How To Brain Dump Tasks To Increase Your Productivity

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.

How To Brain Dump

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.

Yaro Starak
Brain Dumping

About Yaro Starak

Yaro Starak is the author of the Blog Profits Blueprint, a report you can download instantly to learn how to make $10,000 a month, from only blogging 2 hours per day. You can find Yaro on Facebook, Twitter and .

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  • Yaro, thanks for the post. I’ve tried several different ways of “brain-dumping” information out. Since I’m addicted to social sites, I’ve used almost every notebook site out there.

    My physical Moleskine notebook is still what I fall back on for getting everything out first… then I go online to organize everything.


  • Thanks Yaro.

    So nice to see the steady stream of posts again.

    I have always done this, works very well for me.

    I would be lost without my list.



  • Wim

    Great post Yaro. It’s something I’ve been doing for a while.

    I keep a to do list on my PC’s desktop. It’s divided into different sections: Today, This week and Work in Progress. Today is obvious. 🙂 Things in This week get put in today depending on priorities. WIP is for all sorts of things to do or ideas that suddenly come up. I write them down so I don’t forget them but they aren’t a priority.

    I go through it all every day and shift things from one section to the other depending on what needs to be done first.


  • Graeme

    Thanks for this – reminded me that this is exactly what I must do.


  • Often times, we tend to think that when we extract all the ideas from our craniums, it has to be in some form of structured way. I should know, I used to be that way, but it’s so much more effective if you just blurt everything out and leave the sorting/organizing for later on.

    The time you spend thinking of “how” you want to get the information out of your head is much better spent actually DOING the brain dump. Our mode of thinking is the biggest barrier to entry when it comes to this sort of activity, so just let go and start writing, typing, or recording!

  • I could not agree more! Whatever you call the process, it is wonderful to relieve your brain of carrying around the memory burden.

    For online organization, I use Remember the Milk ( – it’s free and easy to use – I like it a lot better than organizing tasks in any other software I’ve tried.

    Organizing tasks by area: home, wedding, album production, exercise is great, but another way to organize is by the type of task: emails, phone calls, etc., regardless of the subject. Then when you’ve got a chunk of time to make some calls or write some emails you can just look at that list.

    I recommend brain dumping for any ideas that come up, as well. If you can have a place in advance for where a particular idea (new lyrics, melody line, business idea) should go, then that’s all the better so that you can search there when you want to try to develop those ideas further.

    Thanks Yaro!

  • I know EXACTLY what you mean about the brain getting stressed when everything sort of “floods” your head at the same time. I think any entrepreneur or creative person has experienced that at some point and it can definitely freak you out if you don’t get control of it. Fortunately, I haven’t freaked out yet!

    I’ve started using an app called Things (Mac only) to create and organize lists. It has absolutely kept me on track of projects and everything I have on my mind. It’s one of the few apps I have actually *wanted* to buy in a long time. You can find it at . I have no affiliation with them…just highly suggest it to keep others from freaking out!

    • Great referral Shane – I’m checking out “Things” and it looks real good so far.

    • I’m a mac user and will keep in mind Things, for sure! I just noticed it is nearly $50, so I’m going to stick to my free RTM for the moment. Have you heard of this thing that’s in a beta phase which also changes the way your desktop looks? Let’s you move around piles and such (the way our physical desktops work)? I’m sorry, but I can’t remember the name of it.

  • I do this at work almost everyday- great stress reliever. I definitely need to try it for online too. Sometimes your brain just gets so full that when you put it all down on paper you see some important things you might have missed otherwise.

    I like the term brain dumping too….

  • I’ve had brain dumping backfire on me in the past simply because I wrote down so many things in one that I ended up getting overwhelmed by the entire list at the end of the day / week.

    Now I write them down in separate lists, important, not important, urgent, not urgent. Can’t remember what this is called, learned it somewhere. Works much better.

  • Very interesting. I found that I often do this (quite compulsively) on a smaller scale. Whenever I think of something that I have to do, I need to immediately record it (i use Remember the Milk). This constant mini “Brain Dump” seems to work for me as I stop thinking about it, and I approach the problem when it is due. If this works for me on a smaller scale, I can imagine that a full brain dump would work very well in clearing you mind.

    Thanks for the post!

