Brain Dump Strategy – Creating a Chronological Notebook

Most of us can relate to having stray thoughts that emerge throughout the day while we are trying to complete our scheduled tasks. For some, these thoughts come one at a time and are generally not too bothersome. Others may be plagued by nagging recurring thoughts or a mind that constantly races and makes focusing on any task a challenge. This particular method of brain dumping is a quick way to transfer stray thoughts from your mind onto paper. By transferring things from your head to a physical page, you can permanently save the thought and revisit it later when you are not attempting to focus on another unrelated task. Storing your thoughts on paper can also help ease the anxiety that drives some people to replay the same thought over and over again. When you have written the idea down on paper, you no longer have to burden yourself with repeatedly reminding yourself of it.

How to Maintain a Daily Brain Dump Notebook 

 

  1. Select a small, portable notebook, and keep it accessible throughout the day.
  2. Begin a new page each day by labeling the page with the current date.
  3. Whenever you have difficulty focusing, write down all stray thought, reminders, recurring ideas that enter your mind and distract you. Make a note if the thought requires revisiting.
  4. Once the thought is written down on paper, give yourself permission to move on and complete the current task at hand.
  5. At the end of each day, set aside 15 minutes to review what you have written on the current page of your brain dump notebook. Revisit all thoughts that required further evaluation or action. If you have written yourself reminders, transfer them to your upcoming to-do list and/or daily calendar.

OPTIONAL: Reserve the first two pages in your notebook to create a running index. As you fill in pages chronologically, update your index by labeling each week or calendar month and listing the page range that covers it (example: “January: Pages 3 to 32” or “January 1st – 7th…….Pages 3-11”). Labeling your index according to corresponding dates will help in the event that you need to review your notes from several weeks or months ago.

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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Clearing Cobwebs from the Blog

I’ve been working HARD on building up my other platforms, and, unfortunately, the blog has been a little neglected. After weeks of telling myself I would update the blog, I finally created a social media posting schedule that should keep me on track. I will be creating a separate post detailing my new social media strategy in case anyone else may find it helpful.

I look forward to getting back to providing valuable content to help you get organized, stay organized, and achieve your goals. In the meantime…if you haven’t already, follow me on my various social media platforms for informative articles, discussions, photos, videos, and more! You can even join my Facebook group and ask me all your burning organizing and productivity-related questions.

Instagram: @rlprofessionalorganizer

Facebook page: www.facebook.com/helpmelanda

Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/MotivationSuccessProductivity/

Twitter: @RLProOrganizer

Rolanda L’s YouTube Channel
Hope to see you there!

When Your New Year’s Resolution Takes a Sharp Left

Business Insider Magazine reports 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail before February. Now that we are a few weeks into January, you may feel yourself reverting to those habits you’ve wanted to change. The following tips will help you keep going strong into February and beyond:

1. Set benchmarks. Instead of planning to immediately make a gigantic change all at once, set benchmarks that will ultimately lead you to your larger goal. For example, if you want to start cooking at home and eliminate fast food, reduce the number of times you go out for fast food by half. Next month, reduce that number by half again. Keep cutting down until you’re no longer eating fast food. In some cases, you may need to make very immediate changes up front (i.e. if your health dictates an immediate switch), in which case you should do whatever your health professional tells you. But in most cases, gradual change is more likely to become permanent behavior.

2. Get back on the horse! It’s VERY easy to give up on your diet after having a forbidden dinner, throw your commitment to arriving on time out the window the first couple times you’re late to work, or to skip a couple days at the gym and never go back. Instead of feeling like you have to go back to the drawing board, pick up where you left off as if you never missed a beat.

3. Assess yourself frequently. If you are having difficulty making a change or sticking to a resolution, evaluate why you have decided to make the change, and consider all possible mental, emotional, and situation blocks that may be preventing you from making the change. Then work to bypass or, if necessary, eliminate those blocks.

4. Consult someone with more experience. When in doubt, seek help. Hire a coach. Ask a friend who has been there/done that. Join my Facebook group! Transformation is much more easily attained with the support of like-minded people. My goal for the group is to create a community of people who are focused on becoming the best version of themselves and helping others along the way!

Organizing Your Life 103: Creating a Schedule – Sample

Rolanda L., Professional Organizer illustrates a sample schedule and discusses recommendations to add balance to each day.

When creating a schedule, there are four major components I personally believe are non-negotiable elements: food, hobbies, spiritual time, and relaxation. A healthy individual is a well-rounded individual. Many of us are prone to forgetting to make time for the things that keep us well-rounded; therefore, making an active effort to schedule these activities is a positive step toward adding balance to our lives.

Schedule your meals.

Many of us are attempting to cram entirely too  many tasks into 24 hours. Consequently, we skip breakfast. Workers often so busy, they miss out on having an adequate lunch period. At the end of the day, we may be more prone to overcompensating with a dinner that is too calorie-dense and lacking in essential nutrients. Scheduling meals, and sticking to your schedule, can help you consume your meals in a more timely fashion, have more energy throughout the day, and become more intentional about the food you eat. Weight loss, fewer nutritional deficiencies, and a better sense of overall well-being are direct results of effective meal planning.

