Brain Dumping 101: What, Why, When, + How I Brain Dump Effectively

Happy MONDAY. How was your Easter weekend??? I hope it was relaxing + rejuvenating, full of blessings + reminders of God’s immense lovelovelove for you. 🙂 (ICYMI, we talked about Coming Up Thorns to prepare!). I’ve always felt like Easter symbolizes a big rebirth across the board. It’s (hopefully) the true indicator of springtime – full force ahead now with sunshine and spring cleaning. Is there anything better than the feeling you get from a reaaaaally good deep clean?! I don’t think so. As much of a pain in the youknowwhat it might be in the moment, I LIVE for that immediate breath of fresh air + relief that comes after completing a solid *clean*. But it’s not just your house or closet that could use a good spring clean…it’s your BRAIN, too. And one of my favorite things is to spring clean yo’ brain on the reg – not just in springtime! – with one of my favorites exercises: the brain dump. So I’m teaming up with my friends at Allstate to share allllllll about the brain dump – what it is, why it rocks, how to do it best, as well as a few solutions to some of the most commonly “dumped” things on my own brain dump list.

I first learned about brain dumping from one of my favorites, Brighton. And then I started digging online…and realized this was a thing – and a super helpful thing at that. While I had done similar sorta methods on my own in the past, this specific exercise just immediately *clicked* with my brain and suddenly made life so much easier.



Brain Dumping 101: What, Why, When, + How I Brain Dump Effectively by popular Philadelphia lifestyle blogger Coming Up Roses

What is a brain dump?

Brain dumping literally transfers #AllTheThings that are going on inside your head onto a piece of paper. A brain dump involves simply grabbing a notebook or sheet of paper and just unleashing all of the everything going on upstairs. There are no rules or boundaries – you just GO, and you write anything + everything that comes to mind as it does. There’s no proofreading, no censoring, no editing. Just noting whatever is in there.

Some things might be “tasks.” Vaccuum the house, send out thank-you cards, get the car detailed, make a dentist appointment, write two blog posts.

Others might be more random “categories” that’ve been looming in your mind for whatever reason. The news, social media, grocery shopping, world peace.

Still others might be super specific questions or thoughts that have been weighing on your mind, for better or worse. Can I ever KEEP my house clean? What will make me feel successful in life? I hope my kids grow up to be kind humans. Why can’t I grow as fast as others on Instagram? I really need to read more. 


Why brain dump?

The point of a brain dump, really, is to free up space. You know that feeling when you just have #AllTheThings happening in your brain, and you can’t focus on any one thing at all because you feel like you’re going a mile a minute? Or you feel completely paralyzed by inaction, because you can’t even discern what to do first? Or you’re just freaked out about one thing or another and need to calm it the heck down to actually do SOMETHING? #BeenThereDoneThat.

A brain dump is something taught in David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” book – the main gist slash point is that as humans, we have this tendency to let “little undone things” build up. Often, they’re the “Important but Not Urgent” life category, which is part of Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important principle. Meaning, if life is four buckets, they are 1.) Urgent and Important, 2.) Important but Not Urgent, 3.) Not Important but Urgent, and 4.) Not Important and Not Urgent.

When we feel oh so totally overwhelmed, I think a lot of the problem at hand is that in the moment, we can’t distinguish between buckets. Our brain is firing away at a thousand miles a millisecond, and it all starts to blur together.

We let category #2 – Important but Not Urgent – tasks collect, and at some point, they get so clouded + stuffed in our brain that we can’t function without taking SOME sorta action to address ’em all. Plus, they end up becoming distractions in everyday life because they’re always in the backs of our brains. Those I should really get done XYZ before the weekend… tasks, like doing your sheets or reconciling your personal finances or taking the next step on your side hustle business. They’re not urgent…but they are important. So in time, the mental pressure starts to build, and it starts to feel more urgent until addressed.

Hence, why a brain dump becomes really hella important + useful.

And you’d be surprised – it’s SO DANG CATHARTIC, YO! It really works wonders.


How to brain dump effectively:

1.) Grab a pen + paper. I prefer using a notebook, so I can use the same notebook for each brain dump and potentially track trends in my brain over time. 😉

2.) No holding back. Just UNLEASH YO’ BRAIN! Any + every thought that pops up, jot it down!

3.) No preliminary organization. No rhyme or reason. Just brain dump – dumps ain’t cute or organized! (yet 😉 ).

Once you’ve dumped everything out, you *should* feel a sense of peace start to creep in there – it should feel GOOD. It might not feel 100% yet, but it should start to feel a bit better.


So you brain dumped…what next?

It feels HELLA good to get everything out of your brain and onto a piece of paper – believe me. But if you’re anything like me, having 52 random thoughts, tasks, + to-do’s all right in front of your face can ALSO be overwhelming.