    • Matt, I’m so with you! Once you’ve set up where to “dump”, if you will, then it is easy to simply jot down the thought, task, idea, and set up the date it is due and any reminders asap and fuggedaboutit! Glad to meet another fellow Remember The Milk user. I love it ever since I discovered it, especially since it is free. (and I don’t have anything do with RTM) I just discovered it one day when Firefox was upgrading.

  • This technique sounds lot like brain storming to create a piece of writing. The only difference is that this method creates more work, while creative writing helps to release work from your vocabulary. Well at least while you are in the writing frame of mind.

    I find that if I write everything down it only makes the stress worse. Because now I not only just created more work by having to organize the thoughts. But I also have to keep tract of a piece of paper. Before attempting to write something I sit still in as peaceful of an environment as possible. Notice I don’t say quiet because most families aren’t quiet.

    Then I will let go of the crazy thoughts in my head. I will do this by thinking of something I want to do. OR something I want to accomplish. In the writing forum this would work by thinking of a subject. This allows my mind to turn from the negative stressful thoughts to something I actually care about, or something that I like to think about. This usually lets my mind wonder until I am ready to create something.

    • When you’ve got a lot on your mind, I agree that thinking of something you really love to do and letting that motivate you and steer you away from negativity associated with so many to-do’s is a good idea.

      My fear is that I might forget to pay a bill or something like that and it will come to bite me later, which is why I feel I really like to get down the to-do’s and I love that all I have to do is set it up and then the program does the rest (in terms of reminding me, so long as I look at it). I can focus on doing and not thinking. If I wear the stressful manager hat for a couple of hours every so often to sort things out, then I can have the relief of just doing the needful and being relaxed the rest of the time.

      So I see brain dumping as it relates to getting rid of the dust particles in your brain and, in that way, I can see how it might stress you out to have put all the dust particles down and then wonder how you would go about dealing with them when they stare back at you in a pile like that! Certainly, we are all different in terms of what works for each of us and your post is a good reminder of that.

      I think that brainstorming is very different from brain dumping. Brainstorming is about coming up with ideas for something or about something, without judging yourself or others with whom you might be working. It is usually about getting down all the ideas you might already have, say for a new research direction or marketing campaign, as well as thinking up new ideas on the spot. When you are about to write an essay and you stare at a blank page for an hour, this is where brainstorming might come in handy. Of course, this is a matter of semantics, perhaps.

  • Great post Yaro, thanks for sharing. I have done this on a smaller scale but like the idea of spending more time on it. There are times I know I will not stop obsessing over it until I write it down… I’m worried I’ll forget it. So the physical act of writing it down helps clear it out and let me move on to something else.

    And you right, it feels like a big weight has been lifted.


  • This is a gr8 post. Eben Pagan rocks.

    He is smart, makes a lot of money, has a lot of friends and also know to attract beautiful girls.

    He has evolved into a perfect human. He is going to make it big and people are going to write books about him for sure.

    The only problem with him is that he never has come up with his own ideas/quotes.

    He takes it from books but acknowledges the source anyway. He is a knowledge filter. Or a converter who converts book knowledge in video courses.

  • It is definitely a great idea and I am currently using this technique in laying out all my thoughts in a piece of paper and tackling it. Thanks for sharing, Yaro.

    Personal Development Blogger

  • I am doing the Eben’s Wake Up Productive course too and that was a great exercise! I am already finding that I have become more productive after just the first few days, or at least become aware of the difference between just being bust and actually being productive.

    If you have a relationship with busy…end it now and hook up with productive!


  • Love the post, Yaro! I also breath a sigh of relief once everything is out of my head.

    I use this technique frequently; once everything has been dumped, each task/to-do/thought gets assigned to a Post-It note. I sort and prioritise the Post-Its, then I stick them in an A4 day-to-a-page diary (a great way to manage the workload). This works beautifully as there isn’t Post-Its embellishing every surface and it’s a great way to track completion.

    To my husband’s disgust (who is also my business partner), I also colour co-ordinate the tasks: my stuff; his stuff; house/baby stuff. It’s great if you’re a visual person and helps divvy the workload for each day.

    • Amanda, I really like the post-it idea for the visual and color effect. This can work wonderfully esp for persons who are not into putting stuff into a computer. It is just like making all the pieces of the puzzle and then putting them together in whatever way makes sense for you, chronologically, by project, whatever. I could see putting them on a bulletin board as an alternative, but I like the notebook idea so you can carry them around. I’ve got a huge sketchpad that I use and divide into quandrants for different tasks that I write with a marker, because it provides a quick visual and I can consider just leaving the quandrant up and changing the stickies if I opt for this method.

