When you’re hitting a wall, focus on one brick. ~Tyler May

In the first few posts in this series, Stephanie has been sharing the difference that finding focus brings about in her life both internally and externally. But let’s face it: choosing to focus on one thing at a time is often easier said than done.

As women, we walk around with long lists of goals, projects and improvements we’d like to make to ourselves, our families, our routines and so on. Choosing just one—even if we agree with that in principle—can sometimes feel as overwhelming as trying to pursue them all at once.

Especially when this “list” is actually just a jumbled mess is our brain.

When my mind starts racing—whether it’s from an overly full to-do list or too many lofty goals—I know that it’s time for a “brain dump,” a chance to just spew everything that’s filling my head onto a piece of paper, my white board or my favorite app (I’m kind of spastic that way—my preferences change on a regular basis).

The benefits of a brain dump are many:

1. You’re able to get everything out of your head and onto paper so that you can stop thinking about it and worrying about forgetting something.

2. Oftentimes, once I get my list on paper, I realize that there aren’t as many things as I thought there were when I was trying to remember everything on my own, which is a relief!

3. Once everything is written down, it’s much easier to prioritize and decide what’s really important.

It’s important to remember that a brain dump isn’t supposed to be pretty or organized; you’ll worry about making a “pretty” to-do list later. The key to successfully brain dumping is to actually write down every little thing that’s on your mind—no matter how small, silly or inconsequential. You’ll probably realize that a few of them aren’t even that important to you, and they’ll never get transferred over to your actual priorities or to-do list.

The key is that by writing everything down, you no longer have to think about them, which means you’re not wasting energy trying to remember all of the things you want to remember when you could be focused on actually pursuing the things that are most important to you instead.

Once you’ve emptied your mind onto the paper, then you can begin evaluating each item to decide which are the most important. And as new ideas or projects or goals pop up, you can more easily put them in their place right from the start because you’re not just adding them to the jumbled mess in your brain.

A brain dump is an extremely simple tool that works because of it’s simplicity. It’s something I use again and again in my own life whenever I’m starting to feel overwhelmed, scattered or unfocused. Sometimes it takes me a few days or weeks to realize that’s what I need, but it’s always worth the effort!

ACTIVITIES & QUESTIONS

  1. Grab a piece of paper and start a brain dump right now! List everything that’s on your mind…upcoming events, projects, goals, things you’d like to learn, budget items, etc. Keep adding to it throughout the day until you’re sure you’ve written every possible item down.
  2. Wait a day or two and then look back over your brain dump. Which items are the most important to you? Which are the most urgent or time sensitive? Which don’t matter enough to make it onto your priority list? Make a to-do list of things you need to get done as well as a priority list of things you’d like to pursue—projects, goals, etc. Put them in order of priority so you can start at the top and work your way down.

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