing a brain dump:

5. Go For a Walk

Or at least get out of your office for at least 10 minutes. This is critical to clear your mind, and I promise you’re going to remember a ton of stuff you forgot – so bring your phone or a piece of paper so you don’t forget these again!

6. Add to the Original List

When you come back, you’ll probably have a few more things you thought of while you were out. Add those to the list.

7. Categorize Your Brain Dump Ideas

Organize all of these into categories so we can actually do something with them.

The specific category you pick can be your own, but here are some I generally use:

  • Personal
  • Blog stuff
  • Agency/freelancing stuff
  • Client 1
  • Client 2
  • Project 1
  • Project 2
  • Future ideas for the blog
  • Future ideas for the Agency
  • Errands
  • Content ideas
  • Marketing ideas

Here is what the above (and obviously not completed) brain dump would look like after categorizing, as an example.

brain dumping example

8. Break Down Big Projects Into Tasks

If you’re human, you’ve written something like “start a YouTube channel” or “start a blog” – and that’s great.

But that’s not a task you’ll know what to do with later so you want to be more specific and add more steps there. You’ll probably want to include things like:

  • Decide on a topic for the blog
  • Figure out your avatar or ideal reader
  • Come up with topics for the first 15 blog posts
  • Choose a name
  • Buy the domain

You get the idea. Projects like that just need a little more coaxing to understand how long they will take and give them due dates, which is one of the next parts.

9. Break Down Tasks Into Timeframes

What I mean here is to roughly decide when you’re going to tackle a project. I put these into lists with tasks I can actually complete like this:

  • What to do today
  • What to do this week
  • What to do this month
  • Sometime in the near future
  • Doesn’t need to be done – it’s okay to delete some of these things from your list. Just because you wrote it down doesn’t mean you have to take action on it.
    Some ideas are crap. Some things you’re thinking about just need to be recognized so you can stop worrying about them.
  • Should be delegated/outsourced to a virtual assistant (VA) or admin assistant.

10. Add Due Dates to Your Tasks.

This is important so we can get these tasks done, but not everything is going to have a due date. The ideas folder generally doesn’t have dates because, well, they haven’t made it to the “next in line” list.

11. Add Tasks to Your To-Do List.

Enough thinking about it, we’re going to get things done now. It’s time to add these tasks to your to-do list or project management tool (Asana is great, or even the Notes app that comes on your phone).

12. Do One of the Easy Tasks Now.

After all, we did this so we could organize our thoughts and get sh** done right? Check something off your list, even if it’s as simple as “forward the Phillies tickets PDF to John.”

have a beer after braindumping

13. Go Have a Beer.

Take a big breath, because you just took a giant leap away from burning out and a big leap toward self-care. Congrats, you’ve earned it!

Brain Dump Apps, Tools, & Templates

You can just use a pencil and paper and call it done.

But as I mentioned above I love the electronic version of paper for this exercise. But there are other tools to help you document your brain dump and keep them for future reference if need be.

Electronic Apps:

Tools of the Paper Kind

  • Moleskine – It’s nice to keep all of these thoughts in one place, and people love this journal so it was worth mentioning. A lot of people use these for bullet journals as well, which works great for brain dumping.
  • Brain Dump journal – for me this seems like overkill, but hey, you might enjoy it.
  • Bullet journal – lots of people enjoy being creative while creating lists, so this is a good option is that sounds like you!
  • The Brain Dump Toolkit – this one is my own creation. It includes:
    • Tips for a better Brain Dump
    • Brain Dump Template
    • Prompts/triggers – You can use these to keep that stream of consciousness going and make sure you don’t forget anything

An Alternative Brain Dump Method

But there is another way you can take brain dump notes and get your other tasks out of your head.

Voice Memos!

What about doing a brain dump WHILE you’re on your walk?

During walks is usually when I get the best ideas, and it’s also when I am unable to write or type them out. Instead, I use the voice memos app on my phone.

I’m going to try this next time and get back to you on it.

The only downside I could see here is having to type it all out later, but the stream of consciousness might just be worth it.

Why Brain Dumping is Important

If you’ve gotten this far in the post, you’ve probably done this before, or are looking for a TL;but-totally-read-it version.

Instead, I’m going to remind you why this is an important exercise to do regularly.

If you don’t get your random thoughts out of your head, in a safe place that your brain trusts will get done, you’re going to keep having these things swirl around in your head.

After all, we know it’s been proven that multitasking is a lie. It doesn’t exist.

At least not if you want to give any project a good chance at survival.

How can you honestly expect to do a project without having other thoughts and ideas coming back around to smack you into distraction?

So go forth, increase your mental health, practice some self-care, declutter your mind, and give your brain some confidence to move forward with your work.

Okay, that last part was cheesy….

Anyway, grab this toolkit and get started brain dumping effectively.

3 thoughts on “How to Get Started With Brain Dumping in 2023 [+Templates & Tools To Make it Easy]”

  1. Hi Chenell, thanks for sharing this practice.

    While reading your post it reminded me of the Pensieve (of the Harry Potter’s stories), where people could store their thoughts and memories and James Altucher’s 10 ideas a day (write down every idea you have).

    Great article, by the way.

  2. The comment regarding multitasking is not completely accurate. The achievement of a particular type of multitask function is questionable but including multitasking in activities can actually stimulate biological efficiency in learning. Especially in terms of aging multitasking during physical activity can provide faster and more effective learning.


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