  • This reminds me of Agile Development techniques which you can use also to improve and develop your blog.

    For each Development Iteration, the customer will write a list of specific requirements & prioritise them. The developers will estimate the time each requirement will take, and work through the requirements in priority order until they run out of time for that iteration which could be a week or a month long.

    At the end of the iteration, developers showcase what they have achieved to the customer and then the customer provides feedback & sets out the requirements and priorities for the next iteration.

    I plan to use this approach to prioritise the things I need to do to develop my blog. If I do I’ll be writing about how it went in my blogging journey section.

    Thanks for all your ideas Yaro – there’s some excellent stuff and I like the way you add your own reflections to the material.

  • Hey Yaro, thanks for the post and the advice… I’ve tried this method often (didn’t even know it had a name) problem is I tend to be so scatter-brained that I lose the list and forget what was on it, which puts me back to exactly where I was before I made the list

  • I like the analogy that David Allen used in his excellent Getting Things Done. He termed it “psychic RAM.”

    All those small (or huge) tasks, thoughts and ideas that are still floating around your neurons taking up mental space – and your poor brain feels the need to keep track of all those commitments, which can (and does) create stress.

    Collecting all those tasks in a trusted source relieves that stress and frees up your mind to focus, as well as to “be” more in the present moment.

    A great website that I simply couldn’t imagine being without anymore is:

    It quickly lets you collect and enter all those tasks and ideas and put them into projects and contexts like @work, @computer, @phone, etc…

    The UI is one of the most intuitive I’ve come across and the filtering options are simply awesome.

    However, while the right tools are helpful to keep you on track – the first step simply should be to just get started. When you experience the mental relief and all the side benefits of clearer thinking, you’ll make it a priority to develop the habit. 🙂

    Take care,


  • Hi Yaro,

    I am working through Eben’s Wake up Productive program as well. I have tried other similar programs in the past and I am finding Eben to be very good, not only at explaining, but at sistematically getting all this stuff out of the way for me.

    I had never heard of the Brain dump but seems like a good idea. I did Eben’s and I let go of a couple of things I have no control over, but the tasks, those for some reason, keep swirling in my head. I am going to take a break today and try this brain dump which delves a little deeper into the tasks that I do have control over. Thanks for the info.

  • Yaro,
    I just started doing this-AGAIN-at the beginning of the New Year. I bought a new day planner (the old one was too big and cumbersome) and have been writing in it every day. I even write down, “Write Post” so I can cross it out at the end of the day after I have posted to my blog. There’s nothing more satisfying then taking that pen or pencil and crossing out a “To Do!”

  • Thanks Yaro. I’m a big believer in making to-do lists so this sounds right up my alley. I especially like the way you categorize each task as business, family, etc. Doing that can help you maintain balance in your life too. If you notice all of your time is being spent on business tasks it may be an indication you need to re-prioritize and spend more time with the family. I’m going to try to Brain Dump this afternoon and we’ll see how it goes.

  • This is also the first step in the GTD (Getting Things Done) process, which is collecting. People often underestimate the value of this first step and end up never clearing their head entirely. Leaving tidbits on the “RAM” risks of filling it up quickly.

    When something is in the RAM, we tend to think about it when it is not even the right time to do so. Writing down all the thoughts help us feel good not only about what we are doing right now, but also what we decide not to do, which is as important, if not more.

    Bring on more tips from Eben 🙂

  • My brain is always running at top speed so “brain dumping” has been a huge help for me over the years. I have tried electronic ways of doing this, but I always end up going back to paper and pen. I have a notebook that I carry around in my purse (lucky I’m a girl) and I dump into it constantly. I have pages for work thoughts, home thoughts, blog thoughts etc. When they fill I start new pages.

    Not everything I want to write down is a to-do item, it’s just something I’m thinking that I don’t want to forget. Instead of stressing that I might forget it, I write it down. Later when I get to a computer I dump the dump into the appropriate online tools. That way if I ever lose that notebook I don’t actually lose my mind!!!!

