Clear Your Mind and Clear Your Desk with an Author Brain Dump Exercise

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One of my favorite organizing activities is what I call a “brain dump” exercise. When I first participated in this exercise, in around 2008, I was working many hours, but I was not earning “many dollars.” After participating in the brain dump exercise, my business exploded. Within six months of filling out my first worksheet I went on to publish my first book, launch my first course, and celebrate my first $1,000 month in online earnings.

Here’s how it works…

I gathered up my list of ideas, sticky notes, and to-do items, and plugged them into, what I like to refer to as, a “brain dump” page. A brain dump page is a sheet of paper that is divided into 9 or 12 boxes. Each box has a label and you plug things into each box, as they relate to the labels.

Examples of some of my labels are:

  • Business To-Do ASAP
  • Personal To-Do
  • Writing Projects
  • Courses to Study
  • Someday Maybe

By participating in the brain dump exercise you clear your mind, clear your desk, and prepare the way for accomplishing a great deal.

To create your brain dump page – divide a piece of paper into 3 rows and 3 columns and give each box a label. You can then begin adding items to your brain dump page.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this exercise and how this strategy is working for you. You are warmly invited to scroll down to share your thoughts – and if inspired you favorite productivity tip.

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D’vorah Lansky is the bestselling author of several books including the Productivity Action Guide for Authors: 90 Days to a More Productive You!

Comments

  1. D’vorah, first of all, thank you for all your sharing and tips. Most people hate doing their tax returns; I do too even though I’m an accountant turned writer. At the beginning of the year I always start a new folder where I put all my tax receipts as I get them. For on line receipts I have a folder in my email to store them. When it’s tax time, life is a lot easier with documents all organized.

  2. Thank you Fong, this is a very useful tip as taxes can be overwhelming.

  3. Hi Dvorah,

    I use a weekly plan sheet to balance work and family. Plus I use the “tried and true” Daily Things To List using oversized Post It notes that I simple stick inside my planner. Though these days I must admit that I use my ICAL calendar with alerts to keep me buzzing along and the oversized Post It. I like your idea for dumping ideas/notes out of my brain and onto paper.

    Thanks for sharing,

    KG

  4. I’m such a techno-girl, but for some reason, online tools don’t connect with the way I work as well. I adore the brain-dump in all its various forms. What’s helped me lately is one page with boxes for 12 months. I have a sticky note on each square with my projects for the year. Then I have another page divided into 9 squares with: Current Project, Today, This Week, Next Week, Courses to Teach, Systems to Set Up, Reading List, and 2 others that escape me at the moment. These 2 pages are on a clipboard I keep on a hook next to my desk. I change out the sticky note for Today as needed. I transfer individual to-do items to my Planner Pad notebook I carry with me at all times. (URL is https://plannerpads.com/; best planner I’ve tried)

    This is all to keep me straight on the free webinar I’m working on, “5 Signs It’s Time to Break Up With Your Website,” and the upcoming course, “Create Your Beautiful Author Blog Now.” Plus at least 3 other courses and a book. The brain dump method really keeps me on task and keeps head-spin-syndrome to a minimum!

  5. Excellent ideas, D’vorah. Thank you also for the downloadable worksheet. It’s clear, simple and easy to use. I’m looking forward to giving it a test drive today!

  6. Thanks for sharing, D’vorah. We have a master calendar on our fridge that helps me keep track of activities and appointments for all 7 of us in our family. I try to also keep my calendar on my phone updated so that I can check the calendar before I say yes to anything.

  7. You are so welcome Jeanne!

    Donna, WOW, that planner pad looks awesome! I also love how you incorporate the sticky notes into your project plan.

  8. Thanks for this brain dump D’vorah. I’ve tried mind-mapping and like it but this is another tool to help organize my business. I look forward to trying it!

  9. Thank you, Dvorah, for the sheet. That will help me a bunch! The only thing I can think of to maybe help someone is I try to make sure before I leave my desk that I put everything back so when I start off the next day I start fresh. I leave a sticky note on my desk to remind me I have something unfinished instead of leaving it out on my desk. It’s a mind set I guess, and helps me not to be so overwhelmed by a cluttered desk 😀

  10. Dividing a page into squares with or without labels is also a great way to brainstorm for new ideas or options. If you are lucky enough to do that with a few friends or associates, each can fill in any 3 then pass the sheet to the next person. They read what is ther and add 3 more not duplicating.

    My newest book, Business, Brains & B.S., was published last week.

  11. Sora says:

    Thanks Dvorah! What a great idea!

  12. D’vorah, Thank you for the worksheet. I look forward to using it. I’m always looking for something to help be in the organization department. 🙂 You should see my desk. I clear it of ‘clutter’ a.k.a. ‘all of my writing projects and ideas, photos for inspiration, etc’. They used to be on tablets, scraps of paper and little stacks, here and there. Even though I tend to still be this way, I now color coordinate my projects. I’m a visual person and having each file, folder and tablet in a particular color or design motivates me to keep things more streamlined. Office supply stores have entire lines of notebooks, sticky notes, folders, files, pen holders, etc. in themes or color schemes. Making organizing fun and pretty. Hope that helps.

