I’m so excited about this episode. This is for anyone who ever feels like there are just to many tabs open in your brain. Or in other words, anyone feeling overwhelmed.
Today we are talking about my favorite simple strategy for when I’m feeling overwhelmed or over tasked. This is what I use when my brain is just at capacity….
This method will take you from guessing to knowing where to work from.
We’re talking about using the brain dump method maximized through the Eisenhower Matrix! That sounds a bit fancy, but it’s super easy, and I promise that if you use the simple methods I’ll walk you through in this episode, you’ll have greater focus, minimized stress, and be able to see more clearly the next right steps…
Overwhelm can take over at a second’s notice. We go from ‘I’ve got this’ to ‘I don’t got it’ as quickly as when someone yells heads-up, just in time for you to look up and get smacked in the face by a football.
Use this method every time you’re either starting a new project or when you’re worried about dropping balls somewhere and having everything (including you) fall apart.
I’m talking about brain dumps, but elevated using the Eisenhower Matrix!
We can use brain dumps to create greater focus, minimize stress, and just see more clearly the next right steps. Now I know what you’re thinking, “oh, I, I know how to do brain dumps.” I know you do. I totally know you do. But I’d love to share how I use them because I think I can give you a couple of tips and tricks to make your brain dumps even more effective.
This episode will help:
👉 Learn how to use brain dumps to get organized and focus
👉 The overwhelmed and at-capacity mom get back to a balanced flow
👉 Anyone finding it hard to sleep at night because there’s too much in your head
👉 When you get stuck knowing what your next steps should be and in what order
In this episode:
3:09 A simple and effective strategy to handle overwhelm
5:36 Power of subtraction
7:00 Defining Highest Priority
8:17 Bringing order to our chaos
10:05 Working with our calendar
12:52 A clear first and last step
How do to an organizational brain dump with the Eisenhower Matrix
There are really two different kinds of brain dumps. There’s the emotional brain dump where you’re almost using it like a therapy session, like a journal, and you’re just dumping out all of the feelings.
Those are great and I love a good emotional dump session, but today let’s focus on organizational brain dumps. This is what I love and what I use regularly.
We’re also talking about the Eisenhower Matrix, which is named for Dwight D. Eisenhower 34th president of the United States.
Here’s what you need to know about Eisenhower. His productivity game was strong. I mean, he was doing more in weeks than others do in months and not just that, he sustained it not for years but for decades.
He had an incredible skill of organizing what was important vs. not, urgent vs. not, and getting them in the proper order.
So we have what looks like the game of 4-square drawn out on paper. The top left corner is block 1: It’s all the tasks that are both urgent and important.
Next to block 1 taking the top Right spot is block 2. Marked not urgent but important.
This block deserves special attention. These are often those items that will move your business forward, but because they’re not urgent they easily fall to the side, don’t let that happen! Keep this quadrant high priority.
Because the left side of our matrix is Urgent we come down to block 3 on the bottom left, and it’s titled: ‘urgent but not important’.
Our final block on the bottom right corner is block 4: These are not important and not urgent.
Step 1: Dump it all out
To start a brain dump, we simply dump it all out. It’s the equivalent of dumping a puzzle out onto the table. You just let everything fall out.
There’s no judgment; there’s no concern as to where it all lands, you’re just letting all the things on your mind, all of those action items fall out. Either onto a piece of paper, I always use paper and pen, but you could literally use anything! A google doc, grease board, sticky notes, your iPad, or your Remarkable, you’re just getting all the thoughts out with no concern about where they fall.
Step 2: Organize Your Brain Dump with the Eisenhower Matrix
Once everything is out, start giving each task a ranking (you can also draw out a 4 grid on a new sheet of paper and start moving each item to where it best fits).
Give it a 1 for Important & urgent
Give it a 2 for Important but not urgent
Give it a 3 for Not important but urgent
Give it a 4 for Not important & not urgent
Step 3: Time to Slash – What can you Remove?
Now that you’ve dumped all of your thoughts out onto paper, we’re going straight to anything you numbered a 3 (not important but urgent) or a 4 (not important & not urgent).
We’re looking for anything that you can SUBTRACT.
James Clear has a quote that goes something like, ‘The best form of time management is saying no’.
So let’s just start by looking at everything we’ve dumped out and seeing if there’s anything we get to just say, “no, thank you” to. Look for the things that don’t even need to be done, the things that are actually not really a priority at all.
Time for a shameless plug, but I do have an incredible podcast episode with Leidy Klotz about the power of subtraction. In his book, Subtract, Leidy talks about the idea that when there is a problem, our go-to instinct is to figure out what we need to add, even though, often, subtraction could be a better solution. It’s just that our minds don’t automatically go to subtraction. We go to addition.
