How to Brain Dump and Mind Map

I am in a unique position where I get to witness every parenting style on a daily basis. It’s amazing to see families learn from each other, to take advantage of their knowledge and grow from one another’s experiences. As I’ve watched this happen, I have found there are a handful of things we all have in common as parents – including a constant feeling of being overwhelmed.

Pack lunches. Feed baby. Dress toddler. Pay bills. Holiday gift idea. Finish book. Switch laundry. Schedule appointments. Get to bank. Call your mom (seriously, do it now!). Cute cake idea. Research effects gluten has on a thyroid. Play date. Diapers. Dance shoes. Craft ideas. Change the oil. Text the husband. Read an article. Empty dish washer. Sort the toys. Eat. 

Our minds are constantly thinking of how to polish off that to-do list. I work so much better if my priorities are outlined, my goals are divided into manageable steps and I have time to accomplish them. I’m not here to make any promise about the latest way to have more time; but, I believe that an effective brain dump, mind map and planner session each week can really help with that constant feeling of being overwhelmed. Getting into this habit is hard, but it’s so worth the effort!

The first part is a brain dump. Set aside 15-30 minutes for this activity. You want to get all of your mental to-do’s on paper. Use a pen and paper and actually write; it’s way more effective than typing. This might be hard, but organization doesn’t matter at this point. Just write.

Turn on some music. Ditch your phone. Just write.

Dump everything you have in your mind that you need to do. Do not stop if you think you’re done. Dump it all.

Now, leave it and come back or do the next step immediately.

For all you Type A’s, it’s time to organize this list. (Type B’s, read the guidelines but I know you’re going to do your own thing, anyway). Really, how you organize this is your choice, but I’ll go over the steps I use:

First, if you need to divide your dump into categories, this is the time. You can highlight each item in a coordinating color. Or make columns. I personally divide into “work” and “personal” categories. Being an entrepreneur, they kind of blend together but it’s important to have some separation for sanity’s sake.

The next step is the most important. Again, it doesn’t matter how you execute, but really think about this one. Divide your list into 5 categories (which will later help create your to-do list to plug into your planner):

These are things that are weighing you down and stressing you out. They probably have deadlines that may have passed and you HAVE to get them done now.

These are things that could soon become must-do’s. They need to get done, but are still approaching or have a short shelf life.

Things on your list that you want to start. These are usually projects with a purpose. Not 100% necessary, but important to you and your family.

These are the Pinterest projects, the “if time allowed,” the dreams. If you had the time to do these, you could. They are not priorities but bring you passion!

These are things that do not matter. You might think they’re important, but after evaluating everything on your list, ask yourself: is it worth your time and energy? If not, let it go (with no guilt, another thing we all have in common).

After all the items from your brain dump have been organized, you can now pull from these categories to mind map, make lists and fill in that planner.

The mind map technique is a great way to take those MUST DO and NEED TO columns (or all of them, if you’re ambitious) and break them down into manageable tasks. Ones that you can cross off. You can use this method on any task that is more than one step.

You want to map out the steps to reach your goal. This is when the colorful pens, stickers, doodles and washi tape are fun. Whatever method you use is great. I will outline mine below.

In the center, I write the task at hand. I then branch off and list the steps. If the steps need broken down further, I do that, as well. These will now become the manageable steps you need to do in order to accomplish your center goal. If this is a recurring task, consider making a permanent step sheet.

Now, get your plannersAgain, I think handwritten is better but if you prefer an electronic version, then do your thing. Your method is personal and should be an enjoyable and practical  task!

My planner method: every Sunday, I start with a brain dump and then move to a mind map (only on my MUST DO task list), check up on events and appointments, and make a plan.

I  open up my Facebook events and scheduled appointments. It’s important to get your time commitments on your plan first. I am a strong believer in “if you’re early, you’re on time.” If you are typically late, work on being early! Other people’s/businesses’ schedules rely on your time commitment. Also, don’t miss out on an experience beneficial to you because you feel overwhelmed with a MUST DO.

My next step is plugging in the personal deadlines, then listing the steps each day to meet those deadlines. Giving each task a time limit is helpful. These are the things you MUST DO. After those are off my mind, I like to add a baby step to one of my NEED TO items. I try to utilize my down time (instead of scrolling through Facebook) to research or Pin ideas to my WANT TO list. Evaluate your SOMEDAY list; usually these are the things that are self-care, passions or your dreams. Give yourself at least one task that’s on your SOMEDAY list. Even if it’s daydreaming a vacation to Paris while working out or driving to work! The SOMEDAYs keep you going, so planning out a chunk of time to focus on them is crucial. And then, there’s the LET IT GO list. Just crumble that up and toss!

This is an ongoing process, but it doesn’t have to be a huge process. It’s your process. It can make you feel like you’ve got it together. But not matter your parenting style or path, having a plan to help with the overwhelm is crucial. Remember, you’ve got this. One manageable step at a time.


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