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Sync Your Brain And Your System Using a Mind Dump

Sync Your Brain And Your System Using a Mind Dump

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    One of the keys to any productivity system is to actually put things into the system. Who knew?

    Obvious though it may seem, many of us have trouble taking the time to enter our thoughts into our task-manager, to-do list, or organizational system.

    This can happen for any number of reasons – no paper nearby, no easy way to record your ideas – but our productivity can be hurt by not inputting everything into our system so we can deal with it properly.

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    What should live on paper lives in our brain, and then proceeds to be forgotten and left alone. That’s a surefire road to getting yourself in trouble- or at least forgetting leaky faucets.

    There’s a simple, quick solution to this problem, though – it’s called a mind dump.

    A mind dump is simply a way for you to get everything out of your head and onto paper. Our brains aren’t made to remember things forever, but paper is; with an empty brain, we’re able to either focus on new things or deal with the task at hand, instead of constantly dwelling on past things taking up valuable bandwidth.

    Executing a mind dump is simple: take out a pen and a paper, or fire up a new document on your computer. Then, write down everything that comes to your mind. There is no step three.

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    Anything and everything is fair game: what you have to do, what you’re thinking about, hopes, dreams, goals, and whatever else comes into your mind. Set a time limit – say, 20 minutes – and everything that enters your brain immediately must exit your brain and go onto your paper.

    Once you’re done, you can begin to take action on the items you’ve written. On what do you need to take action? What do you need to deal with, follow up about, or file somewhere?

    Things that don’t need to be further dealt with? Just get rid of them. Make sure you don’t need to think about them ever again, and be done with them.

    There’s no set way for doing the best mind dump possible. The point is to reset your brain, update your productivity system, and put onto paper all the things that have been taking up the valuable (and limited) space in your brain.

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    Many people use “triggers” to make their mind dumps easier – a set of key words or phrases that set your mind on a particular aspect of your life, in order to let you focus on items related to it. 43 Folders has a long list of these triggers, everything from “Phone calls,” to “Furniture”, to “Weddings.”

    Some people, GTD followers in particular, do a mind dump before their Weekly Review, as part of figuring out what the week ahead has in store. Others, like myself, do it once a week or so – whenever I have 20 minutes to spare. I recommend doing it at least once a week – it has a tendency to get long and unweildly otherwise.

    A mind dump can also be done anywhere – another great thing about it. Open up a note on a cell phone, or write on the back of a newspaper; wherever you are, if you’ve got a free moment, clear your head.

    You’ll be amazed how many things come out of your brain and into your organizational system, when you devote time and space to emptying it.

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    How and when do you get things out of your head and into your system?

    Photo: Tyla ’75

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    Last Updated on March 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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