Now Reading
What Is A Brain Dump? A Complete Guide With Examples And Instructions

What Is A Brain Dump? A Complete Guide With Examples And Instructions

Updated on May 27, 2022

Reviewed by Dr. Nereida Gonzalez-Berrios, MD , Certified Psychiatrist

Brain Dump - Definition, Examples, How To Do It, Journal and More

Key Takeaways

  • Brain dump is a powerful mental health tool. 
  • It is an activity to note down all our thoughts, ideas and to-dos.
  • Brain dumps are an effective way to accomplish our tasks in order.
  • Brain dumping sessions give us mental clarity and organization.
  • We can improve our routines and foster creativity through a brain dump. 

Brain dump is the act of expressing or noting down all the thoughts inside your head. It is a mental exercise which allows a person to comprehensively note all the points in his head. 

Brain dump is a powerful tool, especially for people in academic and creative fields. Professionals generally use this technique to de-clutter their brain.

It can be a very productive mental health tool, when used correctly. 

Braindumps do have a particular method to the madness. Read this article to understand what is a brain dump, how to do a productive brain dump, some examples and instructions to follow. 

Brain Dump Infographics

Brain Dump - Definition, Examples, How To Do It, Journal and More
Brain Dump – Definition, Examples, How To Do It, Journal and More
Brain Dump - Definition, Examples, How To Do It, Journal and More
Brain Dump – Definition, Examples, How To Do It, Journal and More

What Is A Brain Dump 

Brain dump is an activity to increase productivity. It is the simple task of noting down your thoughts, ideas, and to-dos. It helps increase mental and creative clarity and fosters a more organized way of life. 

Brain dump is simply an activity to get your productive juices flowing.

This is an activity to take whatever is going on in your mind and pour it onto a piece of paper. This includes lists, ideas, random thoughts and much more. 

This activity helps you take the jumbled mess in your brain and turn it into a comprehensive work plan. It is one of the ways in which you can start organizing your life. 

You may even wonder what is the point of putting everything down on paper. Your brain already has all the required information. However, brain dump lists can help you sort out the mess that is in your brain.

When you visually see all your ideas or lists of items in front of you, it helps you create a concrete plan.

It takes you one step closer to the execution of the plan. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, it gives you mental clarity. 

Hence, a good brain dumping session can help you with the following. 

1. Mental clarity 

For people who have a lot on their mind, feeling overwhelmed is only natural. On any given day, we have to accomplish professional tasks, personal tasks, relationship tasks, grooming tasks, and the list can go on. 

While we may be used to our daily schedules, it is still difficult to remember every single thing. This is why we have moments where small things skip our minds.

We may forget to message someone we wanted to check up on, or forget that one thing at the grocery store.

Braindumps can help you navigate multiple areas of your life smoothly.

When we take away the burden of remembering everything, and just follow a list we have made earlier in the week, we are giving ourselves stress relief. 

This includes making lists for the smallest to the biggest thing. We can note down everything from the color of the toothbrush we intend to buy to the actual act of brushing your teeth.

There is nothing off limits in brain dumping sessions. 

Hence, the stress you would give yourself in trying to remember what you have to do, is gone. It even gives you the time to look at your life from an objective point of view. 

When you look at everything from an objective perspective, it gives you the chance to critically evaluate your life.

For example, you list eating out six days in a row. This may give you the chance to evaluate whether that is really something you want to do. 

2. Creative clarity 

Another example is simply writing your creative ideas.

When you see everything put in front of you, you may see patterns emerging. You may even form a story, create a new angle or even criticize the existing ideas. 

This mental clarity is possible because you gave yourself the time to truly look at your work.

It gives you an objective perspective that is difficult to achieve if everything is only in your brain all the time. 

A crucial part of a creative endeavor is to constantly find ways to improve it. If your final product is exactly like the first thought you had about it, chances are high that you have not looked at it critically. 