  • Yes indeed. We just set up SalesForce for our CRM, Sales, Marketing, Project Management, Ideas, Google Adwords Tracking and Lyris Integration.
    This was so we would not drop the ball with opportunities or lose any important IP or ideas or concepts. Why? Because there was a tab for ideas! This is great, because it allows our team to collaborate on ideas to improve the company’s overall performance.
    So I brain dump in my ideas section in SalesForce so I can convert those ideas into revenue generating opportunities/leads.

  • I always do that. As soon as I realise that I have some task to perform, I take a note so that it would not dwell on my mind.

    When you constantly think about tasks you need to do but you have not done yet, you start feeling guilty of the delay. To avoid this, it is necessary to take notes of the tasks you have on your mind.

  • Great article. Being a writer, I’m always in my head. I’m usually thinking about what must be done and how will I get it done…One of my New Year’s resolutions and daily mantra is “lighten up!”

  • Ohhhh, I sometimes set up a private forum that’s password protected so that I can have a place to do a brain dump. That allows for a free flow of ideas that I can categorize any way I choose.
    If I want to allow others in to brain storm, then I have that option as well.
    Its another good option of dumping and maintaining the free flowing thought stream.

  • You’re right. I just started a new job and now have to use SalesForce to store, send, track and share virtually every file I work on. It is making a huge difference.

    My work is especially collaborative and organizing ideas among so many coworkers is daunting, bordering on impossible. I’ve been using the SF cloudware to store everything and it’s helped me a lot. Ironically, I want to kick my both bosses into using the software they absolutely insisted I master… Perhaps I’ll write what happens when a brain-dump comes out of one’s mouth. 🙂

  • Great post…I have also found that brain dumping helps me from forgetting tasks and ideas. Many times, I get ideas while driving or biking that would be great for the house, my blogs or anything else in my life…when I go to dump it all down on paper…I forget several key ideas that might have been great resources.

    To combat this…I keep notes on my iPhone so that I can elaborate and organize them later. That also helps keep the stress down of trying to remember every idea I had throughout the day. It also creates a backlog of go to ideas if I ever feel like I can’t get something started.

    One of the coolest things I have seen in a long time was a conference room in a web based business office that the walls were nothing but whiteboards. Talk about extreme brain dumping and organizing! I need to build a room like that…

  • Brain dumping is a great practice.

    Aside from using it to clear your mental desk, I’ve used it on my teams for years to rapidly share knowledge. Rather than over-engineer our notes, it was a way to just quickly dump everything into a shared email. Each person on the team would just dump whatever was their key bullets. This worked great because I tend to have distributed teams, and it keeps it lightweight.

  • I’m a real victim of this. My brain just goes over 15 different things at a time and sometimes I won’t remember all those. It definitely adds stress. Brain Dump seems hopeful to help me get over with this. Thanks for the write-up Yaro.

  • Excellent tips. I’ve been using the technique, but I just knew that it’s actually called brain dumping. However, I like that idea from John Reese about grouping related tasks. Before this, I just dump everything and take 5-7 of the most important (Eben’s way). But sometimes I was being chased by my activities instead. Using John’s way, I’m more relaxed and be in control of my daily activities. Just my 2 cents =)

  • Yaro

    Thanks for this tip as I forget to do this until things get unmanageable. It so important to hit the relief valve to get everything down on paper to help the productivity level.

    Speaking of productivity level a lot of stress can be relieved by studing your hosting stats weekly to get a gauge on content vs productivity to get the most out of your site via your work load.

    Anyway thanks for the post!

  • Thanks for sharing this, Yaro. I also love the Brain Dump idea. I particularly like that one has to write down all the details of what he/she wants to do before getting started on it. I once heard that “the faintest pen is stronger than the mightiest brain”.

  • True. It can be pretty stressful just keeping it in your head, especially since you’re almost bound to miss one thing or another. :O

  • I find that using Evernote on my iPhone is a great tool for brain dumping on the fly. This is important to me. I need to get the idea out of my head and into my trusted system as soon as I can!

    After I do this, I can then assign out tasks or send messages through Pelotonics, my project management system:

    Very cool article. Thanks.


  • Excellent article. Reminds me of Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Pencieve. You’re quite right though, sometimes going to sleep at night is harder because you’re afraid something that is on your mind will be lost (unless you write it down).

  • No problem here. When I want to dump my brain, I go to Florida and do some surfing. I bought a house in New Smyrna Beach, FL and go surfing every day.

