Are you wondering: what does brain dump mean? Or maybe: how to brain dump effectively? Perhaps: how to organize a brain dump? And: should I do a brain dump before bed? If your answer is yes to any of these questions, you are at the right place! I am going to answer all of these questions (and more!) in this blog post, plus I give you some freebies to work with.

I don’t want to waste your time, so let’s just dive in, but fair warning, you are going to read the word brain dump quite a lot of times 🙂

Content of this blog post (click on any of these points and it will take you right to it):

What does brain dump mean?

Brain dumps are essentially a collection of the things that swirl around in your mind. When you do a brain dump, you sit down with a piece of paper (or your bullet journal, or a worksheet) and a pen and write down everything that comes to your mind. This includes any ideas you may have, work that has to be done, promises you made, projects, etc (more on this later). Basically you get everything out of your head onto paper, so you don’t have to hold onto the information any longer – you know that you are not going to forget it, because you wrote it down.

Brain dump benefits

There are a lot of benefits to it, if done right. I am going to list only some of them. The most obvious one is freeing up mental space. If you write down everything that constantly nags on your attention (like ‘I have to buy a gift for my niece!’), you free up that space. This space you can then use for concentrated work, but only if you really capture EVERYTHING. For this purpose a brain dump trigger list is a great help, I included one for you for free in this blog post.

And if you need some help with productivity and how to bullet journal so you are more productive, check out this blog post I wrote on this exact topic! What a coincidence, I know! 🙂

Another benefit is obviously not forgetting anything. I know it happens to me a lot, that I have an idea, but I don’t write it down. Maybe I am able to keep the idea in my head for a few days, but then “life gets in the way” and I forget to write it down – it slips away for good. Also any deadlines or meetings or project ideas can be captured this way, if you do it regularly.

Another brain dump benefit would be less stress. If you have a lot of things that you have to keep in mind all the time, it causes a lot of stress, because you are afraid you are going to forget something. Writing it all down eases this stress and you can relax knowing that everything is safe on paper.

How to do it effectively?

There is not a lot you can do, that makes brain dumping ineffective. Still, there are some tips and tricks to make it even more effective.

First, you should use a trigger list. A trigger list a list with a lot of different categories listed, in which an idea or task could fall, for example bills, work projects or cleaning. You go through the list and for every trigger you write down whatever comes to mind. If a trigger word does not trigger anything, that’s fine, too. If you do a regular brain dumps, there is going to be less that comes to your mind.

After that you should give yourself enough time for your brain dump. Think about the trigger. This way you are not going to forget anything and you can be relaxed knowing that everything is out of your mind. Don’t rush the process. There is no benefit to a half-assed brain dump.

How to organize the mess?

After you are finished writing down all the things that came to mind, you should be left with quite a messy list. There is nothing wrong with the messy list and you can keep it that way, if you desire and if that works for you. But if you are anything like me, you would want to organize that mess. So how do you do that?

Less than 2 minutes

First, scan the list and if there are any tasks that take less than 2 minutes, do them right away. There is no need organizing those into your system. Just do them right away and you can cross them off. Instant gratification!

Due dates, appointments, events

After that, go through the list again and find any due dates, appointments, events and transfer them to your calendar or any place, where you keep important dates. Maybe this is the calendar on your phone, or your monthly log/year at a glance page in your bullet journal.

Tasks, to-dos

Now that those are out of the way, you should collect all the tasks, that have a set time or should be/could be done on a specific day. For example: maybe you want to do a workout every Monday, Wednesday and Friday – move the item ‘working out’ to the specific day it should be done. This way, you transform the intention into an action item, that has to be done on a set day.

Do this with all the list items where you can identify a day for them to be done. Another example would be something like going to the post office. You know you have to do that, so choose a day for it now. It could be today, tomorrow or in 2 weeks, it doesn’t matter, just decide the day you are going to do it and cross it off your brain dump list.


Now you should be left with ideas. You should sort your ideas into two categories: someday/maybe and now. Choose the ideas you would want to expand on now and transfer all of your other ideas to a someday/maybe list. This list contains everything that you would maybe want to do in the future, but don’t have the time for it now. After that, you can come up with a plan on how to advance the ideas you want to get started on now.

Should I do a brain dump before bed?

Doing a brain dump before bed or as the last action of the work day can be very beneficial. It could act as a ‘finishing up work’ action, that signalises your brain that after the brain dump is done, it is time to relax. It also makes relaxing a lot easier, because you don’t have to think about everything that came up during the day anymore. You can finish up your day and unwind.

Alternative name ideas

I know there are a lot of people, that don’t like the word ‘dump’, so they would prefer to call a it something else. I collected some ideas for you!

  • Mind palace (for all the Sherlock fans like myself!)
  • Mental inventory
  • Brainstorm
  • Mental purge
  • Thought download
  • On my mind
  • Pensieve (this is for you, Harry Potter fans!)
  • Thought catalogue
  • External hard drive
  • Mind spill
  • Think tank
  • Brain sweep
  • Mental declutter

I collected these ideas from the Bullet Journal Junkies Facebook group, that I would highly recommend if you love to bullet journal!


I created a printable trigger list and worksheet for you, to make brain dumping even easier! Both of them come in color and black and white for best printing results!

A quick explanation to the worksheet: there are two versions of the worksheet, one with a pre-filled out color code, where you only have to add the color and you can organise your brain dump as I explained in this blog post. Then there is the second version, where you can decide on the colors for each category, as well as how you want to structure your list.

You don’t have to do anything to get these ressources, but if you happen to want to subscribe to my newsletter to get access to the subscriber exclusive freebies (like weekly habit trackers and gratitude log), you can do so here:

If you didn’t subscribe, no hard feelings! Click on one of these pictures to download your freebie:

I hope you enjoy these freebies! Let me know in the comments what you call your ‘brain dump’ and leave a reaction down below!