Using Mind Sweeps to Prioritize and Focus

Back to School time is filled with excitement, but it can also be incredibly stressful! Teachers have so much to do to be prepared, but have limited time and resources to get it all done. Many teachers work long hours during the first few weeks of the school year, but feel like their To Do list just gets longer and longer. Mind Sweeps are a simple strategy that will help you conquer that endless list once and for all.

Perfect for that crazy "Back to School" season or any time your To Do List gets out of control! Mind Sweeps (AKA Brain Dumps) are a simple and effective way to clear the mental clutter that is leaving you stressed and distracted.  It will help you determine a plan of action that is the most efficient. Learn how to use Mind Sweeps to reduce your stress today!

Mind Sweeps (sometimes referred to as Brain Dumps) are a simple, but effective way to clear the mental clutter that is leaving you stressed and distracted. I imagine you have a million thoughts racing around in your mind about all the things you need to accomplish before the school year begins. A Mind Sweep will help you clear your mind of the clutter and focus on what is most important. It will help you determine a plan of action that is the most efficient.


  1. Grab a blank piece of paper or find a blank notebook page.
  2. Write down everything that is on your mind. Everything. 
  3. Write freely. Don't worry about categorizing anything at the moment. Just write down everything that's swirling through your mind. 

The purpose of a Mind Sweep is to get all the thoughts that are swirling around in your head written down on paper. Once you have them written down, you don't need to waste mental energy worrying about them anymore. Your list may seem scattered, and that is perfectly normal! It's not unusual for your list to include everything from personal to dos (laundry, buy AA batteries, set up dentist appointment), work to dos (laminate new materials, write lesson plans, TBT meeting after school Wednesday), and everything in between. 

Your list will probably jump back and forth between work and home responsibilities as they pop into your mind. Again, completely normal. It's important not to waste any mental energy right now on categorizing your list while you write. Write freely and don't worry about that yet. 

Once you think you are done, set your list aside for a bit. Work on something else, but keep the list nearby. More thoughts will keep popping up, so add them to your list. This is an important step because it helps get all those straggling thoughts down on paper as well. 

Once your mind feels clear, your list is ready to be categorized. This is an important step because it will help you put a plan in place that is most efficient. Some categories may include: 

  • Tasks you can do immediately that won't take much time
  • Tasks that are urgent or have an approaching deadline
  • In-depth projects that will need broken down into smaller steps
  • Tasks you can't do yet because you are waiting on someone else, information, etc. 
  • Questions you have
  • Topics to research
  • Etc, etc.! Make any categories that make sense to you. 

This technique can be done repeatedly to de-clutter your mind a produce a focused To Do List. It can also be used for any area of your life. For example, I have found that it helps me to do a quick Mind Sweep before I go to bed. Instead of having thoughts racing through my mind, I am able to rest my thoughts and fall asleep more quickly. 

In teaching, there will be many times that your to do list seems longer than you can accomplish, which can leave you feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Mind Sweeps will help you prioritize what's most important and work more efficiently. This strategy will help you get more done in less time, leaving you more refreshed and energized for your families and students! 

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