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The Ultimate Study Hack: Brain Dumping

Written by Christine Rees

More and more students are brain dumping to help them learn. Find out how you can master this latest organizational trick.

Just like dumping out your school bag at the end of the year, you dump all your thoughts out of your head and onto paper. Write everything down. Everything. Anything that’s been nagging you, thoughts that won’t quit, things you absolutely need to get done, and tasks you’re afraid you won’t have time to finish. Write them all down until the pressure lifts and you can take a deep breath.

Don’t hold back.

Why is brain dumping important?

Release is essential. When you’re trying to remember everything, you lose your ability to focus. Retaining information feels like it’s piling on top of your memory bank and the pressure makes studying an especially excruciating task.

Our minds are a messy place. They can leave us feeling anxious, nervous, frustrated, and stressed. When you’re already worried about passing your next exam, it can feel like a growing weight pressing down on you. Alleviate that stress by writing it out. Information you need to remember, to-do lists, and projects you want to accomplish are all part of a brain dump. By pouring it onto paper, you no longer need to commit them all to memory. This frees up your headspace so you can work on other things.

What benefits will I receive?

You’ll find a new home for the abstract thoughts flying around your head, so you can identify easy-to-do tasks and check things off your growing list. When those abstract thoughts are down on paper, you can view them from a clearer perspective to make those projects a reality. You can organize them efficiently and develop a game plan to get them done. It helps you make things happen.

How can I organize my thoughts?

Thoughts are difficult to untangle on our own. Writing them down helps.

My suggestion is to make bullet notes and secondary bullet notes that relate to each other like so:

  • Bullet Note
    • Secondary Bullet Note

Divide ideas. Use separate paper or notebooks, dividing lines, headings, and even colour-coding methods to keep your thoughts organized. This way, it will be easier to distinguish to-do items from grocery lists and passion projects, so you can work towards your goals more effectively.

How will I find what I need, when I need it?

It depends on your brain dumping process. I make to-do lists and cross them off as I go, but for idea or informational brain dumps, I place them in notebooks specific to the subject. For example, I have a “Book Idea” notebook, a “Student Life Network Idea” notebook, and a “Blog Idea” notebook (among others) that make it easier to find notes pertaining to the subject or job I’m looking into. I even have a “To-Do List” notebook for days when I don’t feel like using my planner.

Find a method that works for you and stick to it. It may be as simple as colour-coding.

How does brain dumping “untangle my mind”?

When you write something down, you clear your head of it. You stop fretting over forgetting it because you have a reminder somewhere else. It clears your mind so you can focus on the next task. When that’s done, you cross it off your brain dump and work on the next project.

For lack of a better word, a brain dump “dumps” your chaotic thoughts onto paper so you can organize them and complete each one without stressing over the others.

How often do you brain dump?

As often as necessary! When you feel the pressure build and stress quickly becomes your annoying best friend, don’t wait until you’re swept away by the tasks flying around your head. Whether you’re planning a trip, compiling daily to-do lists, or organizing passion projects—brain dump them all.

Relieve your mind of its thought tornado and write them out.


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*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.