I’m going through Eben Pagan’s Wake Up Productive (currently closed) video training program (Eben is fast becoming my favorite mentor) and one of the first starter tasks is to write down everything you are thinking about so you can “clear your mental desk”.
This reminded me of a technique I first came across from John Reese called the “brain dump”. Neither John or Eben invented these techniques of course, but that doesn’t really matter. John’s Brain Dump is slightly different to Eben’s clear your mental desk, but the principle is the same.
The idea is to get everything out of your head on to paper so you can stop thinking about it. As an entrepreneur – or just a human – we have a lot of things we need to do and keep track of, especially if you have a family as well.
When I returned home from overseas as expected there were a lot of little things that needed to be done. My lawn had grown to about a meter high, and needed cutting. My house needed a good clean. I had to buy food, pay bills, sort out my car registration, and all kinds of odd things – and this doesn’t even include the business tasks!
Over the first few weeks my brain kept collecting things I had to do and storing them for later. As I worked on the computer and walked around my house, certain objects or emails would trigger a reminder of something that needed to get done. This actually causes stress as your brain is constantly feeling the pressure of needing to do something but not actually getting it done.
I’m fairly good at dealing with that kind of stress as I tell myself to be patient and get it done when I can, but that doesn’t make the problem go away and of course, the task needs to get done eventually. It pays to become aware of how you think when it comes to task accumulation in your brain.
This is not a new problem for me, but thanks to Eben’s course I was reminded of a solution to help deal with mental clutter, especially during periods of new starts, in my case returning home from overseas and the new year beginning.
To Brain Dump all you need to do is get out a full page of paper and then sit down and write down everything you need to get done.
In Eben’s case he recommended writing down everything you were thinking about, not just task related thoughts.
I mostly think about things I need to get done, so that’s what I did.
This should take a while – even hours if you have a lot on your mind. Once it is done you should feel a lot better as you no longer need to use your brain to keep track of all these things. You can let the paper have the responsibility. I find this part very relieving and well worth the effort.
With the content from your brain “dumped” on to paper, the next job is to organize your data. Eben’s focus was finding the 10 things you need to get done immediately and to focus on results. He suggested placing a tick next to the things out of your control so you could just forget about them and let them go.
John recommended categorizing and prioritizing tasks, which is what I did. I think the difference between Eben and John is that Eben wants you to identify your core objectives for the next few months in order to increase your productivity. John wants to organize your tasks and store them externally so you don’t need to.
In my case I write everything down in one big dump session. I then go through and group tasks into categories like “Business” and “Home” and “Socializing”. From there you can also rank them in importance from the most important to the least. Then, when it’s time to get to work you just go through the tasks one by one and best of all, you get to write a big line through each task as you complete them (another very satisfying activity).
While I don’t consider this technique the answer to all your problems, I find it tremendously helpful as a way to let go of mental control of everything. Anyone who is a control freak trying to manage everything inside their brain will appreciate this.
I suggest today you take an hour out of your day to try the brain dump technique and see what impact it has on you. Remember it’s important to let go of things once they are dumped and then rely on the paper, not your brain for tracking things.
Make sure you write down every little thing that comes to mind, from “buy milk” to “write blog post on topic X” to “join Yaro’s coaching program” :-).
That’s it from me. I’m off to work on another task.