  13. Thank you D’vorah! This is very helpful. As a ‘process learner and doer’ I tend to learn as I go. However, I lose track of some of the information I download and haven’t the time in that moment to read, listen to, or watch. You have provided several different ways to post those, so I can include them in my schedule. (Much better than throwing them in a box!) Thank you.

  14. Thanks D’vorah. I keep changing my organizational tools trying to find the perfect one. This may be it!

  15. Robert says:

    I have found that I can waste a lot of time planning instead of doing. I have used several systems. What works best for you may be a very individual thing. At the
    present time, I am using a Franklin Planner, and I have learned that I am not very good at multi-tasking. It often stresses me. Therefore, I usually put the most important,and urgent thing that I need to do as an “A” on my “to-do” list and
    work on it until it is completed. Good luck to all of you in finding what works best
    for you.

  16. Bonnie says:

    Dvorah, out of all the speakers, I found the information you presented the most professional and helpful. I love your emails because they are so pretty; maybe they reflect your personality–I like to think so–and you practice what you preach.

    I’ve very disorganized. Much of the time, I feel overwhelmed with all the marketing aspects. I’ve been writing over 20 years, my writing interrupted by care giving duties. I’ve written three novels and co-authored two books with a friend. My latest, a mystery, Angel of Mercy, is about an old woman who runs away when her daughter threatens to put her in a rest home.

    Thanks for the freebie. I downloaded it ‘just in case’ it can help with my erratic life. It doesn’t help either to know I’ll be turning 82 the last of November. Aaugh!

  17. This is a fabulous tool, D’vorah — Thanks for sharing it! I’m a big fan of using brain dumps, but most of mine end up being scribbles on random sheets of paper. Now I can have a one-stop-shop for all my random thoughts & to-dos in order to facilitate them becoming “now-done’s”! 🙂

  18. Thanks for sharing another great tip, D’vorah. I will often do a brain dump but then get overwhelmed and stop there. I’ve tried different things to get organized but never stick to it. If the organizer is too complicated, I don’t use it. This looks simple and easy. Definitely will give it a try especially to keep me going in the last couple months of the year.
    My main project is continued marketing of my recently published book (started with your book marketing event in May and then written with Kristen’s June challenge). The get another book in my Career Clarity series written and published before year end – along with all the holiday and family stuff. So I’ll need to be focused.

  19. nicky says:

    HI I am currently working on a sequel to my current novel Rekindling Connections by my married name Nicky Abell-Francis my main work is my health clinic so challenging myself to find time to write and complete all my task for my business is hard. The brain drain dump is good as rather than a load of to do lists it could be seen in one place and easily glanced at.

  20. D’vorah, you just keep coming up with jewels for us! A brain dump is exactly what I need to do now, with the holidays looming, and all the work I have to do with continuing to market my first novel and accompanying workbook, finishing my 2nd novel, preparing a talk for a major internet-based speaking event I’m doing in November, putting together and hosting a Mastermind Group for Busy Mom’s to help them get ready for the holidays without melting down, designing a workshop for early January, and all the pre-marketing that entails! I was feeling a bit scattered — this will help me get it down on paper in a way that makes sense.

    Another tip that is working for me…. I went to Lowe’s and found a piece of whiteboard material, 32″ x 48″, “framed” it with some pretty ducktape, and screwed it to the wall right next to my desk. It was easily 1/3 of the cost of a framed whiteboard in the office supply stores, and works great! I have one section per major project that lists my current Action tasks with description and the due date. As I complete each one, I put a checkmark in black next to it — and leave it there until the project is done!!! That way, when I’m feeling a little overwhelmed, I can see that I’ve already accomplished so much! It’s not gorgeous, but it works for me!

  21. Thanks for this tool. I’m not the most organized person in the world and can use help in this area. A desktop post it note helps since it is right in front of me as a reminder.

    I am currently finishing up a Christian devotional book, “40 Days in Heaven; Entering God’s Presence One Step At a Time.” I am self publishing through Kindle and Createspace. http://www.tinyurl.com/7faith

  22. isaRa says:

    hello..This tip and documents share is the best Divine synchronicity happening for me in a little while. thank you so much !!! I was just mentioning how i don’t seem to get organize those last few days..thank you so much for this share. 45 minutes ago..i said loud to someone..i will ask the help of God for this ..here you are !!!!
    i am a nomad on the road exploring healing tools to connect easy with Our Divine self, i have met so many people who have issues to be a little more organize. 1 tip i can share..if you dont seem to be able from sabotaging to start anywhere. use a kitchen timer cooking clock..and set it up..to 15 minutes here and there..and let go on pressure. see your self..as a wild little animal who needs to be tame ..and toss guilt away. love love love you’re self and congratulate for every task done. a little something done on an organisation level is better from a big nothing) . and bless this part of you..who don’t seem to be that well organize. dont blame. the second tip..to start to see clearer in you’re self and organize you’re thoughts.. the 3 pages of the morning ..From Julia Cameron is a highway method to connect with psyche and understand you’re self better.

