Part 1 of the Essential Guide to Printable Planning Series
The term 'brain dump' doesn't sound very appealing, does it? It's a raw term, and to the point. Brain dumping is not a new concept, and despite it's less than poetic name, it is a valuable exercise. Traditionally, you would use this exercise as a way to free up mental space by acknowledging all the ideas, memories, and to-do lists bouncing around in your head and putting it on paper so it can be sorted through. But when it comes to your creativity and your business I like to think of it in 2 ways:
1) Keeping a running list WRITTEN down, so you don't have to remember any of it;
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2) As a brainstorming exercise. It's a jump start for your creativity.
Clear up your mental space.
Traditionally brain dumps free up your valuable brain space and reduce stress by not forcing yourself to remember everything. This goes beyond business planning - write down all your ideas, wins, challenges, stresses, or just daily events, at the end of each day. Get it out of your head, and know it will be safe on the page. This will not only take a load of your mind, but your heart. Try it for a week - I bet you'll sleep better.
1) Write it Down
So, starting at the beginning: always write down your ideas. You can’t remember everything. We’ve all been there - a brilliant thought comes out of nowhere, and you aren’t in front of your diary or computer. But it’s too good to forget, right? Then hours, or days, later you remember that you forgot something, and it was REALLY GOOD but you can’t remember what. You wrack your brain for more hours, or days, but it’s just gone.
WRITE IT DOWN. On paper scraps, on junk mail, on actual mail, on the backs of receipts or napkins; send yourself a text, or a Facebook PM, or a voicemail. Then, when you are back in your office, or at the end of each day, collect all your scraps and texts and transfer your brilliant ideas to your brain dump page, or a designated section of your planner or notebook. I have a lot of projects going one, so I have a section for each project and I just pop the idea into the appropriate section.
It's just too easy, and I find that the easiest things escape me the fastest. The idea here is that if you write the ideas down, you won’t forget them - or waste time trying to remember them. Then, when you need another project, blog idea, or product to develop, you just read through your ideas. Now, I am assuming you will come up with brilliant ideas because you are a smart, motivated, albeit busy, entrepreneur-type person - your ideas are bound to be gold! But go ahead and write down the mediocre ideas too - you know, if you have any. Even average ideas can turn into something great in the right context. So, write it down, and deal with it later.
Pro-tip: Carry a small notebook in your pocket, purse, briefcase, or even your car. Make it easy for yourself. Even better, buy a box of pens and leave one everywhere - your bedroom, your living room, your kitchen, your car - anywhere you spend time, or in anything you take with you everywhere you go.
This is a proactive use of the brain dump. Give yourself a subject and set a timer. The subject can be broad - like Brilliant Ideas to Grow my Business, or Subject Adjacent Blog Ideas for my Gardening Blog - or it can be specific - like Freebie Content Ideas to Market my Handmade Leather Bag Company, or Holiday Facebook Post ideas for FB Business Page. In either case, set your time - shorter is better than longer. Too long, and you'll find yourself checking the time and tapping your pen thinking. Shorter - like 1 minute, or 5 minutes - and you are working with a sense of urgency under a deadline. Think about your subject and just write down every single idea. You can go back through and organize and categorize later, cross out bad ideas, or even flesh out vague ideas. If your timer ends and you are still having ideas, just keep writing until your brain quits firing. The point is to jump start your creative thinking muscle.
So, grab a coffee, a fresh juice, or even a glass of wine, and start writing!
Pro-tip: Actually print the page, or a nice notebook you enjoy looking at, and a pen you like to write with. By using tools you enjoy, you will enjoy taking the time to do your brainstorming.
You don't actually need anything fancy to do this step. The point is just to focus and start. Start anywhere - recycle that junk mail by making a list on it. If you want something pretty to start with though, or a system to walk you through idea making - from conception to execution - check out my Free Guide to Printable Planning here.