Make Time for Hobbies

In addition to nutritional and health disorders, modern humans may also develop stress-induced disorders as a result of the way we plan and utilize our time each day. Although working and earning a living or studying and earning a degree are important, most people also require time to “refresh.” Participating in the leisure activities we enjoyed before we were required to work or study full-time every day can help keep stress at bay. These activities may include any productive activity such as playing sports, arts and crafts, taking a class for fun, reading, attending social events, watching a limited amount of television, watching movies, etc.

Plan Time to Get Spiritual

Many refer to their spiritual time as “quiet time” set, usually aside to pray, read holy scripture or other religious books, meditate, or simply reflect on general life questions and be thankful. Even people who are not “religious” may benefit from setting aside time and using it to ponder the great mysteries of life and the universe before getting into the their day-to-day routine or prior to winding down at night.

Relaxation

Each year in the U.S., more than 3 million people report experiencing insomnia or difficulty sleeping. The underlying cause of the condition varies from case-to-case; however, for many, lack of a proper sleep time routine makes dozing more difficult. I highly recommend at least a 15-minute relaxation period prior to getting ready for bed and attempting to go to sleep. The 15-minute period may consist of any activity that allows for transition from the regular daytime pace to a more tranquil nighttime state. Examples of relaxation activities may include listening to music, reading, watching a relaxing TV show before bed, dimming the lights and lighting candles, infusing oils for aromatherapy, etc.

Sample Schedule

The sample schedule I created was based on a person who is slightly more of a night owl and works from 9 to 5 during the day.  The schedule begins with the person’s morning routine and picks up later with the afternoon routine when it is time to leave work. When creating your own schedule, I recommend starting by working in 15-minute increments for greater flexibility and accuracy. If you are unable to create your own schedule “from scratch,” you may use the sample as a general guide and adjust the times and activities to fit your current needs.

 

Sample Schedule

 

 

 

 

 

How to Avoid Getting Stuck “In the Meantime”

Rolanda L., explains how to avoid common pitfalls associated with getting stuck in “in the meantime” situations.

We often commit to things for which we lack passion. We take jobs that aren’t in our intended career field because we need to make ends meet. We spend time in less-than-ideal settings with an incompatible social group because it’s “better than being alone.” We go on dates with people who probably aren’t appropriate matches from the outset because “you never know who will be the one (…debatable…you can often tel who is NOT the one).” We remain in dysfunctional relationships of all varieties because “it could be worse.” This sort of thinking has its time and place. Unfortunately, for many of us, it is often applied virtually all the time in many of the wrong places.

Choosing “in the meantime” situations is only appropriate when combined with an exit plan that leads the individual closer to his or her ideal goal. “In the meantime” is not an adequate substitute for the lack of a goal or plan. While it is true that plans are sometimes delayed or even derailed, an exit strategy must also be malleable enough to accommodate the unexpected hand life may sometimes deal. Otherwise, there may be a great temptation to remain focused on the immediate term instead of looking out onto the horizon and making plans according to the terrain that stretches forth. It is when a person submits to the temptation to remain focused on the immediate term that the risk of encountering long-term lack of fulfillment sets in.

Unfulfilled Life Ambitions Often Lead to a Vicious Cycle

Remaining in an “in the meantime” situation that is not congruent with your overall desire for your life may seem comfortable at first, but eventually, the effects of not actively working toward your goals will emerge in other areas. Working a steady job, but uncompelling may pay the bills at first, but spending large chunks of time in a role that does not feed into a greater passion is oftentimes accompanied by added stress or even feelings of “numbness.” People often utilize their hard-earned income to alleviate stress and avoid numbness by pursuing other outlets, including expensive vacations, drinking, gambling, shopping, or other activities to create a greater separation from “work” during off-duty hours. There is nothing inherently wrong with leisure activities. However, knowing that you are committed to working 5 days a week in a capacity that is in conflict with your life goals can intensify the urge to get as far away from work as possible when you’re not working. The cycle becomes vicious when you realize are spending so much of your income on activities to get away from work, that you find yourself having to work more to maintain your basic, everyday needs throughout the work week (i.e. food, shelter, clothing, electricity, transportation, etc.). Entering the cycle often means having to delay your desired goals even longer.

 

Avoiding the Cycle of Unfulfilled Ambition

The cycle of working to make ends meet and spending the rest on activities that help us forget about work is alarmingly common among many of us. While most people mistakenly think the key to avoiding the cycle is to either be independently wealthy or very lucky, it is not only feasible for some people to avoid the pitfalls of working in an unfulfilling job altogether, but it is even possible for those who absolutely must work an “in the meantime” job and leverage it to pursue a life goal.

