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How I Helped Generate Nearly $20k With Just A Notebook And A Sharpie

You know those days when your mind is going a mile a minute and you just can’t quit it?

You’re thinking about a thousand things at once – from your business to-do’s to your personal to-do’s.

There are tasks and deadlines running through your brain, you’re thinking about an errand you have to run, or a phone call you have to make. And even though you might be pretty awesome at keeping it together 90% of the time, you sometimes find it hard to figure out what to focus on first. Everything feels so scattered and crazy!

We often overcomplicate our ability to make money as a freelancer. This story should inspire you to keep it simple.

This, my friend, is called “spinning your wheels.”

I know the feeling, and so does every business owner I’ve ever worked with or talked to.

In fact, as I write this article, I’m less than 3 weeks away from my wedding day and I still have a few things to wrap up for that. Throw in everyday personal responsibilities and a business to run (where my work involves A LOT of moving pieces, especially when I’m helping a client launch a product or website), and this could lead to major overwhelm.

But I do have a method that helps me to strategically organize my life and business so I can either prevent or diminish any overwhelm going on in my world. And it can help you, too.

This method I’m about to outline is SO simple that once you read it, you might think, “That’s it?!” But trust me, just because something is simple doesn’t mean it it’s not powerful.

I call it The Brain Dump & Process Method.

(Okay, it’s not the sexiest name around, but it works.)

It’s helped me to:

  • Better manage my personal life and business operations
  • Get organized, increase my productivity, and diminish stress
  • Generate an idea that made a client nearly $20,000 (yes, it’s THAT powerful.)

This method combines free writing techniques, your own inner wisdom, as well as some pleasure. (And who doesn’t want to make getting organized more pleasurable?)

This method will help if you’re someone who does any of the following:

You use only digital tools to stay on top of tasks and to-do’s but still find things falling through the cracks.

You sit down at your laptop with the intention to “get organized” but you’re often distracted by Facebook and email.

You have a lot of brilliant ideas for your business but you’re not keeping track of them, or fully planning out how to turn them into a reality, or creating deadlines for accountability.

You make paper to-do lists but don’t have a system for keeping track of them (AKA yelling “where did I put my list?!” is part of your everyday because you write on paper scraps that end up in the garbage. #guilty).

You tend to keep a lot of your thoughts and feelings inside your head but don’t have a system for getting them OUT and making sense of them.

Sound like you?

The it’s time to give the Brain Dump & Process Method a try!

Here’s what you’ll need for the Brain Dump part of the Brain Dump & Process Method:

  • A beautiful notebook you love to write in so you can keep all your notes/lists in ONE place (I use a green padfolio with a pocket folder)
  • A pen that’s fun to write with (my favorite is a fine point black Sharpie)
  • A cozy space, preferably with food, drinks and no digital distractions

That’s it!

Now to show you how it works, I’m going to walk you through what I do:

At least once per day, I sit down with my Sharpie and padfolio and I do a nice, BIG Brain Dump.

I write. I doodle. I draw. I make to-do lists. I reflect on my day. I express my feelings. Whatever’s in my head comes comes out through the pen and onto the paper. I don’t care how sloppy or messy things get; I just get it all out. (It ain’t called a “dump” for nothing.) I might Brain Dump for as little as 10 minutes or as long as an hour– it just depends on how much is going on in my head.

And remember when I mentioned mixing business with pleasure? Well, one of my FAVORITE ways to Brain Dump is after walking to a local restaurant so I can also get in some exercise and some good food at the same time. (TIP: Go around noon to grab the lunch specials. ;))

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time at my local Indian spot for some samosas and chai tea, but maybe you prefer a coffee shop. There’s no right or wrong place to do your Brain Dump, so long as the location makes you feel relaxed and allows you to stay unplugged. This means, NO LAPTOPS ALLOWED. (At least not for the Brain Dump part of this exercise.)

Once I’ve settled into the restaurant (or wherever I am), I open up to a fresh page in my padfolio and I start writing. It might be as simple as this:

“Just got to the restaurant. Took a nice walk here. So hungry. Can’t wait to eat samosas. Feeling a little stressed today… so much to do. Gotta buy envelopes for wedding invitations. Gotta email Susan and Mark back. Forgot to put Melissa’s bridal shower in the calendar: October 2nd. Gotta work on launch plan. Susan wants to do a Facebook challenge for her launch… I feel like we should use a private Facebook group for the challenge… the name of it could be…”

And I let the writing evolve into whatever it needs to evolve into. In between my sips and bites, I just keep writing…

The Brain Dump part of this method uses the RIGHT side of your brain. You’re allowing yourself to be creative, to go with the flow, and not worry about editing or evaluating your writing.

Sometimes I Brain Dump knowing there’s a specific problem I need to resolve, but I try not to start with it. I let it happen naturally. Usually, if I begin with the “easier” stuff (such as where I am or what I’m doing at that exact moment), it sort of gets the juices flowing and allows things to slide out of my head much easier. Plus, the atmosphere, the food and drink, the alone time to be my thoughts, and the fact that I’m unplugged all helps to get things flowing, as well.

