Let’s Talk About a Brain Dump

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In my life, Monday mornings begin with a routine that’s designed to set up the rest of my week. Last month we tackled the Power Hour, what it is, how to do it and the magnitude of its impact. The feedback I received was incredible! However, I may have delivered these in backwards order because the Power Hour is the second step. What comes first is the Brain Dump. So, read this first, then at the bottom, click the link to learn all about step #2, The Power Hour.

Many people are list makers. They get huge amounts of satisfaction crossing things off the list. To the point that they’ll complete something not on a list and go back to their list, write it down and cross it off, just to satisfy the internal sense of accomplishment. I’m guilty, are you?

The to-do list serves as a road map to effectively move the needle forward on projects, tasks and things that just need to be done. Or, does it?

Not everything that shows up on a regular ole’ list has equal importance or equal urgency. As a business owner, everything on a list might truly need to be done, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be done by you. Some items might carry a multimillion-dollar impact, while others only support making sure the trash is regularly removed from the office. There are lists and then there are Brain Dumps.

A Brain Dump makes your to-do list strategic. It involved setting priorities, forces you to take things off your plate, create effective systems and finally put in your calendar the items that you will be doing. Are you thinking this could be helpful? Let’s walk through it, step by step.

1. Write it all down…all of it

This is where the term Brain Dump originates. Just you, a piece of paper and a pen. What’s informing this list? Your calendar, random thoughts in your mind, an email inbox and any half-completed lists laying around. Dump it out of your head onto one clear place. If it’s remembering to schedule an orthodontist appointment, write it down. If it’s completing a proposal with a pressing deadline, write it down. Any and all things, whether personal or professional, get it out of your cranium and on that paper! (Or in your electronic document of choice.) This is the first step and frankly, it’s pretty cleansing. Keeping track of all these things in your head requires energy, energy you may not have to give. And depending on the length of the list, remembering it all can be a nearly impossible task.

2. Set up the strategy

Now that the list is out of your head, let’s set up the strategy, using a tool originally used by the late, great Conrad Hilton. Take a clean piece of paper and put a line down the center, from top to bottom and another across the center from left to right, dividing the page into four equal quadrants. At the very top of the page, write down your purpose. Maybe this is the company mission statement, maybe it’s your role inside that company mission, or it could be your personal mission statement. Since we’re making this list strategic, the first step is to make sure the tasks you’re assigning are in alignment with your purpose!

3. Prioritize the list

Label the top left quadrant, Goal #1, the top right Goal #2, the bottom left Goal #3 and the bottom right is labeled Miscellaneous. Then identify your top three goals in this season and make that goal the title of its respective quadrant. Referencing the original Brain Dump, look for all tasks directly related to your Goal #1 and write it in that quadrant. Then do this for Goal #2 and Goal #3. Finally, everything left over, that didn’t fall into the first three boxes, gets listed under Miscellaneous. Once you’ve done steps 1 and 2 a few times, you’ll find you have the wisdom to do them together and not need to make two separate lists.

4. Schedule the priorities

The last step asked you to determine the importance of items, this step will ask you to consider the urgency. Look at each task under Goal #1 and write down the amount of time you believe it will require to complete this task. Then pull up your calendar and schedule an appointment with yourself to complete these tasks. Some will need to be scheduled this week and others, in weeks or months to come. Whatever the case, it’s out of your head and a future time has been earmarked for its completion. Repeat this with tasks under Goal #2 and Goal #3.

5. The Miscellaneous Quadrant

If you’re familiar with the Pareto Principle (80% of the results come from 20% of the effort), then the last few steps just identified the top 20% of activities, hopefully driving the most important 80% of your impact! This fourth list is the exact opposite, things that can take 80% of your time and energy, yet only drive 20% (or possibly less) of the results. Translate, things you want to take off your plate! I encourage you to make the following happen with anything listed here: assign it to other staff, create a system so you don’t have to regularly touch it or hire a Virtual Assistant to handle it. For everything else, things that absolutely can only be done by you, set aside a time, maybe during non-peak working hours to barrel through these and remove them from your list.

6. The Power Hour

This is where the Power Hour comes into play! You might need it for the most pressing, high priority action to land that next client! Or it might be a list of 23 things you can’t delegate, that aren’t a priority, but need to get done! Read last month’s blog, set the timer and get on it!

That’s it!

This is my Monday morning every single week. By utilizing this tool, one client stated that she finally didn’t feel like she was running a fire drill every week! And had most of her items completed by Thursday afternoon, giving her an extra day each week to work on other projects that had been repeatedly placed on hold. A different client hired an assistant to regularly take things off his plate and found $45,000 in additional billable hours within his personal schedule. Any tools that decrease stress or can impact the bottom line are invaluable.

Again, I double dog dare you to give this a try and see how it impacts your week!

Finally, if you’re left wondering what your top three goals are? Or not sure how to take the Miscellaneous items off your plate, please reach out! I’m happy to help you get focused and set up supporting systems to help you lower your stress and increase efficiency!

The Difference a Power Hour Makes