Creative clarity is important for your art to grow. It is also important to brain dump all your ideas, at least once in a while, so that new projects can take shape. 

3. Group work 

Brain dump sessions are not always personal tasks related to our own mental health. Often, people engage in brain dump sessions in a group setting. It helps build group communication. 

More importantly, it allows everyone in the group to accumulate all ideas. For group projects, especially in school, you may have engaged in braindumps. We have all often unintentionally done exactly that. 

When all members of a group start pitching all their ideas in a meeting, it is essentially a brain dump.

This gives the members a significant head start in the project. It also allows everyone to understand each other’s perspectives. 

A brain dump also helps us to understand the timeline we should follow. For example, a very productive brain dump session gives an indication of the amount of time everyone would have to put in. 

This steamrolls the duration of the project, each member’s contribution and very importantly, the scope of the project.

When all the ideas are on the table, the whole group can see the true potential of the project.

4. Organization

Braindumps undeniably help you cross off everything you need to do.

People often describe the unmatched pleasure of checking off every item from their to-do list. This joy is nothing but a thrill of accomplishment. 

A brain dump is simply writing everything you need to do. Hence, a brain dump, whether you do a monthly brain dump or weekly, helps you get your tasks in order.

For students who have exams coming up, for parents, for teachers as well as other similar jobs, lists are essential.

When you have noted down everything that you can possibly think of doing, your next task becomes clear. 

It helps people streamline their schedule. It allows people to make sure they cover all important areas of their life.

It even ensures that a person has a clear idea of his schedule, in case he wants to put aside some me-time. 

5. Productivity

Very often, the reason behind doing a brain dump is wanting progress. We all want to change things in our life, get more creative, do more engaging work or even get healthier.

We want to be productive, either in our professional or personal life. Or both. 

A brain dump helps increase our productivity. We put down all our thoughts, critically evaluate them and then plan a way to execute them. This is already on the road to productivity. 

Brain Dump Example

Now that we have seen what a brain dump is and how it helps us, it is time to examine some brain dump examples. You may relate to these examples from different areas of your life. 

Tip: Take note to improve your next brain dump session! 

1. The daily brain dump 

Imagine waking up in the morning and not worrying about what you should be doing. A daily brian dump can actually make that early morning happiness a real possibility for you. 

A daily brain dump is listing all the things in your mind that you want to get done. It includes daily tasks, things to eat, groceries to buy and other daily chores. 

A work-related daily brain dump may include the mails you have to send, the projects you have to update, among other things.

You can include less time consuming items like calls as well as more detailed items. Everything you do at work can be on the list. 

Daily braindumps can even include musings you have through the day. For example, a musician can set aside time for a daily brain dump every morning, or any other time.

These musings can even become the lyrics to a beautiful song at the end of the day. 

Aside from the creative fields, other people who engage in daily brain dumps are parents. For households with multiple school going kids, daily brain dumps can especially help manage the chaos. 

2. The monthly brain dump 

The monthly brain dump (or even weekly) is a more detailed list. This brain dump is one you may do at the beginning or end of the month.

It includes the goals you want to set, your budget, your personal boundaries and much more. 

A month is a larger frame of time. Because of that reason, the items on the brain dump for a month look different than a daily brain dump.

A month is a good enough time frame to incorporate new habits, make changes in schedule, etc. 

A monthly braindump can include new exercises you want to try, new beliefs you want to work on or even a new goal you want to set.

Monthly brain dumps are also a good way to note down things like bills, rent, utilities, and other aspects of adult life. 

A monthly braindump allows an individual to not lose track of time. It helps him stay on top of his targets and goals, and makes sure he does not miss out on important opportunities due to disorganization. 

Creatively, monthly brain dumps are an excellent example of growth. For people who tend to not pay attention to minute things in their daily life, a brain dump is a good way to keep track.

One can list down all the beautiful things they encountered that month. 

3. A periodic brain dump 

A periodic braindump is based on your own personal needs. It is when you use the technique because you have encountered a problem that requires it.

