After the brain dump

Three weeks ago I talked about offloading the thoughts buzzing around your brain onto a sheet of paper, in the bid to free up some space for actual thinking. You can read more about this here.

I’ve also said I’ll go on to explain what to do next, and I’m finally delivering on that promise! There are actually several different approaches you could take.

Approach one: use this ‘brain dump’ just to clear your head. It can help calm your anxiety and help you relax. After the writing session, the sheet of paper has served its purpose, and you can chuck it away or even burn it.

Approach two: use the ‘brain dump’ to kick start a productive process. This is the track I’ve chosen, but by no means the better one – you do what works best for you. I’ve proceeded to organise the points and snippets I noted down to plan my next actions.

The way I chose to go about it is to put together a number of lists organised by topic. I’ll call them ‘projects’. I took a number of small sheets of paper (A6 size) and a pen. I put the name of the project at the top, and copied the relevant items from the ‘brain dump’ under the heading.

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An example of a Project sheet.

Having copied out every item from the ‘brain dump’ (crossing them out on the big sheet ensures you don’t miss any), I ended up with ten Projects, plus a ‘miscellaneous’ sheet of individual items that could not be sorted into Projects. I have then reviewed each Project, and picked out one task I want to do soon. These are my ‘next steps’.

As you can see, I now have a sheet with 11 tasks, plus a ‘Bonus’ one making it up to a dozen.

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My ‘Next Steps’ sheet. The @ symbol indicated a Project name, whereas a bullet point precedes a Task.

I’ve now clipped the sheets together with the Next Steps on top and placed the stack in a prominent place on my desk. I’m planning to complete all these tasks by the end of the week. This should be doable due to them being small tasks. At the end of the week, I will review my lists and create a new Next Steps sheet for next week!

I like this approach for a number of reasons, most prominent being that it keeps my task list straightforward rather than the overwhelming mess in my head! Picking a task from each Project also means I pay attention to different areas of my life instead of zeroing in on one thing at the expense of everything else. I will let you know how I got on with my list in Sunday’s post!

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