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Last Updated on August 1, 2018

4 Simple Steps to Brain Dump for a Smarter Brain

4 Simple Steps to Brain Dump for a Smarter Brain

When it comes to getting things done – whether we’re talking about David Allen’s wildly popular methodology or just the act of doing stuff – the first thing you have to do is get it all out of your head and capture it somewhere.

Your brain is not meant to hold all of the stuff you have (or want) to do, and keeping it all up in there will only serve to disappoint you in both the short and long term.

Knowing that you have to get it out of your head is one thing. Where you put it is an entirely different matter.

Some people are great with tools of technology, such as apps on your mobile device or desktop software solutions. Others deal with this kind of stuff far better when it’s on paper.

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No matter which type of person you are, I’m going to unveil for you the ultimate way to get it all out – to do a “brain dump” if you will – so that you can keep moving forward instead of always looking back to see what might have slipped through the cracks.

1. Grab a pen and paper

Even if you are someone who lives in the digital world, you need to write stuff down using simple analog tools. In fact, if you’re a technophile, you’re in somewhat of a better position in that you don’t see the need to spend money on fancy pens and notebooks – you can save your money for the tech gear you want.

There is something about writing something down that makes it stick; you connect better with the tasks, projects and goals you have on your plate when you write them down rather than enter them into a device.

2. Create your lists

You need to have the following headings for your list:

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Musts, Wants and Perhaps.

Each of these heading represent the things you’ve committed to doing (Musts), the things you would like to do but haven’t committed to them yet (Wants), and the things you may want to do at some point but are far down on the priority list (Perhaps).

You might need more than one sheet of paper for each list as you go, but start with the Musts, then move on to the Wants and finish up with the Perhaps.

It is important that you go in that order, because that way your brain isn’t moving all over the place. It is focusing on one type of thing at a time and writing down the things that fall under that type until there are no more left to capture.

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3. Criticize your lists

Now you need to honestly evaluate each list. Start with the Must list and move on until your have finished the Perhaps list.

When you look at each list, use some of the principles of GTD to whittle the list down to a more manageable size.

You can move stuff from one list to another during this exercise as well, but ultimately you want to wind up with the least amount of things on your Must list so that you can get to the Want list stuff that much faster.

4. Complete your lists

Once you’ve criticized and crossed things off your lists that aren’t part of your “master plan” any longer, start to complete the things on the lists.

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Get the Must stuff out of the way first, then move on to the Want list – maybe even moving some of the Wants to the Must list as you go.

Once Wants graduate to Musts, they become more crucial to you, and that means they have a greater chance of getting done.

You’ll also be able to move some the Perhaps stuff into the Want list as you go, with the Perhaps list likely being the longest list you’ve got going.

Whenever you feel as if your life is getting out of balance or you are feeling overwhelmed by everything that is on your agenda, conduct this exercise and get yourself back to a more comfortable space.

Not only is the stuff you’re trying to get done worth, but so is the person trying to get it done: YOU.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on October 15, 2018

How to Calm Down When You Are Overwhelmed: 7 Quick Ways to Try

How to Calm Down When You Are Overwhelmed: 7 Quick Ways to Try

Do you sometimes feel that you add items to your to-do list faster than you tick them off? Do you spend most of your day worrying about your lack of time?

The truth is, no matter how much we love our job, or how productive we believe we are under stress, there comes a moment when the pressure rises above boiling point. The sheer number of urgent tasks multiplies in a geometric progression. New possibilities no longer sound inspiring, they sound overwhelming and equal more work.

If that’s where you are right now – keep reading! If not, it doesn’t mean you should wait until you get there to learn how to cope with a demanding work schedule and how to calm yourself down quickly when you feel overwhelmed.

Here are 7 quick and easy tips on how to calm down when you are overwhelmed:

1. Let go of a few activities

Yes, it’s that easy! Take a look at your to-do list and ask yourself, “If I don’t do it today, will it matter a month from now?”