For example, you have to throw an important dinner party next week. 

This is not a situation you are used to. It includes tasks that you don’t usually do in your daily life.

A brain dump in this scenario helps you put down any ideas you may have. It can include a party theme, food, music choices and even the dishes you plan to use. 

A periodic braindump can even be employed when you are in charge of an important project.

If you feel like you have no ideas, a brain dump will help you identify any random thoughts you have about it and turn it into a comprehensive idea and plan. 

A periodic braindump may even be a mental health need. We may need a brain dump to process certain feelings and thoughts in our mind.

It comes when we are feeling overloaded with information and we need to sort things out externally.

This brain dump looks like random thoughts or feelings on a piece of paper. In reality, it is a way for a person to resolve feelings or start problem solving. 

Often, a periodic braindump is also a list of all the things that have been running around in your mind. It may all pile up to the extent that you feel you need to note them all down in one place. 

4. Brain dump on the go 

It is needless to say that many of us live really busy lives. We may take in so much information that we struggle to retain any of it. So many times, we hear a great idea, but by the time the day is over we can’t even remember it. 

A brain dump on the go is a way to put down random information you hear and want to save for later.

Many artists complain that their best thoughts and great ideas were lost because they didn’t save them immediately. 

Such a brain dump may look particularly random or pointless to a third reader. It may include standalone words or themes, weird names or even references.

However, for the person who wrote it, these lists are a wealth of information to come back to. 

How To Do A Brain Dump 

Now that we know the meaning of a brain dump and some examples of it, it is time to understand how to do a brain dump.

It is an easy activity, however there are ways you can nourish the task and make it better. 

1. Know your purpose 

The most basic step before a brain dump is to know the reason behind it. Is this your daily brain dump or is this something you need to do just at the moment?

It is important to know why you need this particular brain dumping session. 

Perhaps you are not sure of what you need to express. You merely know that you need to write some things down. That is also okay, as it means you are trying to de-clutter your brain. 

Don’t worry if the purpose isn’t exactly clear to you. It is called a dump for this reason precisely. However, do try to start asking yourself the purpose eventually.  

2. Grab a pen and paper 

The first thing you will absolutely need for a brain dump is the materials required for it. Here, pen and paper are the oldest and most traditional way to do it.

You may find some other materials more useful. They can be any of the following. 

  1. Digital notepad 
  2. Phone notes 
  3. Pencil and paper
  4. Bullet journal
  5. Black board
  6. White board 
  7. Pin board 
  8. Post it notes on a wall/desk 
  9. Voice recording 

Voice recording is perhaps the most arguable form of brain dumping. Traditionally, a brain dump is identified by the actual act of writing.

However, as we move towards a more digital way of life, voice notes may become a more common way of brain dumping. 

You can sit with your material and relax before you begin the actual task. Here it is important to note the kind of brain dump you are doing.

If it is your daily brain, it would be useful to have a list-book or bullet journal handy. 

If it is a periodic or need based brain dump, an unassuming blank piece of paper will also do the trick. Once you have your materials, you have essentially already started your brain dump. 

3. Write down everything 

Step two of the process of a brain dump is perhaps the most fun.

Whether or not you enjoy writing or making lists, it can be fun to write everything that is coming in your brain. Here, it is even more important than ever to express every single thing. 

A brain dump is only successful if you have put down everything you needed to. It is a comprehensive list of all your thoughts that are currently cluttering your brain.

Do not hesitate over whether or not you should note something.

For example, do not fear writing small tasks like brushing your hair on your list.

Eventually, that is a part of self grooming, which is a necessary part of your day. Every item on a brain dump list has some relevance in your life, hence you think about it. 

If you are still afraid to write baseless points, remember this. You will later on get time to edit everything.

The current step is to merely note down everything. You can even set a timer for yourself, within which all you must do is write. 

