SO050: Brain Dump Tips (with Virginia Lee)

Season 9: Quick Ways to Organize Your Attitude

This episode is a conversation between Mystie and Virginia Lee Rogers, who helps with member support.

Mystie: So, welcome to the first episode of 2018. So, we’re going to be kicking off the season again with a conversation about brain dumps with Simplified Organization’s Customer Support Assistant, Virginia Lee Rogers. Thanks for joining me, Virginia Lee.

Virginia Lee: Hi, Mystie, hi everyone.

Mystie: Do you want to start with a brief introduction for those who may not know you yet?

Virginia Lee: Sure, I can do that. I live in northern Colorado with my husband. We’ve been married for 17 years and we have five kiddos. Our oldest is 12 and our youngest is 16 months already (oh, it went so fast!). And then, we’re Charlotte Mason homeschoolers, and I guess if you want to know more than the brief introduction you can find me on Instagram. I don’t keep a blog or anything like that but I am on Instagram in quite a few places; I’m one of the nine curators for Charlotte Mason In Real Life on Instagram and I also run an Instagram bookstore called “The Jolly Reader”.

Mystie: So, I like to say that all organization projects should begin with a brain dump. So, I thought that the best place to start would be to talk briefly about what a brain dump is and then we can start talking about tips and hacks and troubleshooting and what works for us and that sort of thing. A brain dump is basically sitting down with a pen and paper and just writing down everything that’s in your head, either everything everything or just everything about a particular problem or a project, maybe, that’s driving you crazy. So, when you get it down and onto paper it really clears your head of the details and lets you look at what’s going on more objectively, it gives you a little perspective. David Allen, author of GTD (Getting Things Done) says that when you use paper to hold the information and the details then your mind is free for creative thinking and problem solving. So, it’s kind of like decluttering your brain.

Virginia Lee: Which we could all use.

Mystie: Especially with Christmas over and the New Year, it’s time to declutter.

Virginia Lee: Most definitely. Well, I have a question for you about that.

Mystie: OK.

Virginia Lee: With brain dumps do you feel like it’s really important to do it on paper or can a brain dump be done in an electronic version or way? I’ve always been curious about that.

Mystie: I’ve done it both ways. It’s kind of depended on what I’m brain dumping about because sometimes I just need to make a list. If my mind is really working fast I can type faster than I can write so then I’ll just open up something in Evernote and just start typing. I think it really depends on the person and the way you think and process. If I’m going to be writing sentences at all then I probably want to be typing because I’ll write better sentences, I’ll think through what I’m thinking about better if I’m typing, fingers move faster, but if I am not sure of the idea, like I’m trying to figure something out and brainstorm, maybe I want this thing over here and then I want to put something over here and make it a little more visual then writing it down is the better way to sort those ideas. And then, also, there’s just sometimes I’ve just had a notebook on the counter with a pen so that just here and there I can add a little bit.

Virginia Lee: That makes sense because on paper you can do things like draw arrows and circle things and sometimes, that definitely if I’m doing a brain dump, helps me to have something circled or this drawn over there, just because I’m visually seeing that I’m moving it that direction.

Mystie: Well, at least I know if I’m doing a brain dump into Evernote I know where it is, which is not always true if I started on the back of an envelope.

Virginia Lee: That is true. I think one of the biggest times I do brain dump is in the middle of the night. Sometimes when I lie down to go to sleep my mind is just going fifty miles an hour so I find that I, a lot of the time, do brain dumps, like I’ve gone to bed then I wake back up again, do a brain dump, and then I lay back down.

Mystie: Does it help you get to sleep?

Virginia Lee: It does, because I’m not trying to remember anything or flush out an idea because I don’t want it to go away. So, I feel like, OK, I’ve put that all on this pad by my bed or I’ve started using the Notes app in my phone because my husband’s sleeping and probably doesn’t need me turning on a light in order to do a brain dump.

Mystie: I think that’s the real power of a brain dump, is it just puts it somewhere where your mind isn’t worried or stressed out about keeping something. It’s safe, it’s right here, it’s outside of my mind.

Virginia Lee: I don’t know about anybody else but my brain dumps are never organized, like are topical. Last night, for instance, I was thinking, ‘OK, I know I’m going to do this podcast with Mystie tomorrow’ and I thought, ooh, I want to make sure this and I wrote that down in the brain dump but then I had also been out with my mom and my sister and some nieces and nephews that day and I had a good idea about a Christmas gift so I wrote that down, and then there was a deal that I was trying to remember that I wanted to look up the next day so I wrote that down, and then there was also a prayer request that entered into my head that I wanted to make sure to pray about before I went to bed, so I wrote that down so my brain dump had multiple different things in it.

Mystie: I think that we don’t realize how stressful it is to try to remember things. I think that that’s a lot of background stress that we’re not even aware of until we start putting our reminders some place where we’re actually going to be reminded.

Virginia Lee: And not just reminders, but if you’re working on a talk somewhere or you’re going to have an important conversation with someone. Sometimes these things enter into your head, you don’t want to forget them, they’re important, so I feel like I could have a time when I know that I need to sit down and do a brain dump but sometimes I do just quick brain dumps at certain times throughout the day so that I don’t forget. Maybe it’s just a prompting from the Holy Spirit that I need to remember and think on more, I can put that down, too.

Mystie: Because the brain dump itself isn’t a home for the ideas. The brain dump is just getting it out so you can move on and then you also have to have built in times to go over and put everything away, basically. So, it’s like this catch all bag, that you’re putting things in but then once a day or once a week you have to go through and take that bag and put everything back in it’s home. It really is like de-cluttering.

Virginia Lee: Well, I think the brain dump for me is just to keep mental processes at peace.

Mystie: Yeah.

Virginia Lee: So, I still have to have other organizational systems in my life. The brain dump for me is to keep mental, myself sane.

Mystie: The almost scheduled, or I’m going to sit down and brain dump time is especially important if you’ve never done one before, or if you don’t really have organization systems set up yet, you’re just getting started with that, then it is this more project of its own, but once you’ve done that and processed it and you have your systems set up then really the brain dump is just the catch all, here and there, as you come up with things. The only time now I really sit down and “OK, this is my brain dump time” is if I’m starting a new project or if I get that feeling of being overwhelmed I’ll usually sit down and say, “OK, why do I feel overwhelmed?” and start listing out all the things—now I know why I’m feeling that way and I can do something about it. It really helps.

Brain Dump Tips (with Virginia Lee)

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