By Alicia Hutchinson
We all have those moments when our brains are overly full of stuff, all sorts of stuff: mom stuff, house stuff, school stuff, work stuff, family stuff—all the stuff! We feel overwhelmed by all the different roles we have to play in this busy life and we don’t even know where to start. We need to free ourselves from all these things because there’s so much going on in our brains that we’re constantly playing mental ping-pong.
Enter the “brain dump.” If you’re feeling the mental ping-ponging right now, this concept just might save you. Don’t be misled by the title—a brain dump is neither highly technical nor labor-intensive. To have a brain dump, you simply must sit down with a notebook that only you use (you don’t want it getting colored on in fifteen minutes), pour some tea, light a candle, clear off your cluttered desk, and write … write it all out. Make it in a list form and start writing until you’ve written everything down on paper … paper. Not the computer. Right now you are probably so distractible, that you’ll be on Facebook before you can list five things.
On your paper, write down everything that’s in your brain right now—the deadlines, the things you want to get done, the places in your house that are driving you nuts (like the plastic container cabinet that explodes every time you open it), the forms you have to fill out, the snow you have to shovel, the phone calls you have to make, the oil change you need to get for your car, the birthday card you need to buy. We mamas carry a heavy load. It shouldn’t surprise us that we get overwhelmed with it all sometimes.
Here’s what a serious brain dump will do for you:
Free Your Brain of the Clutter
Our brains are full. It’s no wonder we fall into bed exhausted. With so much to keep track of, we need to free our brains. Sitting down to write out all the things weighing on our brains frees the clutter.
Visualize the Things Stressing You Out
Seeing all the things I’ve been stressing about on paper is almost like an automatic sigh of relief. As soon as I see it, I can start to compartmentalize it and separate things into groups. Sometimes I will just mentally do this, but sometimes I will initial things like “H” for home items or “S” for school and so on. You could also use different colored highlighters to organize your list. Another idea is rewriting the whole list into categories.
A Tangible Place to Access
Personally, I always feel like I have more direction when I have a list. It’s a tangible way to access all the things you either need to do right away or place marks by things that can wait a while. Maybe put a small date beside things that can wait so you have a goal when you can get those things checked off as well. Keep this list handy for the next week or so. I find that usually when I have a long brain-dump list that most of the items are taken care of within a week or two.
The Perfect Opportunity to Check Things Off Your List
The success of checking things off our list is a great feeling. For those of us that get a rush from that, this is a perfect opportunity. It is just a random list that we make by literally spewing everything in our heads out on paper, but it can be very rewarding to see those things disappear under a red checkmark.
Put Things in Perspective
We will often feel like we have so much to do, but when we see it on paper, we realize that it’s just two or three large items and a lot of things we could cross off in a matter of minutes. We need to be aware of the “must” items on our lists and the “this can wait” items. Some things like a messy cabinet or a sticky floor can be fixed right away, but items like new paint on the family room walls can wait for later. Put a little date or season next to that when you know it’s more feasible, write yourself a note in your planner or calendar on that date or season, and forget about it until that time. Only worry about finishing the things that are truly yours to deal with, or truly urgent or necessary.
If your brain feels like it’s overflowing, you might feel better if you write it all out. I find that if I have a particularly hectic day, sitting down to write out a brain dump before bed helps me to sleep better. I hope you find some success with it too!
Alicia is called “Mama” by four kiddos; two boys and two girls. They have been homeschooling for seven years, and history and good literature are their favorite subjects. Alicia can be found blogging on her corner of the Web, Investing Love: www.aliciahutchinson.com, where she talks about making a home, current projects, creating, reading, teaching, and enjoying the little things that come with being a mom/wife/teacher.