Have you noticed that working in the midst of chaos and clutter makes it hard to perform at your best? That’s because the brain craves order. When you’re organized, it’s easier to think clearly, process information, and focus on the task at hand. Yet, the mind is also prone to chaotic, jumbled thoughts that cause you to ruminate in a continuous inner loop. When you’re in this pattern of overthinking, it can feel almost impossible to concentrate on anything else. That’s where the brain dump strategy comes in.
Researchers at Princeton University’s Neuroscience Institute found that organization helps bolster cognitive resources to increase productivity. In contrast, clutter drains those resources, resulting in stress, anxiety, overwhelm, and procrastination.
In this month’s installment of The Productivity Box, we will examine what a brain dump entails and how it can elevate both your performance and well-being. We’ll also discuss a few best practices to make it an efficient part of your workflow. In my own experience, a consistent brain dump regimen is incredibly useful and beneficial. Let’s go!
How the brain dump method works
Our brain absorbs a constant barrage of stimulation. The moment you first open your inbox, check social media notifications, or scroll through the latest news each morning, those mental wheels start churning.
However, neural energy is finite, and the brain has a limit on how much data it can process, suggest neuroscientists from the University College London. When this limited energy is jolted back and forth in numerous directions, you’ll be more susceptible to distraction and inattention caused by information overload.
Combine information overload with all the projects on your to-do list, and it’s no wonder your mind feels like a tangled mess. Luckily, you can counteract this with the simple, consistent, effective habit of starting each day with a brain dump.
Here’s how to do it.
- Set aside time before taking in any information or doing any tasks.
- Spend 10 minutes writing all your thoughts on paper. Allow these thoughts to flow uncensored in a stream of consciousness until the mind is empty, clear, and able to focus on the work ahead.
- Once finished, skim what you wrote for crucial information you need to prioritize or retain.
- Move those items to a separate task list. Next, release the extraneous thoughts that you don’t have a practical, legitimate use for.
Congratulations, that was your first brain dump. Now make it a habit 🙂
What makes a brain dump beneficial
Think of a brain dump as removing a pile of unorganized or unnecessary documents from your desk to store in a filing cabinet. This way, you have room to work in an orderly environment that inspires calm and alleviates stress. The same is true for decluttering the mind. When you have enough bandwidth to think clearly, you get a natural boost in productivity.
As you transfer mental clutter outside yourself and onto a page, it turns your brain into a clean slate. It will enable you to generate new ideas, make decisions, solve problems, and fix your attention on what actually matters.
Here are a few specific ways:
- Stress and anxiety reduction. A brain dump is a form of mindfulness, and that makes it ideal for stress management. Mindfulness teaches you to focus on the precise moment you’re in, instead of the thoughts or emotions that wander in and out your brain. This ability to regulate your attention is similar to a resting meditative state. And this helps lower stress or anxiety, according to the Scientific Reports Journal.
- Effective time management. A brain dump makes it easier to determine which mental items are high-priority and which are irrelevant distractions. Separating these two categories helps you cut down on overthinking. This can lead to inaction and waste valuable time, says Harvard Business Review.
- Improved working memory. Mental clutter and information overload can impair retention, explains Trends in Cognitive Sciences. Making time for a brain dump can boost your working memory. Furthermore, this also improves your decision making, problem-solving, and cross-task efficiency.
To sum it up. A brain dump can boost your work performance, increase your cognitive function, and benefit your mental health overall.
Best practices for doing it right
The brain dump is both a simple and an accessible technique that anyone can do. In order to maximize the benefits, you must stick with it consistently. Follow these best practices below to make this exercise a part of your own regular workflow:
- Put a daily brain dump on your schedule. Schedule a daily brain dump, just as you would with any other task. Add it in your calendar for the same time each day. This will integrate the practice into your normal routine so it becomes a habit.
- Make it easy. Motivate yourself to do the brain dump by keeping whatever you need close by. For example, you might keep a notebook and pen on your bedside table drawer so you can do your brain dump right when you wake up.
- Turn it into a habit. On average, it takes about two months (66 days) for a consistent behavior to transform into a long-term habit, according to American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. To maintain this consistency so it becomes a habit, find a process that works for you so you’re more likely to stick with it.
Untangle your mind for maximum productivity
Don’t allow mental clutter to stand between you and a productive workday.
Untangle your mind to banish information overload, boost focus, think clearly, manage stress levels, and create a more efficient, productive workflow.
As we previously figured out together, this works wonders. Because when improving your mental health and well-being in life, you’ll accomplish more on the job as well.