All About To-Do Lists: Starting with a Brain Dump

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source: ducttapeavenger

source: ducttapeavenger

Lucretia from GeekMommy recently shared her fear of forgetting something important because of her lack of organization. She said:

“I keep telling myself that if I could just sit down and get organized, I would sleep better – because I wouldn’t lie there thinking about what it is that isn’t organized and therefore must not be getting done.”

I think this is a common feeling even for those of us who are organized. We have so many responsibilities that just trying to keep track of everything we need to do causes our mind to race.

A few months ago, Tsh at Simple Mom shared how she uses the GTD (Getting Things Done) method of emptying her brain onto paper, and although we use different names for the process, I completely agree with everything she wrote.

What is a Brain Dump?

When my mind starts racing, I know that it’s time for a “brain dump,” a chance to just spew everything that’s filling my head out onto a piece of paper, my white board or into One Note (I’m kind of spastic that way – my preferences change on a regular basis).

Benefits of a Brain Dump

The benefits of a brain dump are many:

1. You’re able to get everything out of your head and onto paper, so to speak, so that you can stop thinking about it and worrying about forgetting something.

2. Oftentimes, once I get my list on paper, I realize that there aren’t as many things to do as I thought there were when I was trying to simple remember everything, which is often a relief!

3. Once everything is written down, it’s much easier to prioritize and decide what’s really important.

Keep Writing Until It’s Empty

A brain dump isn’t supposed to be pretty or organized. You’ll worry about making a “pretty” to-do list later. As Tsh says, the key to successfully brain dumping is to actually write down every little thing that’s on your mind – no matter how small, silly or inconsequential. Maybe it never gets transferred over to your actual to-do list, but writing it down means you no longer have to think about it, which means you’re not wasting energy trying to remember it when you could be focused on actually getting things done.

Do you regularly brain dump when your mind is racing? What’s the biggest benefit you’ve found from using this method? How about the biggest challenge?

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About the Author

Mandi Ehman

Hi. My name is Mandi and I’m an organizing junkie. I’m also a wife, and Momma to four little girls (5, 3.5, 2 and a new baby!). I've worked at home since our oldest was a baby, and like a lot of other moms, my life is a constant balancing act of caring for my family and my home, meeting my obligations and finding time for hobbies in there somewhere. Oh, yeah, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m somewhat of a kitchen dunce and I only like to pretend that I’m crafty. Read more here!

8 Responses to “ All About To-Do Lists: Starting with a Brain Dump ”

  1. I need to do a “brain dump” right now! I just don’t have time… I need to put it on the schedule. Lol :)

    Amy’s last blog post…Menu Plan Monday


  2. Amy- hahahahah that literally made me laugh out loud!!!

    Writing down every little thing…I’ve done that and you know, I look at my list of things to do, and I get a little frustrated when I don’t complete everything in a timely manner. Some things on my list have been there for months!

    Brittany’s last blog post…World Food Day – and a giveaway!


  3. I do this when I start to feel anxious. My list always grows larger than I anticipate as one thing reminds me of another that belongs on my list. I liken it to “if you give a mouse a cookie”. However, by the time I run out of things to write, I feel much more capable of tackling all of it! My mind functions more fluidly and certainly more quickly without all that clutter!!!

    Of course, as you said, it’s much easier to prioritize when I know exactly what needs to be done. And, first on the list is always… make a pretty to do list now that I know what belongs on it!


  4. I like lists. I make a to-do list each night. I have “to-get” lists and “to-go” lists and “to-call” lists. I have lists all over. If I don’t write stuff down, I get caught up other stuff and, well…you know. What I need to do is just sit and think and write everything down on paper or computer or…anywhere, as long as it’s just in one place. The problem I have is the only time I really sit in quiet and think is in the car on the way to get the kids from school. My driving and writing with the notepad on the steering wheel is a little scary! Maybe I need a voice recorder or something. Any ideas?

    Marci’s last blog post…Spring cleaning – update


    Kelli @ 3 Boys and a Dog Reply:

    I homeschool my oldest, so he is always with me. :-) I have improved his handwriting by dumping my brain to him in the car. LOL! I hand him a pencil and notebook and just start saying stuff. He writes, he spells, I get a list. Ta Da – win, win. :-)
    Kelli @ 3 Boys and a Dog´s last blog ..BusyBodyBooks are 25% off with code! My ComLuv Profile


    Karen Reply:



  5. Brittany I used to feel the same way about things lingering on the to do list. That’s when I made my “big list” of stuff that didn’t have to happen right away (obviously, if they were on the list for so long!). I didn’t lose track of them but they weren’t in my face every day.

    I don’t typically brain dump, but I do try to write something down as soon as I think of it. I keep my planner on the kitchen counter and go straight to it when I need to jot something down. I also take it to work in case I think of something while I’m there.

    Lori’s last blog post…I got my FREE Suave coupon today


  6. Ever since everyone gave me advice about the braindump, I’ve been trying it.

    I pretty much do it via notepad on my desktop – so it’s all there the next day – and move things forward that aren’t checked off.

    Now I just stress out over whether or not I’ve forgotten to put something on the list! ;) Must be something in my nature!!
    But I’m trying!

    Great post!

    Lucretia Pruitt’s last blog post…What Do You Do For a Living Again?


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