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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Quick-Start Solutions: Simple Rescue Strategy for Rooms That Are Buried in Paperwork

Sick and tired of unorganized…*things*? Feeling overwhelmed at the thought of getting tackling that nondescript pile of stuff? I’m here to help. This exercise will help you move one non-painful, very manageable, highly productive step toward getting organized.

Problem: Help! My living room/dining room/bedroom/office/kitchen/the doghouse is overflowing with papers that are of questionable importance!

Solution: Go grab some empty file folders. If you don’t have any lying around the house, run to your nearest office supply store/drug store/grocery store…or scroll to the bottom to see some cool folders Amazon can have on your doorstep within 1 to 2 days…depending on your shipping preferences [note: affiliate links included].

If you don’t have folders right this second, you can still separate the papers into piles, but label the piles CAREFULLY, and clip the papers in each pile together using a paperclip or binder clip. Now. We’re ready to begin:

1. SET A GOAL, and determine how much paperwork you would like to clean up in your current session. Be realistic. If you know you only have the energy to work on the task for 30 minutes, set a timer for 30 minutes. If you can work for a full hour…POWER HOURRR! Let’s Go!

2. Create categories,  and label each folder according to the types of papers you have. If you can’t think of categories, try starting with these: Health, Home, Work, Finance, Bills, Leisure. Some of you may need to add a category for School. If you have kids, each child should have his or her own folder…but for starters, you can keep them all in one folder. For now. You WILL have to go back and separate everything out, though. So it’s best to just make a folder for each child if you have a massive amount of paperwork coming in from school, hobbies, etc.

3. Pick up one piece of paper. Determine which category the paper best fits. Example, if you pick up a car insurance bill, file it in the “bills” folder. If you can’t decide within 30 second, set the paper aside, and revisit it at the end. 

4. Repeat process until you can see the table/desk/floor/interior of the oven (yes, I’ve seen this before) or wherever your unruly papers have been landing. Advanced tip: (file your papers in chronological order as you add them to the folders; doing this now will save time when you need to access these papers later…and you WILL need to access your papers later: either to use them, to file them more permanently, OR to throw them away).
5. When finished, store the folders in a standing file box or file cabinet so you can access them later.
***If you still have remaining papers to clean up, don’t worry. Pull out your calendar, and schedule another time WITHIN THE NEXT 7 DAYS to continue the task. Write it down as an “appointment!” Keep repeating these “appointments” until all papers have been cleaned up and appropriately filed.
Maintenance: Set aside a general basket, bin, or letter tray to collect paperwork throughout the week. Choose one designated day each week to clear out the basket and file paperwork in its rightful folder. Eventually, the papers should go into a permanent file cabinet or drawer. But I will discuss that in a future post in the interest of keeping it simple and just focusing on quick cleanup strategies for now.
Recommended Supplies:

 

 

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24 Hours Not Enough? Learn to Manage Time Like Money

To be fair, most of us have felt at one time or another as if we simply don’t have enough money. When that happens, we either look for an additional stream of income, or we refine our budget and try to work within it. Time is similar. However, because we can’t simply make more time, the latter approach is the default. What does it mean to learn to manage time as if it’s money?

Viewing Time As a Budget

We’re all working with the same 24 hours. That part of the equation is set. Where everyone begins to differ is the very diverse ways in which we use our 24 hours. Think of your 24 hours as an allowance you receive each day. You literally can do whatever you please with your 24 hours. But for most of us, it’s not that simple, right? We decide we want housing, clothes, food, financial savings, entertainment. All those things cost. They cost money and time [unless you literally have someone handing these things to you…in which case, please come over here and advertise YOUR coaching services]. Anyhow…these things cost what I’ve come to refer to as time dollars. In planning your schedule–because you should be planning your schedule–start with 24 hours, and subtract from that each time you schedule an activity. For example, your 8-hour workday costs 8 time dollars, leaving you with 16 remaining.