4. Take breaks 

The key to a good and long brain dumping session is breaks. Taking breaks helps us gain some time away from the project.

It is good to use that time to refresh and come back with other ideas, which may even be better.

Students often study in breaks. This is because the time away from the object of focus helps us better understand the subject.

Hence, when we are brain dumping and feel we have been going at it for a long time, it is good to step aside for a few moments. 

Here is what you can do when you take a short break. 

  1. Drink water 
  2. Get some fresh air 
  3. Listen to a song 
  4. Walk a few steps
  5. Do some breathing exercises 

This break is not necessary. It also does not mean that brain dumping is a strenuous or difficult activity.

This break, especially in long or group brain dumping sessions, is just a way to take care of yourselves. 

It is easy to hit dead ends if you do something too long. If you take a few steps away, you may just see new directions that you had not considered before. 

5. Create order 

When your brain dumping is done, take a look at what you have created. If it is a creative project, go through every angle you have come up with. Take a deep look at everything you have noted down. 

The next step is to create some order out of the chaos. The fun part of brain dumping is writing everything down. The slightly more difficult next part is to find some method to the madness. 

This means that you may have to build a structure out of the openly expressed ideas and thoughts.

You can create order by establishing a timeframe of dealing with it. You can categorize the things you have listed. 

Decluttering our mind is essential. The whole point of braindumps is to de-clutter your mind and create an organized game plan.

Before you forget what you have written, make sure your brain dump list is securely stored away for you to make a plan later. 

6. Step away 

You may feel that taking a break is the same as stepping away. For some people, it is true. When creating a daily brain dump, a short break is enough and counts as stepping away.

However, for  a more periodic brain dump, you may need to step away for longer. 

If you have finished your brain dump in the evening, return to it the next day. Take significant time away from the list. Finish your other work.

Let the list sit there for a bit. It will not go anywhere as it has literally been noted down. 

However, by stepping away, you are giving yourself some mental space to breathe. It allows you to re-think the items and ideas you have put down.

Sleeping in that time in fact allows you to retain what you know better. 

Stepping away from your brain dump, for a while, is good for you. Coming back to the dump will be even more productive now, as you have allowed room for freshness and objectivity.

7. Evaluate and prioritize 

After you come back to your list, critically evaluate it. When you tried to create some order, you may have made categories. Now is the time to further organize it. 

You can critically evaluate your list. You can look at the points that you need to cut out. You can include things you missed.

For example, if you are brain dumping for that big dinner, you can evaluate your choice of food groups. 

You may include something you have missed. You may add a children’s special menu. You can even prioritize your tasks from most to least important. Remember, a brain dump is a list of every single thing on your mind. 

In reality, it is possible to miss certain items in a list. It is only natural. However, if you prioritize, you will at least not miss something very important.

You will know what is essential for you to accomplish, in a ranking order.  

A good question to ask is – What do I absolutely need to do next?

8. Small wins

When you do a brain dump, you may realize that some things are quite easy to finish immediately.

Continuing with the dinner party example, you may realize you can order some materials at that very moment. 

These are small wins that you can cross off the list very fast. It gives you the time and energy to face the bigger tasks after that.

We all need certain small wins to feel like we have everything under control. 

Small wins also ensure that you are engaged with the task. It is more difficult to back out of something that you have already started. Hence, make sure that you stay committed to the whole list. 

9. Big game plan 

Lastly, end your brain dump with a plan of action. Every task, whether small or big, requires motivation and planning.

That is why, when you finish your brain dump, make sure you have thought of how to execute the ideas. 

It may be a very concrete plan with exact day and time or it could have a broader and more lenient structure.

How to plan is up to you and the people involved in the session. However, a brain dump is incomplete without a final plan of execution. 

If you are someone who struggles with following through on a plan, you can make action based plans.

In the dinner party example, you may plan to ‘make tacos, cut vegetables, buy table mats’. This is better than ‘cook dinner.’

