I’m not talking about piles of paper on your desk or stacks of business cards you never got around to organizing — although that can be a problem, too. In this case, though, we’re talking about the clutter in your head. You know, that endless list of things that scrolls through your mind continually, and that distracts you just when you’re trying to focus.
That’s the kind of clutter that’s really holding you back, and we all have it. But the good news is, it’s easier to clean up than those piles of paper are. And the way we’re going to do it is with a brain dump.
Here’s how it works:
- Set aside 30 to 60 minutes of uninterrupted time. It’s important that you have a quiet place with no distractions—either internal or external—to derail the process, so plan a time when the kids are at school and you don’t have clients calling you.
- Grab your list-writing tool of choice. This can be digital or physical, so whether you prefer Evernote, a Moleskine notebook, or a stack of index cards, it’s entirely up to you. Make sure you have pencils and/or pens, too.
- Just write. Make a big list of everything that’s on your mind, from getting the dog groomed to building a new website. Whatever you’re keeping on that big to-do list in your head goes in your brain dump. No task is too big or too small, but don’t worry about the details yet. Rather than listing all the subjects you want to blog about, simply write “Create a blog editorial calendar.”
- Organize. Once you’ve got everything out of your head and down on paper, it’s time to bring some order to the chaos. Reorganize your list according to project, then order your projects by priority, and finally order the tasks within your projects in their logical order. Fill in the blanks where necessary.
- Transfer to a trusted system. Your brain dump will do you no good at all if you still feel the need to keep stuff in your head, so this step is critical to your success. Whether your to-do lists are on paper or electronic, you must transfer your newly organized brain dump into a system you trust and use. I use Evernote and Wunderlist. Use whatever system works best for you.
Finally, it’s time to get to work. And if you find yourself struggling again or not getting things done, that means it’s time to schedule another brain dump. Doing so regularly will help you continue to move forward toward your goals and get the work done.