 

The Role of Detailed, Yet Flexible Planning

Plans are made and broken all the time. However, attempting to reach a desired destination without utilizing a map is the least efficient way to get there. Similar to traveling to a new restaurant or shop on an unfamiliar side of town or visiting a friend in a new city, employing the use of a “map” when working toward a goal can be very beneficial. When working to achieve career goals, an action plan or “career map” might include the level of education required to achieve the ultimate goal, schools that award the required degrees or certificates as well as their entry requirements and tuition costs. In addition to education, a plan might include related part-time jobs that will not only help cover the costs associated with achieving the goal, but also help develop skills that can be used in pursuit of the ultimate career destination. Internships and related postgraduate entry-level positions may also be included in the plan.

Planning is not only helpful when working toward a fulfilling career. “Mapping” is also effective when navigating the road to personal and relationship goals. A person who would like to dedicate more of their resources to philanthropy may wish to map out a course to working for a non-profit organization or create a detailed budget to determine how to achieve a goal of giving a certain amount to charitable organizations each month or year. An individual who wishes to allocate a certain amount of time to community service projects may start by creating a detailed schedule and determining changes that may need to be made in the interest of freeing up time to do volunteer work. When seeking new friends or a romantic relationship, mapping out shared interests you would like to have with a potential friend or partner and planning to participate in related activities is an excellent starting point for meeting like-minded people.

Conclusion

Whether you are feeling stagnant in your job, relationships, or any other area in your life, take a step back, evaluate where you are in relation to where you would like to go, and plan accordingly. By continuing to reassess your current whereabouts and reevaluate your plan, you will eventually end up where you would like to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Combating Indecisiveness

Most people who have been paralyzed by indecision also know the deleterious effect the chronic inability to make decisions can have on an individual’s life. Being caught between two equally appealing plans for a Saturday morning may end in spending half the day in bed laden with guilt. Inability to decide whether to start a home organizing project by rearranging the kitchen cabinets or purging the linen closet may quickly lead to clean towels remaining on top of the dryer for a week and a load of dishes that never really make it out of the dishwasher. A plan to start exercising and lose weight may be completely derailed when it’s time to choose a gym. While most of us have experienced indecisiveness on a comparatively small scale (“Should I wear jeans or something less casual?…Now I’m running late.”), there are people from virtually every walk of life who find themselves gripped by the inability to feel at ease when prompted to make a decision. As a result, their lives become stagnant and are oftentimes filled with anxiety at nearly every turn.

If the notion of struggling to make basic decisions resonates with you, you may be wondering whether you can be helped. The answer is yes.

Your Life is the Product of a Series of Choices

At first, imagining that a person’s life is the sum of his or her choices might seem like more of a reason to feel overwhelmed. However, re-imagining decision-making as the act that propels us through each day can also help us feel less pressured from moment to moment. Instead of concentrating on the potential for things to go very badly as a result of one misstep, a more empowering approach is to view each opportunity to make a decision as another chance to right a wrong or to build upon a previous good decision; focus on the good that may result from your choices. Shifting your perspective to one that looks forward to deciding, observing the outcome, and using that outcome as the basis upon which to make better decisions will eventually replace the familiar feelings of indecisiveness and dread with a sense of moving in a much more positive forward trajectory.

Decision-Making is Information-Gathering

Most of us are familiar with some variation of the phrase “Live and learn.” We can, in fact, learn from our experiences and use them to predict outcomes, oftentimes with a reliable degree of accuracy. However, sometimes, our progress may be hindered if we begin to think irrationally and become overwhelmed by emotion in attempting to predict the future. Harboring the fear of not making perfect decisions can have an impact that extends beyond preventing an individual from moving forward. Refusing to make a decision may also rob the individual of the opportunity to gather new information through experience. Over time, a consistent pattern of avoiding new experiences may eventually result in stagnation and lack of growth.

What’s the Cure?

The cure to indecisiveness is fairly straightforward: make a decision; then make another one. Through my work, I have found that among people who describe themselves as very disorganized, there is a certain subset that experiences severe anxiety in combination with paralyzing indecisiveness. My recommended approach to combating indecisiveness is the same as my advice to anyone who is attempting to accomplish any seemingly insurmountable goal: start small. One decision will literally lead to another. Small accomplishments will help you make decisions in areas that are highly unlikely to have lasting detrimental effects, but over time they will enable you to build confidence in your decision-making abilities.

Celebrate Your Successes

When it comes to replacing negative habits with positive behaviors, repetition and recognition are equally important. Pausing to acknowledge progress encourages the continuance of the positive behavior and can make the individual feel less frustrated and more apt to try again if he or she experiences a moment of regression along the way.

Realize Most Decisions Are Impermanent

Overall, decision-making is like wandering through a city park. It is entirely possible to get lost for a while, but parks are finite structures, and so are most of life’s situations. If you observe and note where you’ve been and remained focused on where you want to go, you will most likely find yourself on the right path sooner or later.