The difference between the two is that the first one forces you to accomplish particular tasks. If you just specify cooking dinner, you may even avoid it till the last minute and make a packaged meal. 

Hence, make a plan based on your own style of working. It should eventually work for you, as you have already made so many efforts towards it. 

What Do I Need For A Brain Dump 

You may be feeling that a brain dump requires too much effort. That however is not true. Following is a list of everything you need, material and mental, for a brain dump. 

  1. Sheet of paper, book, journal, notes
  2. Pen, pencil, marker 
  3. Digital device (if that is your preference) 
  4. Time 
  5. Attention 
  6. Purpose 

That is all you will need to do a successful or productive brain dump.

If you do these sessions often, a quick internet search will also give you free templates to start a brain dump. These are especially good for people who are scared to write. 

We also live in times where these are products available to facilitate brain dumps.

To-do list makers, bullet journal spreads, etc are designed to encourage brain dump style thinking. However, these are more a matter of convenience than need. 

The above mentioned list is truly the most basic yet essential list of requirements for a brain dump. Once you have all that, you may happily start your brain dumping session. 

Getting Things Done

David Allen suggested a framework called Getting Things Done. He says that there is an inverse relationship between the things on our mind and the things we actually do. There is also a need to have an external trusted place where we store our thoughts.

David Allen developed a method called Getting Things Done, which is a time management guideline.

He published a book of the same name, where he writes about insightful findings related to time management and stress. 

Allen believes we can relax when we successfully manage our time to get things done. He suggests that the more we have on our mind, the less we actually get done. 

This inverse relationship does not help us, as the older we get, the more our tasks and responsibilities keep piling up.

Eventually, we end up thinking about what we need to do way more than we actually do things. 

He has suggested a framework which is much like our topic of discussion – Brain Dumps! 

Through this framework, he also highlights another need. If we have an external source, like a journal, that stores all our to-dos, we can relax.

This is because all the stressful thoughts have been removed from the brain and put in another trustworthy place. 

His framework is known as the workflow. It includes writing down all the ‘stuff’ you are thinking of, and then asking questions regarding these tasks. The tasks are then divided into eight different categories. 

These categories eventually help a person in accomplishing the tasks. It is a time management system that works in order of when or if you will complete the task.

It also helps you keep track of the next task you need to do. 

As you can see, this is what we do in a brain dump session as well. We then use a method of prioritizing what is important, so that we can arrive at an execution plan. 

Brain Dump Journal 

Let us come to a more interesting section of this article. Are you wondering what a brain dump journal looks like?

Following are the kind of lists and items you may find in a journal of someone who frequently engages in brain dumps. 

1. Work brain dump 

A person may do a brain dump about all the work they need to finish. This may include all the emails they need to send, the calls they need to make, the people they have to contact and more. 

This list includes all the work related stuff that a person juggles during the day/week/month or even year. A daily list may include specific tasks for the day, like ‘Reply to Mike’s email.” 

A longer work-related brain dump may include innovation projects the person wants to work on, the pitches they are planning, the goals they set for their salary, etc. 

2. Home brain dump 

Further along in this journal may come a section on home related tasks.

This could include tasks and chores around the house that one needs to finish. We often neglect our home when we are busy with other things. 

A brain dump journal is thus very useful. It forces people to take a look around their house.

When we actually go to see, there is always something to be done. These brain dumps may include shopping lists or even larger ideas of home renovation. 

The best part about home related brain dumps is its potential.

This means that you can even include a new color and design you have in mind, some new repair or even things you want to buy, like a new vacuum cleaner.

There is nothing off limits in this brain dump. 

3. Family brain dump 

You may question why one needs a family brain dump. It is a fair question, as we live with our families or at least do not regard them as a task on our list.

However, a family brain dump is actually a good way to maintain our relationships with them. 

This includes items of the small or big things you can do for your family. It can be a brain dump of gift ideas for the holiday season. A brain dump is also a creative way for you to express your feelings towards them. 

