Imagine trying to craft and important letter while babysitting a three year old, watching Jerry Springer, exercising and having a phone conversation with your mother all at the same time. You probably wouldn’t be very effective.

We all know that when it’s time write, to solve a problem or be creative, we close off all of our distractions, go somewhere quiet and go to work, but many of us skip a really important step that can allow us to be much more creative, clear and concise when we sit down to blank page, work through an issue or dream out next great dream. It’s what I like to call the Mind Dump.

In his outstanding book Getting Things Done, David Allen writes about each of us having only so much Physic Bandwidth; that our attention can only be spread across a limited number of tasks and projects and that all of these little “things” stealing our attention are zapping our creativity. He makes the point that our heads are for having ideas, not for storing them and that by keeping lists we can take control of our attention. 

This singular habit has been a Godsend to me. So much so that the first thing I do when I’m stressed is to make a list of all of the tasks that I need to accomplish in a given time and almost like taking a pill, my stress is reduced and my attention is heightened. This is the power of a Mind Dump. It’s the equivalent of returning the three year old to their parents, unplugging the television, getting off the treadmill and hanging up the phone. Eliminating all of our internal distractions is every bit as freeing as turning off our external ones. 

If this sounds simple, that’s because it is.

All of the projects, tasks and appointments swimming in your head are every bit as distracting as a three year old screaming at you to change the television station. Simply taking a legal pad and making a list of everything, dumping it all from your mind can give you the space and clarity that it takes to be creative.

I find the best times to use a Mind Dump are before I write, before I leave the office for the day and before I go to bed.

  • I do it before I write because writing demands a ton of creative energy and I don’t need my grocery list sucking my most valuable resource.
  • I do it before I leave the office because I believe I owe it to my wife and kids to have my head in the game when I walk through the door at home.
  • I do it before I go to sleep because there is a tremendously relaxing effect of dumping all of my responsibilities out of my head before my head hits the pillow.

All of this may seem excessive but I believe that you’ll find that the more frequently you dump your mind, the less there is to empty.

My favorite tools for executing a mind dump vary. Many times I use an old fashioned legal pad. Other times, when I know that something is time specific, it goes directly onto my calendar or one of my task lists. If it’s simply something that’s on my mind that I need to give more thought to, it goes onto one of the lists in my phone on Google Keep.

No matter when you do it, what tools you use or what you need to accomplish, harness the Power of the Mind Dump and you may just find the key to unlocking untold creative clarity. 

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