What Harry Potter Taught Me About Productivity

I’ve talked about why it’s important to capture your ideas and why you should do so in the moment. But some hold fast to the notion that if the idea is worth recording, you’ll remember it.

If you’re in that camp, this is definitely for you.

In the beloved story Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, our young hero observes his headmaster using a Pensieve to save memories in a vial for later. He tells Harry:

Dumbledore: "I use the Pensieve. One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one's mind, pours them into the basin, and examines them at one's leisure. It becomes easier to spot patterns and links, you understand, when they are in this form."
Harry: "You mean… that stuff's your thoughts?"
Dumbledore: "Certainly."

Though aided by magic, Dumbledore is using a technique often referred to by Muggles as a “Mind Dump.”


What Is A Mind Dump?

A mind dump is an exercise in which you write down everything that’s on your mind with the intention to @@declutter your conscious so that your subconscious can begin working its… magic.@@

How these thoughts look when they’re on paper (or the screen), can be any number of things: a task list, a brainstorm, a mind map, a stream of consciousness journal entry, etc.

It’s not important what your thoughts look like when you do a mind dump. What’s important is that you get them out of your head and into a space where you can view them with a bit more objectivity.

By having your thoughts written down, they become more tangible and manageable. You can find relevant patterns and start to form an action plan instead of stressing about how you’re going to get all of your work completed.

More importantly, when you mind dump your thoughts, you @@give yourself permission to let go of your errands and tasks, plans and ambitions, fears and anxieties.@@

How to Get Started

1. Grab a sheet of paper (you can also use a word processor or a text app) and write down today’s date at the top. And then, draw a line.

You want to write the date and draw a line because you’re making a distinction between the past and your future. Everything below that line is what you’re allowing yourself to stop mulling.

2. Write down everything that’s on your mind.

Write down everything you’re considering and then failing to take action on. Write down the tasks you’ve been avoiding. Write down what’s bothering you about your personal life. Write down what you wish you had time to do. Write down what you need to accomplish to move forward.

3. Sit back, take a breath, and let it go.

In some ways, our minds are like computers. There’s only so much RAM (random access memory) available during a given period of time. When you do perform a mind-dump, you’re clearing the brain’s RAM for new thoughts. You need this energy in order to tackle what you’ve written down and then continue to grow.

4. Form an action plan without the uncertainty of what you need to deal with.

At this point, it may be helpful to start arranging your mind dump into an actionable list. If your mind dump contains a lot of to-do tasks, begin checking them off one by one without worry of any of the others because they’re now being managed.

If your mind dump contains a lot of ideas and concepts, you’ll want to put the ones that you can’t act on right now into cold storage for later. The ones you can act on now should also be placed in an actionable list.

What About You?

I hope you found this helpful. If so, please share it with others who might need it.

How do you sort out your ideas?

Do mind dumps work for you?

Let me know in the comments below!