So that’s where I want you to start. You’re looking at this big messy list, and the first thing to ask is, is there anything that you get to slash and cross out?
Often there are things we feel like we need to do, but upon further investigation, we really don’t! They are not moving the needle forward, they’re not helping our goals, and they’re not even necessary.
Step 4: Creating your action plan (with the best ‘next right step’)
Once I’ve cut the unnecessary… I want to take the leftover scattered action items and turn them into a chronological action plan. This is step 3. I do this by going to all of the 1’s and numbering or lettering them.
I’m looking for the obvious – keeping with my puzzle analogy – you’d look for the corners and the frame…
Those are the highest priorities.
But how do we decide what’s important?
First, decide if any tasks are urgent or have a deadline attached to them, those will be your obvious first steps. Once we’ve got any of those identified I like to look for the things that will make the biggest impact.
How do we decide what’ most impactful?
When I’m judging based on biggest impact, I am really looking for two things to be solved.
Number one: Can it make me more money?
Number two: Can it save me more time?
If there are several tasks that could check those boxes then I simply ask, well, which one can save me the most time? Which one could make me the most money? Those are going to naturally rise up and become higher up on the list.
These items in my “1” square will become my top 5 action items and I’ll move those to my daily 5. these are the next things I’m going to do. I now know exactly what my priorities for the day are.
But before I jump into those, I need to finish organizing my list…
Step 5: Scheduling and Shifting
I start moving the rest of the big items to my calendar, especially Block 2: Important but not urgent — I’m literally saying, oh, line number 2a, this thing. Okay, where can I fit it in this week so I get it done? I’m blocking out a 30-minute chunk. I’m getting that done. And I start pushing all of these items into my calendar.
So block 1 – urgent and important probably went to my daily 5 list.
Block 2: Important but not urgent – got scheduled into my calendar, and that leaves: block 3: Not important, but urgent and block 4: Not important & not urgent
Those tasks go onto a separate to-do list in a planner, notepad, in the Remind app, or the Notes app. They will either be delegated out, outsourced, or filed away for later. If there are tasks, I need to do later than I schedule a block of time to review those, THEN close that list or hide it in a drawer.
Now I’m ready to take on the important tasks (and I’m clear about what they are). I move them to my daily five. (I have an amazing free printable for my daily routine and a podcast episode explaining how I use it here) and then I put the big list away, and tomorrow I can grab the next five items if I need to, move those to my daily five, and keep making progress.
And then suddenly, we’re not so overwhelmed because it’s all out of our head, prioritized and organized, and blocked out in our calendars with time to get it all done.
Try a brain dump with the Eisenhower Matrix right now!
Use a brain dump when you’re planning your next project. Work with it when you’ve just got too many tabs open in your brain or if you’re struggling to fall asleep or feel at peace.
The key is to stop trying to remember all of the things in your head and instead get them onto paper or into an app, however you like to do it, and then move them into a sequential or linear format.
The brain dump method takes all that chaotic messiness and organizes it so that I can identify a clear first step and last step.
If you are finding yourself in one of those moments where there are just too many thoughts banging around in your head, try the brain dump.
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[00:00:00] This is episode 41 on the Balancing Busy Podcast, and I’m Leah Rele talking to you about my favorite simple strategy. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, this is what I use when my brain is just, it’s at capacity, like, I can’t fit anything else in, and I’m worried I’m starting to lose things. If you’ve ever had to untangle a ball of Christmas lights or a necklace, that’s what I feel like it feels like.
[00:00:27] Like you’re pulling and you’re, you’re trying to figure out what connects where and what you should be grabbing first, and you’re hoping you’re not making it worse. Worse sometimes. That is what our brains feel like, and so whatever that happens, This is what I use because I’m just feeling too much stress.
[00:00:46] There are too many things and the pressure is building up. But I will say, even though most often I’m using it because of a stress component, I also absolutely use these. In a very different way, which is when I’m super giddy and excited because I have some new project, some new thing that I wanna do, and I need to take all of the ideas that I have around that project and I need to organize them so that I can know exactly where I’m supposed to start.
[00:01:17] We are talking about brain dumps and how we can use them to create greater focus, minimize stress, and just see more clearly. The next right steps and before you dismiss this episode thinking, oh, I, I know how to do brain dumps. I know you do. I totally know you do. But I’d love to share how I use them because I know I can give you a couple of tips and tricks just to make your brain dumps even more effective.
[00:01:45] I was trying to think back to the first time I taught about brain dumps and it was at my very first workshop ever. I love how powerful these are and really I can go back even further than that. I see brain dumps as being so effective, , but especially for those who are dyslexic or a d d, I’m both those who maybe get easily distracted, who are constantly carrying and holding on to all of these different things, and it’s keeping you up at night. It’s adding to your stress. I grabbed onto these so early in some form.
