When it comes to getting things done, for many of us – including myself – the first thing I need to do is get it out somewhere. And when I say somewhere, I mean a piece of paper or a Word document.
Your brain is not meant to hold all the stuff you want it to, and chances are you’ll forget at least a few things. Have you ever gone to bed thinking you finished your entire to-do list only to realize you forgot sending that one important email right before you go to sleep? Me too.
So, I recommend that you do a brain dump. It’s the ultimate way to get rid of cluttered thoughts and to make sure nothing important slips through the cracks. How you do it is entirely up to you – some people are good with technology like apps and documents, while others like writing it all out on paper (preferably in a fancy notebook that was $40, because you needed it).
Grab a pen and paper – or your app of choice
I honestly recommend grabbing a pen and paper, even if you’re a technology nerd, but if you’re stubborn, go with the app of choice. I’ve used Google Drive documents, Evernote, my iPhone note app, a cheap notebook, an expensive notebook and the back of an envelope before, and all have worked just fine.
Start writing lists
I usually write at least 3 to-do lists:
- What I have to do – Things I really need to get done today
- What I want to do – Things I want to get done today, but don’t have to
- What I might do – Things I would like to do if I have time left at the end of the day
Some people like writing their lists in order, but I’m a chaotic person so usually I end up all over the place. Throughout the day, I sometimes will keep adding things to use as a reference the next day. When you can’t think of anything anymore, the biggest part of our brain dump – the actual dump – is finished.
Evaluate every list and make a new one
I like to wait a few minutes and then go back to my lists. I cross out things that don’t seem so important in hindsight or that don’t really help me work towards my goals. I also sometimes move things around, but ultimately you want to end up with a short ‘what I have to do’ list and a longer ‘what I want/might do’ list. We all know this isn’t always possible, but the sooner you finish your ‘What I have to do’ list, the sooner you can start working on your other lists, and that’s when the real fun begins!
Finish your lists
By now, the pages you’ve used will be full of scribbles and other stuff that doesn’t make sense anymore. I like neat lists, so what I like to do is rewriting every list in its finished form on a new page. If I don’t do this, I start feeling overwhelmed by the messy pages and I don’t get stuff done at all – and that’s what we’re trying to stop from happening here!
Dumping my thoughts out on a piece of paper is my favorite way of list-making, and it helps me to feel a lot less overwhelmed. I use a lot more paper this way, but hey, that’s an excuse to buy more fancy notebooks! 😉
Curious to hear more ways I declutter my mind? I made a video about it! Don’t forget to subscribe to my channel if you like what you see.