Updated: Jul 22, 2020
When you’ve got so much on your mind, that it becomes impossible to concentrate on any one thing, at any one time...the overwhelm can be all-consuming.
Attention and focus are quick to get sucked up into the vacuum of to-dos, what-it’s and if-onlys, along with all ability to get anything remotely important or productive done.
One solution to this problem, which goes a step further than the usual list-making antidote, is a technique known as ‘brain dumping’
Brain dumping is the art of offloading everything that crosses your mind (the entire contents of your head space) onto paper, as a way of breaking the overthinking loop and the 'analysis paralysis' that often ensues.
This process of spilling out our stressors, worries, thoughts (however abstract they may be), to dos and ideas is a proven effective way to ease mental pressure, tackle problems and calm the mind.
The key to 'brain dumping' success, is to jot down what springs to mind as quickly as possible, avoiding the rabbit hole of dwelling too long on any one thought. This, apparently, is the best way to pull ideas from the subconscious mind, without anything slipping through the cracks.
It doesn’t matter HOW you write it all down (sentences are optional), nor is it important if you happen to repeat yourself. In actual fact, this might be a good thing for helping highlight patterns in thinking.
Depending on how much time you have, you can aim for 100 points (a recognised standard in 'brain dumping') but make it less if you don't have the prerequisite half hour to spare for this!
Granted, many of the thoughts we note down are likely to be task-oriented, but just as many might seem trivial or even nonsensical on reflection.
The key is to pin them down regardless, whether in the form of a 'mind map', or a list if you prefer. Any style is ok, just so long as it’s analog (hand written), which is supposedly what guarantees the best connection to our words.
It's a common finding, during this process, that ideas that sound worrisome in our heads, look quite different when down on paper. This perspective shift is part of the reason 'brain dumping' can be therapeutic, but in addition to this, there is the fact that written notes act as a tangible springsboards for action-taking, more so than any other self-motivational medium.
Stepping away from the list, then returning to it after a short break, provides an optimum headspace for compartmenalising our mind clutter.
Three category ideas include things you’ve committed to doing, things you'd like to do and things you want to do at some point (a 'someday' list, if you will). Once organised, it is then easier to create a game plan for how to tackle these thoughts, something which is almost always best done in stages.
So, the next time your attention starts to wane, and the burden of thoughts begin to weigh in, why not do a ‘Marie Kondo’ for the mind, and see what life-changing joy it might spark!