Brain Dumping! 5 Tips for Sorting Your Thoughts and Ideas More Effectively

Brain Dumping! 5 Tips for Sorting Your Thoughts and Ideas More Effectively

Brain dump: the act or an instance of comprehensively and uncritically expressing and recording one's thoughts and ideas (as on a particular topic)

Brain dumping (or brain storming) is one of my all-time favorite creative exercises. Basically, it's  making a giant list of everything that's going on in your mind at the time, and can be used for all sorts of purposes. It's a wonderful way to sort out your thoughts, clear your mind, and spark new ideas.

I often use it when I start to feel overwhelmed by my work. There's something so calming about emptying my mind of all of the chaotic thoughts tossing around, and getting them down onto paper where I can see them, organize them, and make a plan for how to move forward. It's like I'm de-cluttering my brain!

I also use it when I'm feeling a little creatively blocked, to help the ideas start flowing again, especially when I have some kind of prompt! If there's a particular topic I'm looking at, I'll start by writing down all the thoughts that pop into my head that are related to that topic in any way. These thoughts will then tend to naturally branch out into ideas that might be a little more complex, and then those branch out and lead to new ideas as well. And then at the end of it, I have a whole list of potential ideas to work with!

So because I brain dump SO often (on the daily), I've come up with my 5 top tips for how to use it in the most effective way.

1. Write down ALL of the ideas, even if you think (or know) that they're bad.
Trust me when I tell you that if you don't write down that idea that's in the front of your mind, the one that you know isn't "the one", the one that might be the worst idea you've ever had, it will just SIT THERE. In your brain. Clogging it up. It's bizarre, but it happens to me every. single. time.

So if you take anything from this list, take this: write it ALL down. You can sort out good and bad later. And you never know - maybe the not-so-good idea will spark an amazing idea! Creativity and inspiration move in mysterious ways.

2. Brain dump in the same place everyday so your lists are together.
There is nothing quite as devastating as losing a really good brainstorming list! Keep them in a safe place, all together, where you can review and compare later. Being able to revisit old notes, sketchbooks, and idea lists is one of my favorite ways to find inspiration!

3. Brain dump with a partner.
Sometimes (or a lot of the time) having another perspective has a way of taking your ideas to a WHOLE new level. Talking out loud about your ideas and bouncing them off of friends is a wonderful way to elevate and strengthen your ideas while spending time with people you love.

4. Find a format that you like.
There are so many different ways that brainstorms can be formatted. My personal favorite way to do it is to list everything out in Excel, then color code it and sort things into groups! I'm also partial to writing everything down in a sketchbook, and then simply putting little stars next to the ideas that are my favorites. I'll also often write things down in more of an outline format, with larger idea categories having related ideas indented beneath them.

If you're looking for a more visual way to go about it, you could make a word web! (Did anyone else make these in elementary school? SO fun!)
I usually adapt my format to how I'm feeling at the time, and how well it fits in with the topic I'm brainstorming about.

5. The best ideas often come when you are out of your house and out doing something completely out of your normal routine.
My FAVORITE place to brainstorm is my local coffee shop. It seems like my best ideas come to me when I'm there, mocha in hand, with nothing but my sketchbook and some good music. Taking away all of my regular distractions for an hour or two is such a game changer when it comes to this exercise.

I hope you've found this list helpful! If you're looking for an inspirational jump start right now, check out our Starter Guide to Living a Creative Life!
It's a FREE guide with: 
  • 30 days of creative prompts
  • Worksheet to discover your creative "why"
  • FREE downloadable art print
  • Collection of inspiring creativity quotes
Learn more and get your starter kit HERE!

Back to blog