The Brain Dump

The Lists

I will gather every list I’ve ever made
on the backs of envelopes,
in notebooks, on yellow and purple,
whole and torn paper.
Noticing the ever never finished.

In one huge breath, I blow away the unfinished
and listen to the silence.

I tear the lists into tiny pieces. I feed them to the birds.
I flip them into the air, The bride blushes.
I use them as compost. My garden thrives.
I rearrange the words into a lullaby. The baby sleeps.
I add curry and make a stew. With wine, we rejoice.
I rip them into wallpaper, add paste and paper the Wall of China.
I eat them with dark chocolate. I can hear my heart beat. I know the wind.

I dance on the shards of unfinished.

Sue Hagedorn

If this poem had you cheering, consider making it a practice to do what’s elegantly referred to in the trade as a “brain dump”.

You take a large pad of paper, and start writing down all the things that are weighing on your mind. All the unfinished business. The mother of all to-do lists. Doesn’t matter how old the items are or how likely you are to ever do them, at this point you’re just writing.

brain dump

Come back to the list and add to it as you remember things. Enjoy the feeling of relief as your brain stops thinking about these tasks over and over again to help you remember. It’s all on paper now, your brain can move on to other things.

When the list seems done, take a deep breath and have a look. Are there things on there you know instantly you’ll never, ever do? If you haven’t done it yet, will the next thirty years see you more likely to try that recipe for Hungarian goulash? Are you really going to alphabetize your CD collection? Read War and Peace? If you know you won’t do it, cross it off the list. Now it’s out of your head and off the list too.

Scan the list again and see what’s urgent. Is there something that needs to be done this week?

“Register the car.”

Okay, so what’s the first step?

“Get the smog test done”

Pull out your planner and look at your schedule. When can you do this? If a step feels too big, break it down. Tasks don’t get done when they’re overwhelming. The trick is to find the small next step that you can do without panicking.

“Look online to find out where smog station is.”

Think about when you can do that. Write it in your planner as an appointment to keep.

The rules are simple:

1. No shame and most definitely no guilt.
2. No trying to do everything on the list by the end of tomorrow.
3. When you complete a task, no matter how small, make sure to notice and take in how good that feels. I like to highlight it on my list, so after a while I have a page full of glowing green lines.

You found out where the smog station is? Nice! Smile and really take time to appreciate how you’re moving forward.

© 2013 – 2018 Joyful Surroundings LLC. All rights reserved.

Joyful Surroundings LLC

Everything feels better with an organized home!


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