How a Brain Dump Can Help You Clear Your Mind and Get More Done

Our brains are tangled webs of thoughts and goals, ideas and memories, to-do lists, phone numbers, names, faces, and the neverending list of tasks for work tomorrow. 

I’m exhausted just thinking about everything we need to remember, aren’t you? 

A brain dump can help. 

Brain dumping can clear your mind of unwanted clutter, enabling you to be the best version of yourself. 

Here’s everything you need to know about how untangling your thoughts can boost productivity. 

What is a Brain Dump?

A brain dump is a system of letting your thoughts, feelings, and ideas flow out of your brain to someplace else. It helps you untangle and organize those webs that cause anxiety, brain fog, and the feeling that you can’t possibly think about anything else.

Think of your brain as a computer. When the memory gets too full, your computer runs into trouble. It struggles to open programs and takes longer to complete essential tasks. So, you clear up the memory by downloading files onto an external drive. The computer, cleared of data, runs faster and works better. 

A brain dump is the same concept but for your mind. 

During this cerebral download, you let everything go without worrying about how it’s organized. 

Brain dumping is freely recording everything you have in your mind: the good, the bad, and the ugly. The notes are for your eyes only, so don’t worry about holding anything back. 

What is the Purpose of Brain Dumping?

A thought purge helps people organize their busy lives and focus on what matters. 

We’re constantly overwhelmed trying to manage our full-time jobs, families, home lives, and all the other responsibilities inherent to life. It’s impossible to remember every little detail, but we’re expected to, and we have too much on our plates to keep up. 

Recording all your thoughts, feelings, ideas, and tasks someplace else gives your brain permission to let it go so you can stop thinking about it. Writing it all out helps you determine which items are essential and what you can let go of. 

Once you identify the critical tasks, you can be more productive and accomplish your goals. 

Brain Dumps and the External Mind

World-renowned expert on productivity David Allen, author of the best-selling book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stree-Free Productivity and mastermind behind the Getting Things Done productivity method, developed the idea of an external mind

In episode 34 of his podcast, Allen explained that our brains are better at pattern recognition than information recall, which helps us immediately respond in the moment but makes it harder for us to remember things on our to-do list. 

He believes storing those extra thoughts outside of our brains can free our minds to focus on essential tasks. You can accomplish that with a brain dump. 

How Do You Do a Brain Dump?

A significant benefit of brain dumping is its accessibility. It’s a simple process nearly anyone can do, with abundant resources to make it easier. 

Allen considers free-form writing one of the best ways to externalize your thoughts. Grab your journal and free-write, letting all your thoughts, feelings, ideas, and stresses flow through you and onto the paper. Once it’s all out, identify the essential items and organize them into easily digestible segments. 

Free-form writing can feel overwhelming for those who don’t know where to start. Many find that brain-dumping into a to-do list helps keep daily tasks organized, while others prefer a planner. 

Visual learners might prefer a mind map for organizing their thoughts, while people who love technology may use an app. 

brain dump infographic

The beauty of this productivity tool is there’s no right or wrong method to achieve it. Try the different ways and pick the one that best meets your needs.  

What To Write During a Brain Dump

The simple answer of what to include in your brainstorming session is everything.

Any thought that comes to your mind, reminders your brain flashes in front of your eyes, or random idea that pops up goes into your brain dump. 

Here are some examples:

  • Dad’s birthday is next month
  • I have to meet with my boss on Monday
  • Did I take the laundry out of the dryer?
  • What’s for dinner tonight
  • I should write a book about a warrior princess
  • When was the last time the dog went to the vet?
  • That invoice is due today by three
  • I need to follow up with a client
  • We’re out of dish soap
  • I’m feeling sad about something my husband said last night
  • I’m overwhelmed by the messy house
  • I saw an interesting book on social media yesterday; I should check it out
  • Maybe we should paint the kitchen orange
  • I need to save more money

Your intellectual purge will include everything from ideas to goals, emotions to deadlines. Getting it all out there will help you identify which thoughts are most crucial for a productive day. 

Remember the Follow-Through

Allen reminds us that using an external mind only works if you follow through. You must review everything you downloaded and handle all the essential tasks that flowed onto the paper. 

If you don’t follow through, your subconscious will learn not to trust a brain dump, and it won’t be as effective for clearing your mind. 

Look at your list and grab those items you need to tackle today. Deciding on dinner, submitting the invoice, and following up with the client should be at the top of the list.

Add things you’re stressing about that aren’t happening until a later date, like your dad’s birthday and the meeting with your boss, to your calendar so you can stop worrying about them. 

Transfer your ideas, like writing a book and painting the kitchen, to an ideas list for later. 

Emotion Dumping

When brain dumping, you will likely uncover feelings and emotions limiting your ability to focus on productivity. The thing your husband said and the messy house are causing complex feelings, and your mind won’t let them go. 

Use this time to journal about your feelings. Dump everything out on paper, from why you are upset to whether you think the feeling is justified and how to move past it. Permit yourself to deal with the emotions later, if needed. Writing it all out on paper and scheduling time to handle it appropriately will make space in your brain to focus on the crucial tasks you need to take care of right now. 

How Do You Untangle Your Mind?

