According to Wikipedia, (not being a student needing cold hard facts, I find their definitions good enough) a brain dump is:
- generally, the transfer of a large quantity of information from one person to another or to a piece of paper.
- a hurried explanation of a system, job, skillset, or other software engineering subject.
- material that has been memorized from an IT certification [test] and used to provide an almost exact replica of the exam.the possibility that the contents of one’s brain can be loaded onto a computer.
It is also not the same as a brain storm. Brainstorming, also according to Wikipedia, is:
… a technique groups of individuals can use to generate novel ideas and enhance their collective creativity. This technique requires heightened expressiveness, postponed evaluation, quantity as opposed to quality contributions… Following a successful brainstorming session, group members will be left with an expansive list of ideas. Then, the most appropriate idea(s) can be selected, and further refined and perfected by the group members.
The mind clearing that I’m thinking of is much more personal than either technique described above. I’m thinking more of a term we Organizers love – PURGE. A Brain Purge would involve some aspects of both the Dump and the Storm. So this is the my Brain Purge.
First, get it all out any way you can – as a computer document, with pen and paper, onto a recorder… whatever works for you. Remember that this is not a to do list. This is the Dump part. What is going on this week? What is hanging over your head. What projects have you put off? What things do you really want to do? Just dump the tornado out of your head. You don’t even have to write this stuff on lined paper, and you can doodle or draw it out too.
Don’t worry about what to do with it yet. Like the other techniques, a Brain Purge focuses on quantity versus quality. Don’t worry so much about what you are writing, but how much you can get down on the paper. There is no need to make decisions. It is not the time to evaluate or make the plan or agonize over details.
With the Purge – you are transferring the information in your brain to a place where you can look at it with some perspective. Are you feeling better? I always do. A Purge List is less intimidating than a “to do” list. The latter implies that it all needs to be finished, and soon, or else!
Now what? Now take a walk, get a cup of coffee. Try to do something that won’t make you start thinking again. Checking your email, for example, is not recommended. Just take a minute to do something different, and relaxing…something that will not take you too far away. You can even just sit with your eyes closed.
When you are ready, go back and look at your Purge List. Think of it as looking at your mind from the outside, in. From this perspective you should be able to see things more clearly. It gives you a chance to step away and look at the overall picture from afar, instead of having it all swirling around inside your head.
Next, continue the purge like an Organizer would do with the things in your home… Keep/Put Away, Give Away, Throw Away. Be brutal!
What can you throw away? There are things that you can decide to just give up, like ideas for projects that you’ll never get to, or unfinished ones. How long have you been holding onto some of these things? Let them go. And guilt is not allowed! Remember that choosing to give something up does not make you a failure. It makes you a smart person who knows how to set limits in order to be successful!
What can you give away. This is called delegating! Some of us are not very good at it. Do you really have to be the person responsible for every detail? This category also includes not signing up for something new. Just like some people have the rule, new clothes in-new clothes out, don’t sign up for something new without giving up another obligation.
At his point you should be feeling less overwhelmed. The things left on you list are what you are choosing to Keep and Put Away. These are the things to plan for and act on! Make each one a concrete goal, and plan your tasks around those goals. Keep things written down, so you can look at them from afar, and try to be comfortable with the fact that it won’t all get done at once.