[00:02:20] I didn’t know it was called a brain dump back then, but I remember using these in high school because I was getting all of these different assignments and tasks from different teachers, different classes, and I needed a way to prioritize them. So let’s get in to the power of the brain dump.
[00:02:37] Brain dumps are simple, but they’re also incredibly effective method for organizing all of your thoughts, reclaiming your focus, and being able to know what you should do next. And maybe that is the most powerful thing, because if you’re. Feeling stuck. A brain dump can get you unstuck. I use brain dumps every time I need to get the thoughts out of my head and into an organized format that’s going to allow me to clearly see what should come first.
[00:03:35] So that’s whether I’m doing a brand new project, I have some big new course or idea that I need to flush out or it’s, there’s just too many things going on in my head and maybe we’re talking about there’s home things and work things and parent things. Spouses things and family things, and I just need to get all of that chaos that is stirring around up in my head and I need to get it.
[00:03:59] Now, I think there’s really two different kinds of brain dumps. There’s the emotional brain dump where you’re almost using it like a therapy session, like a journal, and you’re just dumping out all of the feelings. I’m gonna be focusing on organizational brain dumps. This is what I love. This is what I use.
[00:04:16] So to start a brain dump, we simply dump it all out. It’s the equivalent of dumping a puzzle out onto the table. You just let everything fall out. There’s no judgment, there’s no concern. Where it all lands, you’re just letting it all dump out onto a piece of paper. I always use paper and pen, but you could literally use a greaseboard sticky notes, your iPad or your your remarkable, anything that you like to use, you’re just getting all the thoughts out with no concern about where they fall.
[00:04:48] We’ll get to that part next now. It’s all messy and it’s time to tidy it up, and I’m going to actually start with something that is not what you’ve normally heard, but I think it’s so important and it’s really powerful. Instead of starting with what is the most important thing, that’s actually gonna be step two for us.
[00:05:09] Step one is going to be asking ourselves if there’s anything that we can just remove off the list completely.
[00:05:16] James Clear has a quote that goes something like, the best form of time management is saying no. So let’s just start by looking at everything we’ve dumped out and seeing if there’s anything we get to just say, no, thank you. That does not even need to be done. That is not a priority. We have an incredible.
[00:05:36] Podcast episode with Lighty Clouts about the power of subtraction. It’s episode 17. He has an amazing book called Subtract, and it’s just this idea that when there is a problem, our go-to instinct is to figure out what we need to add. Oh, what do I need to do in order to solve this? But what if more often?
[00:05:58] There’s actually going to be greater power in subtracting, but our minds just don’t go there naturally. So that’s where I want you to start. You’re looking at this big messy list, and the first thing, is there anything that you get to just slash you can cross out. You can say, Nope, don’t, don’t need to do that.
[00:06:16] Now that we’ve hopefully removed a couple of things for you, now we’re gonna start looking for those highest priorities. And what I’m looking for is the obvious, keeping with my, my puzzle analogy. And what I’m looking for is the obvious. If we’re keeping with my puzzle analogy, we’re looking for the corners, right?
[00:06:35] We’re looking for the frame that’s gonna go around. These are those most important tasks. They might be urgent, they have a deadline attached to. Or they’re just obvious first steps. They are the things that will make the biggest impact possibly, or they have a deadline attached to ’em. When I’m judging based on biggest impact, I am really looking for two things to be solved.
[00:07:04] Can it make me more money? Can it save me more time? And if there are several tasks where I’m saying, oh, well these are all higher priority because they can do those things, then it just becomes, well, which one can save me the most time? Which one could make me the most money? And those are going to naturally rise up and become higher up on the list.
[00:07:25] So I’m just looking at this big dumped out mess of items. And I’m starting to give them a number. I’m starting to say, okay, well this one definitely needs to be number one. This one’s number two, and it’s messy. I’m gonna probably decide that something is number three, and then read down. And realize, oh shoot, this should actually be three.
[00:07:47] So the first one just became three B, and the new one becomes three A, because no one’s seeing this but me. This doesn’t have to look good. It doesn’t have to have any capacity that is understood by anyone other than me. Sometimes I’m using a highlighter and I’m kind of highlighting the biggest priorities.
[00:08:04] Sometimes I’m just numbering. It’s whatever works and visually makes sense for you. Then I start moving these items into their proper. What we’re trying to do is we’re going from the chaos and we’re bringing all of these thoughts into a linear format where we actually can see step one, step two, step three.
[00:08:26] Sometimes it’s obvious because there’s a natural progression. If I am thinking about a podcast episode, well, I need to research and create the podcast. Copy first, then I would record it. Then it would go to get edited. Then we would create the show notes, then we would create the graphics. There’s this very, very natural order.
