Brain Dumping for Prioritization

Conducting a brain dump is a productivity strategy that essentially allows us to transfer the information that fills our mind to paper, a dry erase board, or a digital format. Brain dumping has several benefits:

  • Facilitates the process of getting organized
  • Minimizes the risk of forgetting important dates, details, and ideas
  • Creates more “free space” in the brain for creative thought
  • Helps quiet the mind

There are many ways to do a brain dump. This post will cover a more intensive brain dump strategy that can be especially helpful to those of us who struggle with schedule-building and indecisiveness. The following method is an adaptation of an article that was published by Lifehacker.

Step 1: Make Your Lists.

In this case, the lists will be entitled “Must Do,” “Want to Do,” and “Maybe.”  Be sure to give yourself ample room to list everything that comes to mind, make edits, and add notes to the list.

Step 2: Finalize and confirm the “Must Do” list. 

Your “Must Dos” are events and tasks you have already verbally or mentally committed to doing. In this step, you will simply confirm and reconfirm plans then write your “Must Dos” down on your calendar and, if necessary, set reminders. This is also an opportune time to call and send emails to confirm upcoming meetings and appointments.

Step 3: Evaluate your “Want to Do” list.

“Want to Dos” consist of everything you want to do, but have yet to plan. Look over the Want to Do list, and ask yourself if these are all things you really want to do. Then write a number beside each item according to level of priority; “1” corresponds to the item on the list that is the highest priority to you. You may have to change and reassign numbers as you proceed down the list. Or, on the contrary, it may be 100% clear to you which items you prioritize more than others. Next, look at your low-priority items. Ask yourself whether you are 100% certain that you want to do these things. If not, transfer them to the “Maybe” list. If you are 100% certain that a particular item is something you have zero interest in doing, simply eliminate that item altogether.

Step 4: Evaluate your “Maybe” List.

For people who have difficulty making decisions, the “Maybe” list will probably be the longest of the three. Look at each item on the list, and ask yourself whether the item is 1) something you really want to do, 2) something you really NEED to do, and 3) whether you need more information to decide. If the item is either 1) something you want to do or 2) something you need to do, transfer it to the “Want to do list.” In some cases, you may come across items on the Maybe list that you need to fast-track to the “Must Do” list and add to your schedule, for example, scheduling a doctor’s appointment or applying to a program in which you have decided you want to participate. You will also encounter items on your “Maybe” list that you now realize you no longer want to do. Have no shame in crossing these items off completely. Lastly, f you need more information to make a decision about an item on the list, make a note detailing the actions you need to take to get the information you require to proceed with making a decision. Forward progress is the objective!

With an increased focus on prioritizing, this type of brain dump requires a little more mental energy and critical thinking than a general brain dump. But for anyone who has difficulty with scheduling and decision-making, this is a very effective strategy to help streamline events and tasks in a manner that naturally flows into an organized calendar.

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