The Art of ‘Brain Dumping’ – a starting point for effective writing


‘Writer’s block is something that happens while you’re actually writing, right?’ Wrong!

We’ve all faced the challenge of getting stuck writing before we actually start writing! The actual task of focussing and deciding where to actually start is sometimes a challenge in itself. A simple solution to this is to perform what is known as a ‘brain dump’.

In this post we’ll briefly take about what it is, how to do it and how exactly it can help you with starting writing whether it’s an essay, proposal or dissertation you need to get started on.

What is it?

A ‘brain dump’ or ‘brain dumping’ is the simple method of clearing out the clutter in your mind by writing out all your thoughts onto paper. One reason why it’s very hard to start writing is we don’t have a clear idea of what to or how to do it because of the overload of thoughts that clutter our minds.

A ‘brain dump’ will allow you to empty out these spiralling thoughts in order to organise them logically and pick a starting point for the task you have at hand. Think of it as simply pouring out your mind onto a plain sheet of paper so you can see your thoughts one by one.


How do you do it?

There is no magic trick to this. You simply get a plain piece of paper – preferably A4 size, and write the topic of focus. This could be the title of your essay or the task you’re going to do, i.e: my proposal, my dissertation, my thesis.

Once you’ve written the topic of focus, begin to freely write all the connected thoughts that rush to your mind. The key here is to allow the ideas to flow, uninterrupted. You should write down everything connected to the topic that comes to your mind.

Style

There are several ways to write out your thoughts. You can simply:

  • list them: one after the other, thought after thought;
  • create thought bubbles: each thought contained in its own capsule;
  • make a spider diagram: write the topic at the centre of the page and work your way from the centre outwards by writing thoughts connected to the topic;
  • make a mind map: start from the topic and list your thoughts as they branch out, taking each thought in a separate direction so you have branches of similar, connected thoughts
  • create a flow chart: start with the topic at the stop of the page followed by your thoughts in the order they appear, use arrows to connect the order


What are the benefits?

Besides the obvious benefit of helping you avoid serious procrastination by getting started on writing, a brain dump will help you:

  • clear you mind of clutter and focus on the task at hand;
  • visualise your ideas in order to help you organise them;
  • prepare a plan for the writing task at hand;
  • create a timetable or make a realistic to-do list;
  • work out what resources you need i.e.: books, articles, journals, websites or equipment such as stationery supplies

I hope you’ve found this post helpful in getting started on writing by planning and organising your thoughts. I will be posting new content on effective writing strategies, so make sure you sign up to my mailing list for instant notification on more study and academic writing tips.

Happy brain dumping!

~Nafisa

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5 Quick Mindfulness Activities to Help You Focus

 

There are times when we all struggle to focus on tasks ahead of us. If we do not know how to manage this, we often end up procrastinating or abandoning the task altogether. We can however, practise some mindfulness activities that can help improve our overall focus for better well-being and productivity. Here are some quick mindfulness activities you can practise at home, school or work:

#1 – Breathing focus

When you first wake up in the morning, stay in bed for an extra 2 minutes and focus only on your breathing. Inhale and exhale slowly, paying careful attention to your breathing. Allow the thoughts of the days to come and go while you focus entirely on your breathing. If your mind wanders, bring it back by focussing entirely on your breathing.

#2 – Mindfulness relaxation

This activity can be done pretty much anywhere. The ideal way to do this is before you start any task so you can boost your concentration levels. For example, before you start reading, take 10 minutes to close your eyes, sit up straight and relax. Again, focus entirely on your breathing, paying close attention to the sensation of inhaling and exhaling deeply but gently. To help your mind focus on your breathing, silently count each exhalation.

#3 – Apply focus and awareness to everything your do

The objective of mindfulness is to unclutter your mind by keeping it sharp and clear. Instead of trying to multi-task, you choose to focus on the single task you are doing. Be aware of internal and external distractions as they creep in by being focussed and aware of the single task you are doing. This is the opposite of multi-tasking. Your productivity increases and mistakes decrease when you concentrate only on the present moment and task at hand.

#4 – 60 seconds mindfulness performance breaks

Try to regularly stop what you’re doing during the day and focus on your breathing only. This will help clear your mind and stay alert especially in moments where you feel flustered and confused. Whenever you find a minute to spare, these small bursts of 60 seconds mindfulness performance breaks can refresh your concentration levels and help your stay alert throughout the day.

#5 – Do absolutely nothing when commuting

Whilst commuting, do not reach for your phone, iPad or any other distraction device. Turn everything off and focus on the present moment. Allow the thoughts of the day to pass while you focus on your breathing. The essence again is to let go of doing anything and simply be. This will help you let go of all the stresses of the day and the commute so you can return home feeling calm and fully present.

I hope these activities inspire you to focus, be calm and stay present. Remember, it takes practise and it’s absolutely OK if you don’t manage at first. The trick is to focus on breathing and allow wandering thoughts to pass through your mind without engaging in any of them.

~ Nafisa

*Source: Improving Teacher Hapiness & Well-being: A collection of expert resources (Iris Connect)