Why use a brain dump on a daily basis as part of your PKM ?

In the last article, we discussed ways of Organising your own PKM system and I talk a little about something I’ve been doing for YEARS and which has really improved my way of managing my own information and knowledge: having a brain dump!

If you’re a note-taker like me, a notebook hoarder, a post-it addict, a fan of bookmarks and side-notes, a cross-on-my-hand-so-I-don’t-forget-it kind of person, or just a to-do list aficionado, you need to check this out. And if you’re not? Well, welcome to the world of people who just love to keep track of information we come across, but never file it all in one place!

Post-its and notebooks are great, colourful and personalised most of the time, but when it comes to getting the information back to use, it can be a mess! That’s where Brain Dump comes in. This solution is a digital melting pot of all the notes, lists, tabs, bookmarks, side notes, questions, passing thoughts you can have, all in one place, in the rawest version ever.

everything you can put in your brain dump

How can this help you ?

My favourite thing about using a Brain Dump in Personal Knowledge Management is that it’s a quick write and forget solution. You don’t have to be formal or comprehensible in your Brain Dump: it’s for you and only for you. What you want is to write something down, forget about it, and then come back to it later to analyse it and find out what was so good about the information that you needed to write it down.

Your Brain dump should be a easy to access app or software, available at all time (online and offline) that requires very little effort to add content. In an age where phones — and especially smartphones — are always with us, you can look at apps such as Notion, Evernote, Obsidian, OneNote or Keep, which can be used on smartphones as well as on your computer. These apps come with different features, but the most important thing is that they allow you to add content quickly and search for content later: the two main features you need for a good brain dump.

Now that you have the software, all you need to do is add the information! A film you want to watch, a link to a page you want to look at later, a word you heard and want to research its meaning, a powerful quote or a list of things you need to do. This system is designed to free up space in your mind to focus on important tasks and projects you are working on. Your Brain Dump is designed to help you focus without losing track of things you want to remember later.

Quick example : my Brain dump system

As you may have understood if you’ve read my previous articles, I’m an avid Notion user. I’ve built my whole PKM system on this app and love its features. I believe there are better options on the market as of this day and I would recommend doing some research of your own before you pick one. In my Knowlegde Management can apply to your personal life article, I shared some known apps you could check out ! However in the meantime, here’s how mine works — as an example !

Notion table — Brain Dump

My Brain dump is one of the simplest ever. It required maybe 5 minutes to set it up and I’ve been addicted ever since. In Notion you can create what they call “Databases”. These databases are basic tables with data in it to which you can add “Metadatas” or “Properties”. Every property you add is one more item you can use to filter, sort, group and manage your data.

If you work in IT or any field related to digital content, you must know about this basic metadata organization system. You can find it in Excel tables, libraries, EDMS etc.

My Brain dump has 2 properties : Type and Creation date. THAT IS IT. Why ? because I don’t need more. My brain dump is only raw information and don’t need the extra work of figuring out metadatas I want to apply to it. At best I want to put it in little box so I kind of know where I’m looking for later when I come back for that information. Some of the types of information you’ll find in my Brain dump are :

In one click I can add new items in this database, and it will appear as seen above, in different columns by Type. This system enables me to file so much, without even thinking about it twice. And when I find the time for it, I can come back, pick the information apart and turn it into usable knowledge !

This has helped me a lot in the last few years, especially when it comes to keeping work and personal life separate. If something about work comes to mind during dinner, you don’t want it to turn into a “work from home after hours” situation. What you need is a space where you can store that thought and easily access it during work hours the next day. The same goes for personal events and situations. Remembering something you need to add to your shopping list when you get home? Add it to the Brain Dump now, and don’t lose focus by scrolling through dozens of distracting apps. You just need one and away you go.

Conclusion

An important reminder, of course, is that all this raw and informal data and information needs to be processed and evaluated later if you want to turn it into usable knowledge! The Brain Dump is only one tool within your wider PKM system, it’s not the whole system

.Would you use such tools to enhance your own Knowledge Management ? How do you take notes ?

Comment & Interract with this article so I can know more about your own experience !

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Ava Aïda Dubourg, Knowledge Manager & Digital Nerd

Sharing information & Knowledge is at the heart of our generations use of digital medias. Let's talk about it, shall we ?