Brain dumping serves as an essential tool for untangling your mind. It helps you get your thoughts on paper, so you don’t have to worry about remembering them. Once you get everything out, you can identify the most essential items and develop an action plan to focus on those things.

However, some people don’t get much benefit from brain dumping. They prefer to untangle their minds with meditation or exercise. Everyone is different, and choosing what works for you is okay. Try a few different methods and stick with whatever works best.

It’s also crucial to understand that all of the productivity tools and resources in the world may not help in all cases. Some people have a mental illness, and others are so stressed out that writing stuff down isn’t going to help. 

If this describes you – please note that it’s okay! It’s okay to be struggling, and it’s okay to need professional help. 

A brain dump isn’t a magic pill; it’s simply a tool you can add to your arsenal. 

Tools for Completing Your Brain Dump

All you need for brain dumping is something to write with and something to write on. You can start with a simple pen and notebook. 

If you really want to get into it, getting the right “something” is ideal. Here are some essential tools for clearing your mind. 


Freestyle journaling is a top method for clearing your brain. Having a journal dedicated to this essential task will help you follow through. You can reread previous days’ entries to ensure you didn’t miss any crucial tasks and review entries from a few weeks ago to track your growth. 

When freestyle writing, you don’t have to worry about organization or order – just write whatever comes to your mind as soon as it comes. 

Once it’s all out, prioritize the daily tasks, review looming deadlines, and organize the information into actionable segments. Move vital functions to your to-do list, identify the emotions you need to work out later, and put upcoming events into your calendar.  


Colored pens can help you organize thoughts and highlight crucial tasks during your brain-dumping session. Use blues, greens, reds, and purples to make notes in the margins, circle critical tasks, and catch your attention when you review the pages later. 

As a bonus, these bright colors boost your creativity and make journaling more fun. 


Modern planners offer far more than calendars. Many include space to write daily reminders, to-do lists, and random notes in attention to the full monthly spread that keeps track of deadlines and due dates. 

Check out our resource on the best planners of 2024 to find one that works best for you. 

Brain Dump Worksheets

Why buy a planner when you can get the worksheets for free?

We’ve developed a seven-page brain dump worksheet bundle, offering you all the tools to get your crucial thoughts out on paper. 

Our resources include brain dump worksheets designed for different dumping styles to ensure nearly everyone can reap the benefits of a good session. You’ll get:

  • A brain dump mindmap
  • A freeform writing page
  • Brain dump checklist
  • Guided brain dump for different areas of your life
  • Guided brain dump for different types of information
  • Emotion dump mind map
  • Excess information page for the stuff your brain refuses to let go

We designed the pages to allow for different types of information downloading so you can see what works best for you. 

You can get this entire bundle for free! Try it and see if brain dumping can help you reduce stress and get more done.


Want a great brain dump? There’s an app for that!

Trello helps you organize your thoughts and ideas into boards for simplified project management, while Todoist enables you to make lists, manage tasks, and take notes. Microsoft’s ToDo (which replaced the popular Wunderlist) offers similar task management features. 

Each tool has strengths and weaknesses; it’s best to test them to see what’s right for you. 


Simple Post-It Notes make perfect tools for mini brain dumps. They’re great for jotting things down in real time. 

It’s not a full decluttering session, which is about taking time to write everything down, but getting that one crucial bit of information out of your brain is like doing a brain dump on a micro-scale. 

Advantages of Brain Dumping

Information dumping has numerous benefits for your health, wellness, and productivity. 

It’s a tool in your arsenal that helps you untangle your mind, prioritize key tasks, and maximize your limited time. The thought release can also help you work through complex emotions or set them aside to manage later. 

The significant benefits include:

  • Increased Productivity
  • Untangled Mind
  • Improved Focus
  • Decreased Stress

4 reasons to complete a brain dump

Increased Productivity

Brain dumping can boost your productivity. Emptying your mind of everything and focusing on essential tasks can help you prioritize and prevent procrastination. 

The 10-minute-per-day process can help you get more done in the limited time you have available. 

Untangle Your Mind

It’s tough to do anything when your brain is pulled in a thousand different directions. Brain dumping clears the whirlwind. It’s like a decluttering session for your mind. 

Improve Focus

Once you get all your random thoughts and ideas out on paper, it’s much easier to focus on the tasks that matter. And since everything else is safely stored in your external hard drive, your brain doesn’t have to worry about it. 

Reduce Stress

The increased productivity and enhanced focus have the added bonus of relieving stress. When you have a solid action plan of what you need to do, you can stop stressing about everything else. 

Ready to Try a Brain Dump?

Brain dumping is a quick and easy boost to your productivity and wellness. 

Give it a chance; you may be surprised at how refreshed you feel after getting it all out. 


Author: Melanie Allen

Title: Journalist

Expertise: Pursuing Your Passions, Travel, Wellness, Hobbies, Finance, Gaming, Happiness

Melanie Allen is an American journalist and happiness expert. She has bylines on MSN, the AP News Wire, Wealth of Geeks, Media Decision, and numerous media outlets across the nation and is a certified happiness life coach. She covers a wide range of topics centered around self-actualization and the quest for a fulfilling life.