Why You Should Keep a Brain Dump Journal and How to Set it Up

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We all have busy lives with a lot of things going on at once. Sometimes it can be hard to remember everything we need to do, and how we should prioritize our tasks.

The Brain Dump is a tool that will help you organize your thoughts into actionable items that you can then tackle one by one. It’s also an amazing way to release stress and get clarity on what needs to happen next in your life.

Write down every single thing you’re thinking about right now – even if it doesn’t seem like something important or relevant – onto the paper in front of you using this simple technique called “the brain dump.” You’ll feel more relaxed and clear-headed afterwards because all those random thoughts won’t be floating around in your head anymore!


What Is A Brain Dump?

A brain dump means allowing all the thoughts in your head to flow onto paper. It doesn’t matter what order they come out or how disorganized or incomplete they are. It can be a few words, sentences, or even paragraphs long. The point is that you want what’s in your head to get on paper so that it’s not in your head anymore.

For the purpose of this article, we are defining a brain dump journal as three different things:

1. a specific place in your planner (notepaper)

2. a spread in your bullet journal

3. a digital text option that you can print later (Word, Google Docs, Evernote, etc.)

Why Use A Brain Dump in Your Journal or Planner?

Keeping a brain dump journal has many benefits.  For starters, you’ll start to create your “perfect day” when you write out what you want to get done that day or in the near future. You might find yourself writing down items on your list for tomorrow but also things you need to do in two weeks time, which is great.

The brain dump journal can be used as a form of stress-relief because it helps you release some of those extra thoughts that might be stressing you out. Once they’re on paper, you can actually reread them and see if there’s anything that makes more sense now than when they first went into your head. You can also discard them if they are no longer relevant.

This technique is also helpful if you often find it hard to keep track of your daily tasks because there are so many things to do. You can use the brain dump journal as a way to prioritize your task list by putting a star, an asterisk, next to the most important things you need to get done that day. You can also use a numbering system and prioritize your top 3-5 items.

How to Create a Brain Dump Journal Page

The first step is to find a notebook or planner that you can dedicate as your brain dump journal. You should have different sections so it’s easy to categorize what needs to get done for the day, tomorrow, next week, etc. If you’re using a paper planner, use tabs or stickers to separate the different sections. If you are using a digital planner, you can create labels or use folders in Evernote.

What if I don’t have time to do a brain dump?

If you are strapped for time and cannot take 15-20 minutes out of your schedule, try this mini version of it instead:

Grab your favorite notepad or planner and jot down the top 3 things you need to get done for today. You can also use a sticky note on your phone if you are at work, but make sure you transfer them to your journal later.

The more often you keep a brain dump everything that’s on your mind into your personal journal, the more frequently you’ll find that you’re relaxed and at ease. It’s also a great way to get rid of post-its cluttering up your workspace!


Where to Set Up A Brain Dump Journal Space

Wherever you get the most privacy and time to yourself is where you should set up your brain dump journal. It might be in your bedroom, at work (if it’s allowed), or somewhere else. If you don’t have a lot of time, finding an empty room will also help because there won’t be any distractions around.

What to use for a Brain Dump Journal

Whatever you will use. If you already have a bullet journal, then you can add a section for all of your brain dump journaling. Use that to transition lists over to your daily spread or to-do lists. I personally use a Happy Planner. I just keep regular notebook paper that I have trimmed down to fit and hole-punched in the back. I can use this space for a brain dump whenever I need to. Then move it around to a different section if I need to as well.

What to Write in A Brain Dump Journal

The brain dump journal can be used for either long-term or short-term thoughts. You can write down what you want to get done today, tomorrow, next week, etc. Here are some examples:

(remember there is no right or wrong way of doing a brain dump – use your imagination!)

Today’s Daily To-Do List:

-Meditate for 5 minutes

-Do yoga before going to the office

-Finish reading 4 chapters in my book by 3 pm today

Things to do Tomorrow:

-Start working on XYZ

-Brainstorm my next trip to “fill in the blank”

-Finish reading my book by 3 pm tomorrow

Things to do in the Next 2 Weeks:

-Pick up dry cleaning for Mom’s party

-Pack for my trip on May 29th

-Send out emails for blah, blah, and blah

-Clean out the pantry

Don’t Forget:

You can also use your brain dump journal for gratitude lists, to do lists, and every other aspect of your life that you feel needs some organization! If you’re not sure what to write in it, just try using different kinds of paper such as post-it notes or add sticky notes onto your journal.

