Use a brain dump to create your to-do list

July 5, 2015

Written By

Tabitha Dumas

Feeling overwhelmed?

A brain dump helps you organize your thoughts and feel more in control, especially when you use it to create your to-do list.

If you’re like me, your brain is full of to-dos, projects, deadlines, errands that need to be run and tasks that need to be completed. Plus there are dozens of random thoughts, ideas and ponderings. How do you sort it all out and get it all done without forgetting something? That’s why you should

use a brain dump to create your to-do list.

I’ve found this to be particularly effective on a Sunday afternoon when you’re coming out of the weekend haze and starting to realize, “I have a WEEK that’s about to happen.”

This kind of brain dump strategy happens in three main steps:

1. Dump everything down.

2. Sort and categorize.

3. Take action.

The goal is

  • to be as efficient as possible
  • to not forget anything and
  • to avoid scrambling at the last minute because something fell off your radar.


Dump everything down.

Type it out, jot it down–whatever you want to do.

Write down anything that comes to mind. Don’t worry if it’s random and unrelated, you’ll sort it out later. Just get it all out of your head.

Include everything taking up space in your brain.

It could also be, “Ask Becky what she meant by her comment” or “think about hosting a summer party” or “check prices of zombie brains on Amazon.” Those vague, nebulous types of things that float around in the back of your mind can be what bogs you down and prevents you from actually accomplishing your most important tasks.

Nebulous thoughts and vague ponderings are exactly what need to come out of your head during a brain dump.


Sort and categorize. 

Now take a look at what you wrote down and sort them into categories.

These are the categories I use: 

  • Stores & Errands
  • Calls
  • Emails
  • Tasks & Projects*
  • Long Term

Other categories could be

  • Work Deadlines
  • Home Projects
  • Personal Projects
  • Kid Stuff

Tailor your categories to your life and your tasks.


*If there is s task or project with multiple steps, write them all down. You can choose to tackle the entire project at once, or decide to divvy up the steps within the various categories.

For example, “prepare for workshop” could include reminder calls, sending emails, running errands to pick up supplies and several other tasks, so you could take one day to do everything or do each task while you’re doing the other tasks within the same category (like pick up supplies while you’re also going to the bank and the post office).


Take action.

Once everything is out of your brain and divided into tasks and categories, it’s time to take action.

I like to do as many emails or phone calls as I can in one session. I also try to do my shopping and errands all in one day. I just keep adding to my list as the week goes on.

For projects and tasks, I’ll often set aside an entire day to catch up on everything and I’ll just go through my list one by one. In one day, I might declutter my closet, write two blog posts, plan our next road trip and return two phone calls.

On some days, I return emails all morning, make phone calls after lunch then work on one project in the afternoon. Other days I work a little from every category, depending on my deadlines, mood or whims.

You have to find what works for you. 

For the vague and nebulous long term items, tackle those when you have some downtime or move them to next week’s list, feeling confident that they are ON your radar.

The most important thing is to put deadlines, shopping or “errands day” on your calendar. I like to schedule in a “get ‘er done day” every few weeks just to tackle anything left over. 

Without it on your calendar, there will always be more pressing things to take care of.

A brain dump can be incredibly effective for avoiding overwhelm and staying on track.

How do YOU do a brain dump? Do you use your brain dump to create a to-do list? Share on the Tabitha Dumas’ Blog Facebook page.

Using a brain dump to create your to-do list from Tabitha Dumas Phoenix Image Consultant

Use a brain dump to create your to-do list. Get organized and clear your head! Step by step instructions. From Tabitha Dumas



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