Bring a dump truck


If you have too much to do and don’t know where to start, the first step, according to David Allen’s Getting Things Done method, is to do a brain dump.

Get everything out of your head and onto a list—everything you need to do or want to do, all of your ideas and obligations, everything you can think of that might be in your way of achieving your goals.

If you keep things in your head, they nag at you and confuse you and stop you from taking action because there is always too much to do.

“Your brain is for having ideas, not holding them,” Allen says.

By getting everything onto paper or into an app, you can stand back from the lot, evaluate everything in comparison to everything else, and make decisions about what to do.

If you’ve never done a brain dump before, or it’s been awhile since you did, give it a try. Most people report an enormous sense of relief once they have everything out of their head and onto a list.

There’s no right or wrong way to do it. Some people write in a journal, some use a scratch pad, some type, some dictate.

Pick a tool that feels right to you and start.

As you make your list, don’t edit, don’t cross out anything, don’t worry about duplicates, and don’t try to figure out how you’re doing to do any particular task.

For now, just dump.

You’ll probably want to do more than one session because you won’t think of everything the first time. You may also want to use a mind sweep “trigger list” to prompt you to recall things in different areas of your life.

When you can’t think of anything else, go through your calendar and task apps or any other lists you have and add these to your list.

Record everything in one place. A “trusted system,” Allen calls it. And relax, because you’re on your way to clarity and calm.

Give yourself a day or two away from the list and come back to it with fresh eyes.

No doubt you’ll see a lot of things you can immediately eliminate or put on a someday/maybe list. You’ll also see things you want to or need to do that can wait. Finally, you’ll identify things you need to do next and know you haven’t forgotten anything important.

And then you can get to work.