But actually…it’s inaccurate to begin by subtracting from 24…unless you count sleep!

Begin By Planning Time to Sleep

Sleep is so important that I always recommend starting schedule planning by setting a bedtime, deciding how long you want to ideally sleep, and scheduling a wake-up time accordingly. We underestimate the importance of sleep. While you may think you need time to go to the library, pick up your dry cleaning, and attend the birthday party you were invited to, your body places a much greater priority on repairing cells and tissues, encoding learned information into your memory, and restoring your energy. These very important activities are just a few that happen while you’re sleeping.

After Designating Sleep Hours

Let’s say you plan to get seven hours of sleep each night. After subtracting seven from your 24-hour time budget, you are left with 17 hours of time that can be allocated to work, fun, leisure, and everything in between. If you ever find yourself feeling tempted to waste time or engage in an activity that does not serve your well-being or contribute to the well-being of others in a manner you can afford, actively remind yourself of the remaining hours in your time budget. Then asks if it is worth allocating time to participate in the activity.

Practice Makes Perfect

If you are a person who struggles with decision-making and prioritizing tasks, you may struggle at first with deciding which activities are deserving of your time. Don’t be discouraged. Simply do your best to make a decision. Evaluate the outcome of that decision. Then carry that analysis with you as you keep moving forward in approaching each day as if you are on a strict time budget. Eventually, you will become better at ranking tasks according to importance, balancing social commitments, and becoming a better decision-maker and steward of your time.

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10 Strategies for More Effective Time Management – Free Cheat Sheet

 

Click HERE for Time Management assessment quiz!

We’ve entered the second half of 2018 and the beginning of Q3. Now is the perfect opportunity to assess how well we have been managing our time and to determine whether we are on track to have the 2018 we hoped for back in January.

Check out my 10-question Time Management Assessment quiz to see how you are measuring up, and receive a free cheat sheet that outlines 10 areas you can address today to reclaim and better manage your valuable time.

Thrive App: Your Mini Mindfulness Coach in Your Pocket

There is a growing interest in taking a holistic approach to productivity. Each year more and more working professionals and business owners are seeking out ways to implement a greater focus on mental health and spiritual wellness in the workplace.  Employee rest areas, yoga sessions, meditation classes, and kitchens that are always stocked with various teas and organic snacks all signal a remarkable shift from the traditional brick-and-mortar, 9 to 5 job setting in the U.S.
While some workplaces are making a greater effort to create an environment that nurtures the “whole” employee, many others have yet to join the revolution. For people who do not find themselves having regular access to an employer-sponsored wellness and productivity program, Thrive UK has created an app that may be a very affordable alternative for millions of people.

Exploring the Link Between Mindfulness and Productivity

There are several components of a person’s well-being that can have a direct impact on the individual’s level of productivity. The body uses food as fuel; therefore, diet influences a person’s energy level as well as his or her ability to concentrate and focus for extended periods of time. Rest is essential to health and performance. Consequently, a lack of sleep can quickly diminish workplace performance. Stress and anxiety can also have a negative impact on a person’s work and home life. Finally, one of the most often overlooked aspects of productivity and performance is mindset. The Thrive App utilizes soothing music with ocean sound effects in combination with various exercises and helpful tips to bring peace, optimism, and balance to the most critical areas of the user’s life.

Mental Health and Wellness Monitoring on Demand

Upon logging into the Thrive app, the user is greeted and immediately offered a practical tip for managing stress, easing anxiety, or simply shifting to a more positive mindset. Next, the app asks the user to rate his or her mood on a color scale. Mood tracking can be helpful to anyone, especially to those who are experiencing anxiety or depression. Tracking moods can help the individual remain connected to his or her emotions in addition to detecting any concerning or unusual changes in the overall mental state. Next, the app asks the user to identify specific events that may have led to his or her current mood, whether negative or positive. Reflecting and considering the connection to certain events that may have triggered a particular mood can be helpful, particularly when a person is experiencing a negative emotion and has difficulty identifying the exact root cause.

