I’ve bought fancy planners, personalised journals, and special calendars, all in the hope that I might use them to help me organise my life, but it never works.
What works for me is a brain dump journal – a planner system that you can set up to really work for you and your family.
After years of buying fancy planners, and attempting bullet journals, only to fail miserably every time I knew I needed to find a different option, something that is simple, something that I might just be able to stick at for an entire year, and find useful. That’s when I came up with my brain dump journal.
If you are like me, and you love the idea of a bullet journal or a fancy planner, but you just can’t quite pull it off, then a brain dump might be journal for you.
If you are short on time, and just need a simple way to get everything out of your head and organised somewhere, somehow, with minimum stress, then you might like to try a brain dump journal.
What is a Brain Dump Journal?
You’ve heard of a bullet journal right?
Bullet journals are all about codes, fancy layouts, artistic pages, and clever tracking ideas. They are amazing, but they are not for me.
Brain Dump journals are all about lists, and getting all the stuff you need to remember and organise out of your head as quickly and easily as possible.
I don’t know if the name ‘brain dump journal’ is original or not, but it is the name I give to my ‘no frills’ version of planning and journaling. You can check out my first go at this method way back in 2014 here.
It is literally a journal full of lists, with a couple of extra calendar pages, and lots and lots of space for random brain dumps!
It’s not pretty, but it is doable, and most importantly, it’s easy to make it work for you, and to keep it working, even after the enthusiasm of the new year has worn off.
Of course if you want to make your brain dump journal look fancy, that’s totally cool. I am a sucker for coloured pens and washi tape and love the idea of making my journal look pretty… but I have to confess, wanting my journal to look cool and perfect but not having the time or the skill to pull it off can sometimes stop me from using it at all. So the whole idea of the brain dump journal is to let go of perfection and just use that damn journal!
What to use for a Brain Dump Journal.
In past years I’ve simply used an A5 spiral bound, lined, notebook (I get mine from Typo). Nothing fancy, nothing expensive.
I like the these notebooks because they are cheap, they have an elastic strap to keep everything together, they have a little pocket in the back where you can keep random things, and they are spiral bound so I can rip pages out if I need to.
This year, since I got an iPad and Apple pencil for Christmas, I am trying out a digital version of my brain dump journal, using GoodNotes. I’ll still keep my spiral bound notebook because I’m not ready to dump pen and paper all together, but since I use google calendars to track all my commitments (and send me reminders for everything!!) I’m hoping having my journal on the same devices as my google calendar might work well…. I’ll let you know how I go!
What to put in a Brain Dump Journal.
The best thing bout a brain dump journal is that there are no rules! You can include whatever you like or need to, whatever works for you.
I always have a monthly spread calendar that I print and stick in each month. You can find loads of free printable dated versions, but I’ve started using an undated version and just filling in the dates each month.
You can find my free printable undated monthly calendar here.
I print them all out and put them in the back pocket and just stick them in when I need them so I don’t have to work out how many pages to leave between each one. I often put a washi tape tab on each month’s calendar page to make them easy to find.
I like to have write down a basic weekly outline at the start of each week, just so can get it all straight in my head.
I’ve tried a few different weekly spread printables (I really like the free printable planner from Handmade Home and the free pdfs from Passion Planners), but sometimes it’s easier to just write it as a basic list of days. That way you can take up as much room as you need, and make sure to include anything that is relevant that week.
Lists and Brain Dumps.
The rest of my brain dump journal is full of lists, and random pages full of ‘stuff’. The ‘stuff’ is the ‘brain dump’ part.
These are some of the lists and ‘brain dumps’ I’ve found most useful…
- List of dinner ideas – this makes meal planning a lot easier
- Gift lists – I write down birthday and christmas gift ideas for family members whenever they pop up during the year
- Master Reminders – this is just a list of long term things I need to remember like when my daughters epipen expires, when my blog hosting renews, when I should cancel my free apple TV account so I don’t get charged etc.
- Wish lists – I have a few different versions, things I’d like but don’t need, places we’d like to go or things to do with the kids, and a house wish list.
- Random stuff pages – when I need to get all the crazy random stuff out of my head I just dump it all down on a page.
The random brain dump pages are my favourites. I journal, draw, write down funny things my kids say that I want to remember, write a list of things I love about my family when they are driving me nuts… those are the pages that really save my sanity and help me stay grounded.
I don’t set New Year’s Resolutions, and I suck at making goals, but each year I set myself up with a new brain dump journal, and each year I’ve gotten better and better at using it in a way that really works for me and actually helps keep me organised.
I hope you might be able to take some ideas from this post and use them to help you stay organised this year too.