After a solid brain dump, my next step is to…walk away. Let it sit + gel on paper for a hot sec before taking any action. You just did a lotta work unloading like that – so let it go, go fill your coffee mug, walk around the house, throw a load of laundry in, pet your cat, breathe in some fresh air outside, and just *be*.

Next, it’s time to *organize* said brain dump, making heads or tails of everything, and categorizing things a few different ways to go from being miscellaneous thoughts in my head, to action-oriented next steps.

  • First thing’s first: Create your 4 buckets.

Using Eisenhower’s principle above, make 4 buckets differentiating the importance slash urgency of each bullet on your list. If it’s not something that’s task-oriented but more of a feeling, try to still assign it a loose category. For example – feeling nervous about an upcoming job interview would be important, but not necessarily urgent. But feeling depressed about a big breakup – that might be a bit more important AND urgent, since you might really need some solid R&R, self-love, and TLC time pronto to address the serious feels you’re feeling. Capiche?

  • Next, go in with a highlighter and color-coordinate some categories.

Once things are bucketed off, I go in with some colored highlighters and break down the lists even further. It might change with every brain dump, since of course what’s weighing on your mind might be different every time! Sometimes for me, that might include: Fears, to-do’s, priorities, random thoughts. Others that might make the list: ideas, wants, work versus life, etc. Keep it as simple as possible, just so that it still makes sense and doesn’t just become a hot mess rainbow. Ha!

  • Then, start the process of handling what you can, and letting go (for now) of what you cannot.

For me, a lot of adult things inevitably make the list – and inevitably give me anxiety. Things like saving for retirement – because not having an employer with a 401k plan can be so stressful sometimes. (Allstate can help with that!) Things like if/when our heating system is gonna go since it’s on its last life – #HomeownerProblems – or how to plan ahead of buying/selling a new home (Allstate can help with that!) Things like my car – does it have gas? Are the windshield wipers working? Should I get an oil change? When is it irresponsible to have a cute little me-car instead of an SUV? Or what do I do if – God forbid – I get in an accident?! (Allstate can help with that, too!).

For all of the above, they might not necessarily be something that’s totally FIXABLE right this very second – but they’re often things that are reasonably PREVENTABLE this second. And if an actual bad thing isn’t truly preventable, at least some *consequences* of that bad thing happening can be preventable.

  • Get realistic about the things that ARE handleable, and write down the next step accordingly.

Let’s take our examples of some adulting biggies that might’ve made your brain dump: retirement/savings, living expenses, + driving. My first step in handling any of these is getting informed. We’re not born knowing these things – and oftentimes, it’s not taught in school, either (which I personally think is RIDIC – how to pick the right insurance for you would’ve been SO much more helpful than advanced corporate finance, but WHAT DO I KNOW).

If I’m freaking out as a self-employed 20-something, unsure of what I should do or how much money I even NEED to put aside now for retirement later, I’d look to my friends at Allstate – they’ve got just the thing. They’ve also got tips from folks who have #BeenThereDoneThat if ya wanna retire EARLY (since we’re overachievers around these rosy parts 😉 ), as well as a bombdotcom calculator to see how much you might even need in the first place.

I just recently passed the one-year anniversary of the first car accident I was ever in – and it had totally shaken me, because it was completely unexpected and not my fault. So you can bet your bottom dollar that I wanna know about full coverageliability car insurance, as well as how to compare ratesAllstate has a handy dandy calculator for cars, too! 

Since we juuuuust passed the anniversary of J + I buying our first home together, I’ve been reflecting on being a homeowner, things I need to do, things I WANNA do, yadda yadda yadda…if you’re also in the homeowning boat or about to be IN that boat, you might wanna know how much homeowners insurance costs amiright?

Some things are simpler next steps, too.

If “clean the whole house” is on your list, your next step is to a.) set aside some time, and b.) pick a room. You can’t clean the entire house at once! So start by picking one room – even one corner in that one room. And go from there.

Ultimately, I loveloveLOVE doing a solid brain dump. It never fails to leave me feeling freer, and I usually end up WAY MORE MOTIVATED afterwards, too, since I finally feel more level-headed + clear on what my next steps should be.

Have you ever done a brain dump?

If you have, I’d lovelovelove to hear what works for you! Do you brain dump similarly to me, or do you have your own style that works?

P.S. If you have ANY Q’s at all about any of the above, pleasepleaseplease don’t hesitate to leave me a comment and/or shoot me an email to ask! My inbox is always open for ya. 😉

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*This post was written as part of the Allstate Influencer Program and sponsored by Allstate. As always, all thoughts and opinions presented are entirely my own. As the nation’s largest publicly held personal lines insurer, Allstate is dedicated not only to protecting what matters most–but to guiding people to live the Good Life, every day. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Coming Up Roses!