[00:08:51] Sometimes it’s that simple, and so I’m working to figure out the order within that area. Maybe those ones are gonna look like three A, B, C, D, E, f, G. There might be other things that I’m like, well, this needs to be done cuz it is due today. So that is number one. And maybe another thing is something that I’ve been really wanting to do.
[00:09:11] This is the working on your business, not just in your business. This is gonna save me time, it’s gonna make me more money. So I’m gonna push that up as a higher priority and give that the two spot. So you can see I’m starting to get this sense of where everything is gonna go. There are things that are really fast and simple.
[00:09:30] These are two minutes or less. I’m gonna probably move a lot of those onto my daily. Five. These are the top five things I wanna get done that day. But the bigger items, the items that I know are gonna take a chunk of time for me to do. I actually start scheduling right into my calendar. So I see that number two is gonna maybe take me about.
[00:09:54] 30 to 45 minutes. So I block in 45 minutes on my calendar and list out what that item is somewhere in the week, depending on if there’s urgency or what it is. But I’m literally moving these items right into my calendar. So if you were to look at my calendar right now, you would see that there are blocks of time scheduled.
[00:10:17] Create YouTube video, create and schedule. Uh, Facebook reels. There are things that I’m blocking into the schedule because once I dumped them all out, I thought, okay, well, where are these gonna fit? And I actually start making room right in my calendar and blocking out my week with these different action items that I want to get done.
[00:10:39] Now, there’s going to be things typically left over on. Brain dump list. So I’ve moved some of the things to my top five, like, oh, these are the first five things. I’m gonna do those today. I’ve moved some of ’em and actually scheduled it into my calendar, but often I have additional things that are just sort of sitting on the list.
[00:11:00] Those go into an. Organized format. Again, I’m prioritizing them, starting with the number one spot going all the way down, and then those go out of sight. So typically I’m transferring over to either the Remind app or the notes app. That way I can see it from anywhere, whether it’s my computer, my laptop, my phone, so they’re somewhere where I can access it anywhere.
[00:11:22] I don’t have to worry that, oh shoot, I forgot my notepad at my office and now I don’t have my list. But I don’t want it to be something I’m looking. All the time. I, if it was a piece of paper, I’d literally put it in a drawer. In this case, it’s moving into notes, and then I’m closing that because I don’t ever want to work off of a huge to-do list.
[00:11:43] It’s too discouraging. You never get to the bottom. So even if you’ve been really productive, It doesn’t feel super productive. So instead I take the most important tasks, I move them to my daily five. Those are gonna be the top things I schedule other things in that are gonna be bigger chunks of time, and then I put that list away and tomorrow I can grab the next five items, move those to my daily five, and I can work to make progress off this list.
[00:12:09] I feel like the only time when that really doesn’t happen is day bef before a vacation, and then somehow we miraculously can get. 30 items when normally you can’t get through more than three. It’s incredible. I love the idea.
[00:12:23] It’s Tim Ferris’s idea. If you could make every single day, like the day before vacation Oh wow. The amount we could get done. And I don’t know if that’s fully sustainable, but that really is how I try to. My days, but just in short chunks, like I’m gonna be so productive. I’m gonna sit down, I’m gonna make so much happen, and then I’m out, and then I am walking away, I’m closing the door and I’m, I’m moving on to the other things.
[00:12:48] Using brain dumps, it becomes really easy for me to take all that chaotic messiness and organize it where I can see a clear first step and a clear last step.
[00:12:59] If you are finding yourself in one of those moments where there’s just too many thoughts, Rushing around in your head, try the brain dump, and if you find yourself you’re going to sleep at night and there’s all these thoughts, dump it all out. Just wait to organize till the morning. The biggest thing is your brain is worried you’re going to forget these different things.
[00:13:21] It is so important. You can’t forget this. So it keeps rushing back to the forefront. Dump it out onto paper and then you can give yourself permission like, okay, okay brain, we got this. Don’t worry, I’m not gonna forget. Now it’s written down and then you can rest. And then in the morning you can take all of those thoughts and get them organized.
[00:13:39] So there’s my take on brain dumps and how I use organizational brain dumps to keep me focused. Use a brain dump when you’re planning your next project. Work with it when you’ve got too many thoughts in your head.
[00:13:52] But the key is to stop trying to remember all the things in your mind. And instead get them onto paper, let them out so that you can relieve that stress on your brain that is trying so hard to recall and bring these up even at really inopportune times because there’s this fear that you’re going to forget something that is important.
[00:14:15] That is this episode of The Balancing Busy Podcast. Thank you so much for being a part of this podcast. If you have not yet, please take a moment and make sure you’re subscribed and downloading the episodes so that I can keep giving you needle movers that are going to help you balance the busy, but with more.Hide Transcript