    Ps..i have never studied English language..

    IsaRa

  23. R. C. Landrum says:

    I love this organizing tool. I am definitely going to give it a try. I do try to stay organized but I find myself looking at little scribbles on different paper. I do use the sticky notes on the computer. Each time I complete a task, I put a check and the date of completion.

    I am a new children’s author. I have published my first book, “The Story of Pete’s Dream” through Kindle and working on the physical book with Createspace.

  24. I am in the speaker’s mode, and just finished a series at the senior’s program at Trinity Christian College and then spoke at the South Suburban Geneology and Historical Society about the orphan trains. I am marketing the book, A Mother’s Song, through speaking about the orphan train. My next book to be published is the third in a series, The Teachers of Diamond Projects School. Need to get the platform started for that book. Hope the organizer helps.

  25. D’vorah, I can already tell this sheet will be like gold for me. I am constantly trying to find ways to stay engaged with my calendar. Like Donna, I too use PlannerPads but this will serve to be the best way yet. I use a clipboard like Donna so I can make these the focus of my clipboard as well. Love it!

  26. Can always use some more organizational tools. My desk is buried right now. Lol! Thanks D’Vorah.

  27. D’vorah, I just started doing something similar with a free app called Trello that syncs across all of my devices. It even allows you to move tasks/projects from to-do to doing to done and add deadlines for activities. I am loving it.

  28. Fiona says:

    Thanks for the Brain Dump Worksheet. I’ll definitely give it a try. It looks similar to the way I organize my projects now. I have a whiteboard on the wall next to my desk. The board is divided into 12 sections, one for each month in the year. At the beginning of the year, I start putting post its in each month with notes about projects for that month. During the year as I reach each month, my notes are already there. That way there’s no wasted time looking for them.

    I’m editing my latest romantic suspense novel written under the pen name Fiona L. Webber.

  29. abluegreenuniverse says:

    Hi, D’vorah, I’ve been reaving about your programs to my cousin, who is also my mentor. You’re so awesome! I actually plan to go through this course and plan to try the brain dump for my newsletter and the six most important to-do’s you’ve been mentioning. I also plan to fill out your why questionnaire and the daily reflections sheet. I’ve registered for the action guide webinar in the hopes that will help me come up with brain spark booklets for my newsletter, which I’m thinking to now make downloadable, but not sure hwo that will work with Aweber.

  30. abluegreenuniverse says:

    I grabbed the brain dumping templates from the day’s activities, and have to convert them into text, so the master one wasn’t blank.

  31. abluegreenuniverse says:

    I’m going to do one week’s activities in one day. That way I can do next week’s starting tomorrow. I’ve copied my big picture plan into a brain dump page and am now preparing to separate items into personal and business, then I can fill out my someday page. I’ve also changed the reflections page into a reflections log, and planning to continue to work on it during and after the challenge. I think that will work as my accheivment book. I also have the questionnaire for Day 1 to write up.

    • D'vorah Lansky says:

      Nicole, it’s so impressive how you are embracing these strategies and running with them. Bravo! Thank you for leading by example.

  32. I’ve been so busy this week that I’ve had a hard time focusing on anything. I am running a “3-Hour Book Project” for which I take entrepreneurs through a series of processes to develop their topic, title, target audience, chapter heads and data mining. I am also gearing up for an Author Master Program, which is an online writing, publishing, marketing conference. That’s where the Brain Dumps have been most helpful. Every time that I have one idea about that event, I can add it to the Brain Dump. Since life has been so busy this week, being able to just plug those in has been helpful. Then, I don’t have to stay awake at night wondering if I can remember that idea until I have time to write it somewhere, because I have some place to add it. Love the various different Brain Dumps. I haven’t had time to utilize them all, but I have a feeling they will!

    As usual, D’vorah, you’ve hit it out of the ball park. Oh…and in my head I’ve been designing a journal, activity book, planner/tracker something or the other…so today I’m actually putting my ideas down on paper…thus the specific project brain dump. And D’vorah’s “Productivity Action Guide for Authors.” The Action Guide has prove to be a great place to design a new project. Kristen Joy’s “Ultimate Idea Tracking Journal for Writers” might work, as well. But I like the way D’vorah’s “action” sections, move you from planning to doing. However, some ideas might work better in Kristen’s Tracking Journal, because if the idea is not developed well, her tracking journal works well for developing the idea. Check out these two books. They can both help in different ways to move you from the thought to the more tangible and developed idea.

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