Brain Dumping: the what, why, & how

Back again to talk about brain dumping. I mentioned this concept last week in my Stuff I Do Now post and there’s a lot more to read about it on the internet but I’ll tell you what it is to me, why I do it, and how I do it.


Brain dumping is getting things that you’re thinking about out of your brain and somewhere else. It’s that simple. Literally anything you’re thinking about – release it somewhere else. It may be jotting something down on a sticky note when you think of it, an hour long journal session where you really clear your head, or anything in between. Maybe you’re physically writing, maybe you’re typing on your phone or computer. Maybe it’s right when you wake up, right before you go to bed, maybe you do it 5 times per day. I find brain dumping most helpful when I’m about to settle in on one task for a while. I have a specific notebook just for brain dumping. Sometimes my thoughts are organized lists of things I need to remember to bring somewhere, sometimes diagrams , sometimes stick figures, just whatever’s there.


I brain dump so that I can focus on what’s in front of me without being distracted with other thoughts. Are you one to have a thought then agonize until you can do something about it? I am. Writing them down makes me feel like I’m not ignoring or putting things off without consideration. These days, many of us are constantly being pulled in so many directions. We have way too many things to do and think about. Often when I’m working on one thing (or just trying to relax), I feel like I’m being irresponsible by not working on some other thing. Or I’ll feel like I’m going to forget this thing I just remembered! Brain dumping relieves me of this since I know I have that written down and I’ll get to it later.


I usually brain dump at least once a day, sometimes more. When I’m really relaxed, I don’t feel the need to. Here’s what a typical brain dumping session looks like for me: I wake up, I’m a busy human so I cannot help but think of all of the things I have to do that day, stuff I don’t want to forget to bring to wherever I’m going that day, etc. I want to sit in the moment, tune into myself, plug in and reconnect with all that’s around me. I can’t do that if I’m stressed about forgetting all my clear thoughts I woke up with. So I grab a notebook right next to my bed and write everything down. I don’t try to pull new information, I just semi-mindlessly write what’s already there at the front of my brain. It’s an important distinction as thinking too hard about what to write down causes more distracting thoughts to come up, the opposite of the point here. Usually it’s a mini to-do list or just things I don’t want to forget to bring to campus (computer charger, work shirt, snack, etc). Now I’m able to feel clear-minded and fresh for my meditation. When I’m done, I have all of those thoughts down and can handle them when I want to.

Here’s my brain dump from this morning…

Screenshot (6)

Part to-do list, part me reminding myself where all of my clothes are, part me looking for a cold pack, part yoga class planning – just whatever was sitting on the top of my mind!


I highly recommend brain dumping to feel relaxed but not lazy!

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