    An 8 foot wave is a great brain dump for me any day of the week.
    And now I sell houses in my home town.

    Adam Scott Realty, LLC is my company. Check it out.

  • I have been an avid follower of Eben Pagan for some time as well. His teachings are really informative and experience-based. I bet many people and IM newbies are thankful for Eben.

    As for brain dump, I use sticky notes to remember whatever stuff I plan and ideas I have in mind.

  • Great advice Yaro. I’m currently trying to revise for exams but keep getting distracted by blogs and whatnot on the internet. Maybe if I do what you suggest I’ll be able to keep all that out my mind until I can afford to spend time on it.


  • I always find a good way to clear my mind is old fashioned meditation. Clears you out big time.

    Sharon Hollas – Surrey Real Estate

  • Definitely important to get tasks out of your head. I make a habit of typing things into OmniFocus when I think of them.

  • Don’t you think, the time you spend to create that list could have been used to tackle most of those required tasks? :)) Only joking. I think it is great way to get organised and relaxed. I usually do that, if I can’t sleep. I write the things down that are on my mind on a paper. After I can sleep much easier.

  • […] But what is it, really? And why do you need it? Why am I blogging about it? I stumbled into it on Yaro’s Blog (read it to know how to do it) and I decided that I really need this. I am always going around […]

  • Brain dumping is something I have been doing for years with Excel sheets. The sheets are a great way to keep up with these open tasks for a long period of time without the worry of keeping up with a piece of paper.

    • That’s a good idea. Excel would make it easy to sort and categorize your tasks. You could even use simple formulas to track how much time you’re spending on each category.

  • Not sure if anyone else suffers from this, but I often find that the act of trying to dump my thoughts causes me to lose (some of) them. I find my best bet is to immediately dictate my thoughts into my phone.

    I can start a voice recorder in about 2 keypresses on my phone (Samsung A701 from memory) and I’m sure most modern phones offer the ability.

    Of course, then the problems become remembering to review them, finding the time to do so, and not being embarrassed of your own voice.

  • This really is a great idea, it kinda like mind mapping only faster, since you don’t have to type up everything, I also learned this technique from Mark Joyner from simpleology 101 over at

    Just dump everything then do it(right now), delay it(schedule for later), delegate it(ask someone else to do it), or dump it(delete/cross it off)

    its elegant in it’s simplicity and more stress relieving than simply making a to-do list, since you completely clear your head.

    during my first month practicing simpleology 101, i create a new PHP website script almost every single day because my attention was so laser focused on *fully* completing *one* task before i move on to the other tasks.

  • The brain dump is very important to success. How is it that anyone could achieve their honest ambitions and needs without a brain dump? Oh, and I love the name “brain dump” – funny and precise. nice article.

    – Andrew @

  • Great info. I use a “to do list” widget on my igoogle home page. It’s simple, but effective.

  • […] How to Brain Dump Tasks to Increase Your Productivity […]

  • The brain dump is AWESOME! So freeing and definitely puts things in perspective. I know as a mom brain dumping is crucial to staying calm and collected.

  • Great post Yaro… doing it now… well, after I read your other posts.

  • Yaro,

    Thanks for the tips – I did write my thoughts, and I, in fact, be able to work better, faster 🙂

  • Hey, here’s something I used to do even before I read this. I am a compulsive list maker. I keep scribbling in note pads all over the place.

  • This is a great idea, I never heard this as the term “Brain Dump”, but I know a lot of people this. It allows you to clear your mind and and actually focus on what you have to do because you can see it on paper rather than having to think about it

  • I like the way of getting everything out of my head by writing all the thoughts on paper. However I doubt if after writing all my concerns and thoughts I will stop thinking about them. Any ideas?

  •  Well the idea of brain dumping is really great and I tried it out and found it really helps. I think I would be blank without my to-do list.

  • […] many competing thoughts racing through our minds, and it gets to be overwhelming.  The idea of a braindump is to take some time to write down all of those thoughts in one place.  While they’re still in […]

  • […] How to Brain Dump Tasks to Increase Your Productivity (Yaro Starak) […]

  • I Started “Brain Dumping” years ago, I just didn’t Know the Name. Funny as Family was brought up because My 2 year old granddaughter has just demonstrated to me How Important This is For Our Lives. Its Natural for us, We Just tend To Ignore it. Thank you For sharing with us How You used it to be more productive In life And Business!

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