When To Brain Dump Journal

The best time to brain dump is when you have nothing else going on so you can sit and write your thoughts down. It’s also a good idea to do this before bed because it will help clear your mind and get you ready for a more restful night. You could even use this as an alternative to meditation if that works better for you.

The second best time to write down everything in your head is first thing in the morning. You can make a plan for the day and keep track of all the things you were thinking about before you started your day.

Another option is to just keep paper and a writing utensil handy. Anytime you start to feel overwhelmed or like you have too many thoughts swirling in your head, you can write it all out. Take a few deep breaths and then literally, clear your mind by writing it all into a catchall notebook or journal page.


Types of Dumps:

A To-Do List Dump

Get everything on your mind out of the way by making a to-do list. This is especially helpful if you’re having trouble narrowing it down or you don’t want to forget anything!

A Gratitude Dump

You can also use your brain dump for things that make you happy. Just write down one thing at a time until you’ve gotten through the whole list or gotten it all down.

A Rant Dump

Sometimes, you just need to write down what’s on your mind even if it doesn’t fit into any of the other categories! If something happened that made you so mad it’s literally all you can think about, get everything out on paper. It’s a great way to let it go and move on.

An Organized Brain Dump

If you want to use this for a more organized journal or planner, then try making different sections for each of the things I mentioned above. You can even add in some doodles and other fun stuff you like to always keep with your planner pages.

Daily Brainstorming

Brainstorming is a great way to come up with new ideas, different ways of doing things, and to keep track of all those random thoughts that cross your mind from day to day. You can either start your brainstorm session by writing down everything you can think of that pops into your head or you can focus on one thing at a time until you’ve written down all the pros and cons of each idea.

On A Whim Dump

Just write down anything that comes to mind when you think about it – don’t filter yourself! Grab paper and a pen and just get it out. Right when the thought strikes.

Brain Dump Journal Examples

happypla nner-brain-dump-aimeplans

Brain Dump Prompts & Questions

There are many different ways to do it, but one of the most popular is by using prompts and questions. These can be as simple as asking yourself “What am I grateful for?” or “What’s on my mind right now?” Another option is to use specific prompts such as “List 10 things that make me happy” or “List 20 things about this place.”

-What are you grateful for today?

-What is something you wish you could change?

-What are the five main things on your mind right now?

-If you could ask anyone in the world anything, what would it be?

-Who do you want to spend more time with this week and why?

-What do you want your day to look like?

-What can you accomplish today?

-Who do you need to call or email and why?

-What is one thing that brought a smile to your face this morning?

-List 10 things that make you happy.

-List 20 things about this place you’re in right now.

-List your top five favorite books and why you like them.

-What is something that makes you feel overwhelmed?

-What is something you’ve been wanting to try?

-Your life changes in 3 months: what’s one goal you’d like to accomplish and how will you do it?

-List three things that make your day better.

-If we had a “no phone” rule for the rest of the night, what would you do?

-What is your favorite memory of the last week?

-List three things you can’t wait to do when you get home today.

-List five ways that you’d like to make yourself more comfortable in this room right now.

-If you had one month off, what would be the top three places you’d like to be and why?

-If you could do anything at all but not get in trouble for it, what would you do?

-List three things that always make you feel better when:

•you’re having a bad day.

•you’re feeling nervous and anxious.

•you don’t know what to do next.

•you’re feeling overwhelmed.

•you want to clear your mind.

How Do I Keep Track of All My Thoughts?

This method works best if it is on paper, but there are digital options too if you prefer. Here are some ways you can keep track of a brain dump journal:

1. A Paper Planner – If you’re using a paper planner, it’s easy to set up a dedicated section for your brain-dump journal. You could also use different colored pens or pencils as headers for each section.

2. A Digital Planner – In Evernote, you could label a notebook as “Brain Dump” and in Google Docs, you can add a category in the document’s footer.

3. A Digital Text Option – If you’re using an app like Word or Evernote, your brain dump journal doesn’t have to be limited to text formatting. You could add images, files, or sketches as well.

Additional Tips for Keeping a Brain Dump Journal

1. Use Different Colors for Different Categories of Thoughts

2. Use Bullet Points to Get Your Ideas On Paper Quickly and Easily

3. Keep Track of Who You Talk To and When

4. Schedule Time on Your Calendar to Try This Method

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One Comment

  1. Hi, Rhoda.
    Great ideas, I have been doing this type of journal for a few years now and it helps keep me on track, along with being therapeutic. I was getting frustrated with knowing I had a “to-do” item that I just thought of . . . and then I couldn’t remember what it was! So I started writing thoughts down as they come to me and eliminated the worry of forgetting something.
    Happy Crafting for the Holidays!

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