You’ve had a crazy busy day with clients, not to mention managing your mini-empire and just generally surviving in life. By the time evening rolls around you’re more than ready to snuggle up with your puppers or your kitty or your Netflix account in bed (or all three), and then… IT happens.
Suddenly you’re lying flat on your back, staring at the ceiling, eyes burning, and your brain. won’t. shut. up.
Oh yeah, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
It’s a curse bestowed on every creative entrepreneur I’ve ever met.
Your brain: Oh man, it feels so good to lie down. Sleep now?
Also your brain: Not so fast there, sugar. *evil chuckle* Did you send out that client email today? Ooh, you should probably think about redoing your website. You also forgot to work on that course that you bought months ago like you promised yourself, and oh yeah… have you considered implementing that new software you were looking at? And don’t forget that client’s response to you this morning. Are they pissed at you do you think? And what about…
Oh don’t worry, you’re absolutely normal. In fact, if you didn’t experience this I’d be a little concerned.
We’re entrepreneurs and people with full lives — our poor brains are trying to keep track of a bajillion to-dos and ideas, and it’s just not able to keep up.
So instead of letting us be strategic and progressing on one or two projects at a time, our brain starts slamming the nuclear power plant’s “Meltdown!” button, keeping us from getting decent rest and hijacking our productivity the next day. #damnitbrain
Well, I don’t know about you, but I hate feeling this way. So, in order to let my gray matter push the “snooze” button on my anxiety alarm and actually get sh&t done, I use an enhanced “brain dump” strategy. Wanna know my secrets?
Schedule a hot date with yourself
First off, find some paper, your favorite pen, and a quiet(ish) place to sit. Your bed, the bathroom (if you need to hide from a partner and/or kids), your local coffee shop… there’s a lot to be said for getting out of familiar surroundings. Basically you just need a place where you won’t be distracted and can think.
Then start writing down every idea, I-really-should-do-this, project, or to-do that comes to mind. Business, personal life, family life, dreams and goals… whatever you think of, it all counts.
Just a word of caution — this is a stream of consciousness process. Don’t even think about trying to organize this stuff yet! Right now the point is to let your brain gack all over the page and then bask in that post-upchuck relief.
Reset your gray matter
Alright, I bet you didn’t see this one coming. Most people don’t.
Did you know that being out in nature for just 20 minutes can measurably reduce your stress level, improve your creativity, and gives you the power to leap buildings in a single bound? (Okay, yeah, maybe not that last one, but the other two are true!) I try to spend at least an hour every day skiing (downhill or cross-country) for this very reason. And, ya know, it keeps the peaches firm. ;)
After your writing slows down and you’ve started staring blankly at the wall (post-idea-spewing), I want you to take a deep breath (actually, three) and go for a walk. Slip on your shoes, walk through the door, and go outside to wander for a bit.
By taking a walk (and not driving, biking, or rollerblading) you’re preserving your thoughtful mindset and thoughts can continue bubbling up.
Are you back yet? Good! Now add anything else you thought of during your walk to your list! Don’t worry about remembering everything-- if it’s truly critical you won’t forget. Trust the process.
Analyze and evaluate
Now that you’ve successfully defogged your brain, you can pass GO and proceed to Marie Kondo your thoughts… because without a plan, it’s still just a bunch of to-dos on paper that will stress you out.
Here’s an example of what this looks like on a daily basis for me (full disclosure, I totally got this from my operations director--Nicole Boucher!) If you’ve never done this kind of dump’n’organize, your lists will be much longer or the’s projects will be bigger than what I have here-- don’t fret! That’s healthy.
Example of What this Might Look Like Once You Organize it By Project, Company or Facet of Your Life:
I suggest sorting all your items by category first (things like per each business, per project, per team, personal, family, etc), and then going back through to rank them by importance. Now you can decide which of these tasks will give you the most bang for your buck and make a plan for implementation!
Categorizing and ranking gives you the ability to see how it’s all interconnected… maybe you need to write new website copy before you overhaul your website design, or perhaps you need to implement more structure into your day to accomplish your client work and improve your skills.
I wish I could say that doing this completely silences your brain’s tendency to act like a hamster on speed (it doesn’t), but it is a very effective management technique.
Actually, the fact that it doesn’t shut your brain up means you’re probably a pretty creative person with lots of goals and aspirations, right? Or maybe you just have ADD and didn’t know about it until recently-- if that’s the case, ummm… hi! Me too. #mixedblessings #allthecoffee
So in light of these epiphanies, I recommend repeating this exercise on a regular basis (weekly or daily, even!) and keeping your list in a dedicated notebook or a Google doc, something that’s easy to access and add to. I like to write mine in a blank artist’s notebook so I can go back and reference previous days. Plus, the blank slate leaves me lots of room to dream and write!
Once you have everything out of your head, you’ll feel less overwhelmed and can start making strategic business plans that can actually be implemented!
Give it a try, and let me know how it goes in the comments!
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