Often, we get so caught up in our daily life that we forget to check up on people. Noting down all the people you want to reach out to makes it a task you must accomplish.

Hence, the next time you put off calling them, their name on the list will ensure that you do. 

4. Health brain dump 

We realize the importance of our health. We know that we need to treat our body well, so it takes care of us when we need it to.

However, the difficult part is actually doing the things we need to do, like exercise and following a good diet.

A brain dump journal covers all such tasks you can think of doing. You understand your body best.

This means that you know how many times a week you must exercise, what you need to eat and what you should cut out. 

Brain dumping all the ideas about your own health and fitness allows you to track your progress. You know what you started with and through a list you will be able to see how much you still need to do. 

5. Social life brain dump 

We are all social animals. We exist in society because we all need other people to live our life with.

However, social lives are now more complicated than ever before. We are now friends with people from different areas of our life. 

For example, we have school friends, work colleagues, old and new neighbors, friends of these friends and more in our social sphere.

We cannot be equally close with everyone. However, if we include it in our journal, we can effectively share our time. 

We may have some friends we go dancing with and some others we travel with.

If we list down all the social gatherings we want to have in a month, we can manage our social time well. It even helps us keep in touch with everyone we befriend. 

These items may look like, “Message Abby Happy Birthday’ or even ‘Plan a fun trip with Karen.’ It means we will eventually get these things done. 

6. Important task brain dump 

A brain dump journal entry about important tasks includes duties of adult life. This means rent, buying food, servicing our car or even paying off loans.

These are important tasks and hence have a lower chance of us forgetting them.

However, it is still a good idea to note them all down in one place, as it fosters organization. It means that the stress has been removed from our brain and placed in the journal.

We can even create monthly budgets. This ensures that we make good financial choices but also remember to have fun once in a while.

This is also a good way to cut out on expenses you do not need to waste money on. 

7. Interests and inspiration brain dump 

We all have certain likes and dislikes other than our jobs and chores. There is so much art and entertainment in the world. There are books, music, movies, new restaurants and many more interesting things. 

If we give ourselves the time to do a brian dump about these, we can list all the things we want to try. This includes a new book we want to read or a good play we want to watch. 

When we creatively evaluate our lives, we ensure that we are staying up to date on what is going on in the world.

This gives us a break from monotony and something to look forward to. It is perhaps a very emotionally satisfying brain dump to engage in. 

It helps to list action based items like “Buy tickets for this movie” instead of just ‘New movie.’

We all could use a little inspiration from time to time. Writing down all the things you are curious about helps us get inspired.

It is a list we can refer to when we are bored and need stimulation of some kind.

Brain Dump Prompts 

Lastly, let us look at certain prompts you can use to get into brain dumping.

Remember, you just need to note down the basic ideas in your brain. Your mind will eventually form affiliate links which will tie everything together. 

  • What is your mind cluttered with? 
  • Are there projects that you are currently working on? 
  • What do you tend to neglect? 
  • Is there something you want to particularly remember?
  • What do you wish to learn? 
  • How do you feel about your coming year?
  • What do you want to change about your current relationships? 
  • Is there something you want to get better at? 
  • How do you plan to positively change your life? 
  • In what way is your current routine not helping you? 
  • Is there any personal project you want to start for yourself? 

These are a few prompts that can start a train of thought. If you already have a topic in mind you want to do a brain dump for, you can start with that.

It can be anything that will ease your mind clutter and give you mental clarity. 


In conclusion, it is easier to say what you want to do than to actually do it. A brain dump helps you create a mind map of your own.

Through this, you can start to see all the ways in which you can accomplish your goals and ideas. 

If you have an idea, or better, if you have many ideas, engage in a brain dumping session. You have nothing to lose and more to gain!

Article Sources


Scroll To Top
We use cookies in order to give you the best possible experience on our website. By continuing to use this site, you agree to our use of cookies.
Privacy Policy