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Not every urgent task is important. Just like not every important, high pay-off task is urgent. The best way to keep yourself from getting overwhelmed and to manage your time is to know the difference between the two and learn to simplify your life by getting your to-do list down to three big tasks.

2. Take deep breaths to calm down

This advice sounds so simple it’s often overlooked. But it works better (and faster) than any other relaxation technique out there.

There is a direct connection between our emotional state and breathing. An anxious, frustrated or overwhelmed person breathes as if they have just finished running a marathon. A calm person breathes differently. Their breathing is deep, slow and steady. So when you have a panic attack, the best way to bring your heart rate down and to regain your cool is to change your breathing.

Try this now:

Take a slow, long deep breath in, filling your lungs with air and expanding your diaphragm. Hold your breath for four counts and then slowly release the air through your mouth. Repeat four times and notice frustration and the feeling of being overwhelmed dissolve with each long exhale of these calming breaths.

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3. Make “Just one thing” your mantra

When we feel overwhelmed by the amount of tasks on our to-do list, it’s easy to enter the ‘deer in the headlights’ state. You see deadlines approaching directly towards you, and you know that something has to be done about them, but you just don’t know where to start.

The best way to get your mind out of an ‘inactivity trance’ is to create momentum. This is what makes the “Just one thing” mantra so powerful. It helps to change our expectation that everything has to be completed right now, “or else.”

Next time you feel overwhelmed make grabbing a cup of coffee your “Just one thing.” You can do it, right? Then come back, pick one of the smallest tasks on your to-do list and tell yourself you’ll do just that one task. This is your next “Just one thing” that you will concentrate on until it’s complete. After that you can move on to the next task and so on.

It’s not “One thing at a time.” Saying this implies that there is a huge line of other tasks waiting to get done and that’s not the message you want to keep repeating to yourself. Learn how to focus here and stop getting overwhelmed.

4. Reduce the multi-tasking and multi-thinking

It’s been proven that multi-tasking is very inefficient, to the point of dumbing us down (more than smoking marijuana does). The same is true for multi-thinking, when your mind frantically jumps from one thought to another, trying to focus on and analyze several things all at once.

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Fortunately, there is help. A few minutes of meditation or brainwave music is all it takes to start feeling more relaxed, more creative and less overwhelmed.

5. Get moving

Any exercise you engage in – be it walking or dancing to your favorite beat – helps to release endorphins, the ‘feel-good’ hormones, through your body and to clear your mind.

Staying active also increases your productivity, enhances your ability to combat stress and anxiety. It also helps you to release the tension, boosting your mood and changing the thoughts that induce the sense of being overwhelmed.

The best part is you don’t have to spend hours in the gym to get the mind-soothing benefits of exercise. Even as little as 15 minutes of dancing or jogging can go a long way towards making you feel better and staying calmer.

6. Change your surroundings

We all need and deserve to take vacations from work woes and family responsibilities. Unfortunately, spending two weeks lazing on a beach, toes in the sand and a Mojito in hand, is not always an option. However, this doesn’t mean that we can’t take short ‘vacations’ from work stress and the technology buzz.

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Go outside for a few minutes and enjoy the sunshine. Stop at a park instead of driving straight home from work. Sometimes changing your surroundings and ‘spicing up your routine’ is all it takes to change your perspective on things and find creative solutions to seemingly complex and overwhelming problems.

7. Get some pet therapy

Studies have shown what most of us already guessed – our pets can be a great help during stressful moments. Simple actions such as petting or playing with your dog or cat can lower high blood pressure, boost your immune system and boost your mood.

Besides, pets can make the best conversation partners to share your frustrations with. They listen, they love you unconditionally and they never talk back or say, “I told you so.”

Final thoughts

Don’t wait for stress to hit you to start practicing these quick ways to calm down when you are overwhelmed. The best way to enjoy a worry-free life is not to push yourself to the limit of being overwhelmed and frustrated.

Featured photo credit: Dardan via unsplash.com

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