Mind and Body Activity Recommendations

Upon receiving feedback on the user’s mood, the program then assigns three daily goals that are recommended activities to help maintain a healthy mental state and, if necessary, to improve a bad mood. Examples include 30 minutes to an hour of a specified physical exercise, breathing activities, self suggestion, deep muscle relaxation, and an impressive collection of meditation strategies that leverage sound, smell, and the power of imagination. The user may set notifications to serve as a reminder to complete the prescribed activities throughout the day. Each time the user logs in, the app will ask the user to indicate which activities he or she has completed since the previous session.  In addition to the daily recommended activities, Thrive also includes a collection of games that provide a healthy distraction when the user needs to unwind.

In-App Games

At any time, users may swipe over to Zen Island, which is the Thrive app’s virtual destination for games and recreation. Zen Challenge requires the player to draw paths to connect two objects on a plane while navigating through a series of obstacles and hoops. Wise Words teaches the participant to focus on positive words by identifying them within an assortment of jumbled letters that are displayed on a grid. Those who are feeling creative may choose to design their own zen garden in Zen Island’s sand.

Conclusion

The Thrive App is packed with valuable resources that can help virtually anyone increase self-awareness and practice mindfulness in ways that can have a very real and positive impact on overall health and productivity. Even occasional use can help a person relax and even avoid an oncoming episode of mild tension or anxiety. Like virtually any health tool, the Thrive app should be used regularly to produce lasting results and to realize more substantial improvement.

Thrive is a subscription-based app available for £4.99/month, £14.97 for a three-month subscription, or £47.88/year, which translates to approximately $8/month, $21/quarterly, or $67/annually.

Thrive UK has graciously provided a FREE access code for my readers. Click HERE to request your free subscription to the Thrive app.

Set Your Eye on the Prize, and Your Life Will Follow Suit

Focus is an important ingredient in goal-setting and achievement. Most people think of focus as the act of remaining on-task, avoiding distraction, and carefully following whatever procedure we have determined will lead us to success. However, we often overlook the importance of looking toward the horizon and focusing on the vision we want to come to fruition.

Imagine Yourself Achieving Your Goals

If you are working on modifying a habit or achieving a specific goal, it is important that you set aside time each day to envision yourself being successful. While some may view this exercise as not being particularly beneficial or even as a waste of time, envisioning your own success is actually vital. Not only does imagining yourself crossing the finish line allow you to shift your thoughts from the stress of being hard at work in the trenches, striving to inch closer to your goal, but envisioning your success may also help you figure out exactly what steps you will need to take to get there.

Filling In the Details

If your goal, for example, is to purchase your first home this year, allowing yourself to envision the size of the home, location, furniture, and paint color will help you answer several key questions, including “How much would this type of home in that particular location cost?” “How much more should I set aside for decorating expenses?” “What steps do I need to take to save enough money for the down payment?” If you simply set a vague goal of “saving for a house,” at the end of the year, you may find yourself coming up short because you have not saved enough, or the opposite may happen: you may restrict yourself more than necessary and completely compromise your quality of life only to find that you could have spent more time with family, gotten more sleep at night and still achieved your goal of saving for your first home.

Focusing on Your Goal Can Help You Persevere

Reminding yourself of exactly what you want and are working to achieve will help you maintain a sense of “purpose” during hard times. Thinking of how it will feel to invite your family and friends over to your housewarming party can help you find the energy you need to go to that second job after you have worked a full day at your main place of employment. Imagining yourself being able to wear a bikini on the beach with your friends can help motivate you to forego that intense desire to binge on carbs. Being able to close your eyes and see and feel yourself enjoying the benefit of your hard work can help you continue to work hard when you feel like quitting.

Daydreaming is for Grownups, Too

There is power in allowing yourself to dream and imagine yourself living the life you want to live. Oftentimes, the contrast between the dream world and our reality can be more than enough to compel us to do something about the tension between the two and work to make the dream our reality.