You’ll know you’re done when you start to feel calmer and more clear-headed. Physically and mentally, you’ll feel lighter and less weighed down. That’s because everything that was swimming around inside of your brain is now out onto paper. You’re no longer holding it all inside. (What a relief!)

And that’s just the first part. Now, it’s time to Process!

Here’s what you’ll need for the Process part of the Brain Dump & Process Method:

  • Your calendar (paper or digital– whichever you use)
  • Project management software (optional, but highly recommended)
  • Any other tools or technology you use to streamline, schedule, or automate tasks in your business (The Process part of this method is when you get to use your laptop– yay!)

Now it’s time to start Processing!

First and foremost, I make sure to give myself a little break between the Brain Dump and the Process parts of this method. (Gotta let the brain rest!) Usually my walk home is sufficient, but sometimes I’ll wait until later that day or the following morning to process the Brain Dump.

Once I’m ready to start processing, NOW I sit in front of my laptop with my padfolio handy, and I read through EVERYTHING I wrote during my Brain Dump.

I look for any action items that can be turned into tasks in Teamwork, my favorite project management software. (And if something will take me a minute or less to complete, I just do it right then and there so it’s over and done with.) I also look for dates I might have written down that need to be scheduled into my calendar, and I file away any ideas I wrote out for my business or my clients’ businesses into their appropriate places (such as Teamwork, or a Google Doc, or Evernote).

The Processing part of this method uses the LEFT side of your brain, the analytical and critical part of your brain that spots solutions.

Some parts of my Brain Dump are just “fluff” and serve more as a journal entry, but there’s always something for me to process and analyze.

And that’s it! It’s literally like turning sh*t into gold.

Also, you don’t just have to process notes from a notebook either. Maybe you get a lot of documents, questionnaire forms, and long emails from clients. For me, I find it a lot easier to print files that have a lot of text, sit down with pen and paper to read through everything/take notes/circle key words, and then process those notes – wherever they need to go – into my laptop.

Splitting up the reading/note-taking from the processing eliminates digital distractions. Plus, the tactile experience of writing with pen, touching the paper, turning the pages, scribbling, circling things, etc. makes all the difference in how I come up with ideas and responses for clients.

Using The Brain Dump + Process Method means I rarely worry about dropping the ball on business tasks and client projects

That’s because I’m regularly taking the time to get all of my thoughts on paper and turn those notes into a plan of action. And rather than try to get it all done at once (the Brain Dumping and the Processing), I do it in two parts to reduce overwhelm– you are using two different parts of the brain, after all!

Plus, it just plain FEELS GOOD. Getting our thoughts onto paper without worrying about how things look or sound is like therapy. Honestly, even though I have an “online business,” I spend a HUGE chunk of my time writing in a notebook! This method is that effective.

Oh, and remember the $20,000 idea I mentioned? That idea came from The Brain Dump & Process Method.

One of my clients was mulling over an idea for a brand new course she wanted to create. The thing is, she’d just wrapped up the beta launch of a program she’d already created and had received rave reviews. Now, I could have gone along with her idea of creating something entirely new but something was nagging at me. I knew sitting at my computer, clicking around through our notes wasn’t helping anything, so I grabbed my trusty Sharpie and padfolio, walked to my local coffee shop, and decided to write what I was feeling.

My Brain Dump left me with this idea: “What if we just publicly launch the course we’d already tested? We know it works and we know people loved it. Why recreate the wheel? We can always launch the new idea later on…”

Then, I processed this idea. I took out my calculator, crunched some numbers, and figured out how many spots we’d need to sell to reach our sales goal.

My client LOVED that I took the time to figure this out for her and because I had real data to back up my idea, she was sold. We then proceeded to turn that idea into nearly $20,000 in revenue over the next 7 months.

So if you’ve never used some form of The Brain Dump + Process method, I highly recommend you try it out. Your brain, your bottom line, and your clients, will thank you.

ACTION STEP: Now that you know about The Brain Dump + Process Method, go schedule ‘Brain Dump’ and ‘Process Brain Dump’ tasks into your calendar so you never miss a day!

Lisa Fiorvante Lisa Fiorvante runs Scovante Media, a digital marketing & design company for entrepreneurs with big ideas. She co-founded the company with her husband, Joe Scoppino and together, they use their special sauce of skills & experiences to craft meaningful personal brands and impactful marketing campaigns. Lisa’s a creative strategist and writer who loves figuring out how to turn ideas into reality– give her a vision, a notebook, and a Sharpie, and she’ll give you a plan. In her spare time, you can catch her eating ALL the tacos, playing Super Nintendo (Super Mario Bros., forever), reading, writing, and playing around on Instagram.

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{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Al

    I love this post so much! I use a combination of adapted Bullet Journal and Things (to-do app), but this brain dump is something that I can see myself applying to my own workflow. Thanks!

    • Hey, Al– thanks so much for your comment! Great to hear that this post was helpful for you. I really love the brain dump method because it gives you “permission” to start with a mess and sculpt it into a clear and tangible plan. (That’s where the bulleting and the to-do app would come in handy.) Hope you’re enjoying the process!

  • Oh, it appears I’m already doing this every single day – it’s a part of my morning ritual. Many great ideas and insights have emerged from my journaling process.

    • woohoo!! It’s great in the morning time so you can start the day with a fresh slate 🙂

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