Use brain dumps to define goals and be successful

Every year on New Year's Eve people tell what they want to achieve in the new year, but only a few people do what they intend to do. But why? Reasons are, that the goals are too high or many goals are simply not accurately defined. Some goals are just dreams and some people find no motivation to go into the implementation phase because "it's just a dream!".

A brain dump can help you analyse your current life in 5 areas and you will define realistic goals that you also will achieve.

The 5 areas of life:

  • Personality Development (abilities)
  • Environment (Apartment, City)
  • Social Environment & Emotions (relationships, friends)
  • Health (nutrition, sports)
  • Finance & Career (Profession, Shares, second income)

What has to be done?

You should work for at least 25 minutes a day on your long-term goals if you have a full time job. The Pomodoro technique can help you achieve this. You start by creating brain dumps of the 5 areas and by that defining achievable goals. Then you sort them according to importance and start working on your goals.

How to create brain dumps?

Write each area of life on a separate page and write down everything that comes to your mind about the headline. You should not try to create all the brain dumps in one day, because you do not think about everything you want to achieve in life in this short time. Sometimes important thoughts come while being on the bus, on the toilet, going on a walk or in other completely different situations. If this should happen in your everyday life, it is important to make notes and transfer it to the existing brain dump list. To some goals belong several people, so just talk to the people with who you want to achieve goals and create brain dumps together.

A brain dump can also be a collection of keywords or other terms that come to your mind. At this point you do not have to define anything precisely. Let your thoughts run free without thinking about the phrasing of the text or the implementing of the goal. It should all be released, whether long-term dreams or seemingly unimportant trifles.

Help to produce brain dumps

If you do not generate enough brain dumps, you can read the following questions as inspiration. But do not just answer "yes" or "no". Give yourself a reason why you chose "yes" or “no" and think about whether it could be one of your goals.

Brain dump questions for personality development

  • Do you want to improve the skills you already have?
  • Do you want to acquire new skills?
  • Do you want to play an instrument?
  • Do you want to learn a foreign language?
  • Do you want to learn how to cook?
  • Do you want to learn how to eat healthy?
  • What have you always wanted to do as a child or a teenager?
  • What have you been unable to do so far for financial reasons?
  • How do you want to organise your leisure time?

Brain dump questions for the Environment

  • Do you want to change something in your home (new TV, furniture, etc.)?
  • Do you want plants in your home?
  • Are your neighbours too loud?
  • Do you want to move to another location?
  • Do you need more space for you?
  • Do you want to live in another country?

Brain dump questions for social environment & emotions

  • Do you want to attend a class to meet other people?
  • Do you have friends who may stop you from reaching your goals?
  • Do you have little contact with your family and you want to change it?
  • Are you single and you do not want to be alone anymore?
  • Do you want to be alone, but no one gives you peace?

Brain dump questions for health

  • Do you want to stop eating sweets?
  • Do you want to know what a good diet is?
  • Do you want to eat healthy every day?
  • Do you want to start doing sports?
  • Are you interested in doing something good for your soul with meditation?
  • Do you have a stressful job and need a sporting balance?

Brain dump questions for finance/career

  • Do you need a second income?
  • Do you want to learn how to become more economical?
  • Are you dissatisfied with your job and you want to find a new one asap?
  • Do you have problems with a colleague and want to change the department?
  • Do you want to make more money?

Define real goals from a brain dump with S.M.A.R.T

Now you should have large lists at your disposal, on which your goals can be roughly read. And now be smart! That's supposed to mean that your keywords and short sentences are now sub-headings. Frame texts for them according to the S.M.A.R.T concept. For example if your new sub-heading is "Learn how to draw" in the area "self-development", then the corresponding text according to the S.M.A.R.T concept is:" By July 30th, 2017, I have completed a drawing class at the Adult Education Centre and drew 3 pictures".

S.M.A.R.T comes from project management and means the following:

S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Achievable
R = Relevant
T = Time-oriented


Be more specific. For example: Do not write "I want to learn a language". Instead, write what you want and what the goal is: "I want to learn Italian to order a coffee in a foreign language" or if you have higher goals "I want to learn Italian fluently, go to Italy and marry an Italian woman".

If you even have huge goals, create sub goals with bullet points and describe in full sentences what you want to achieve. If you want to build a house, you should start by talking to people who have already built one and others who can give you money. One possible point would be "register yourself in a forum specialising in homeowners and ask beginner's questions" and "go to the bank and ask for a financial plan". All these sub goals are part of a huge goal. Never forget to split huge goals in sub goals!


If you frame a goal, it should be measurable. We still know this criterion from school. If we have built knowledge in a subject like maths of a specific topic such as geometry, we are measured with exams and tests. The mark (often) tells whether we have achieved our goals or not. For many, it is simply enough to not fail and others want to reach the best mark.

A very popular example is losing weight. If you want to lose weight without gaining muscles, you can directly measure your progress by standing regularly on a scale. The factor of time also matters, as an example: "I want to lose 22 pounds (~10 kg) in three months".


Your goals must be achievable. If you made your goal starting a singing career, but never sung before, you will not reach your goals (immediately). It is certainly possible to become a superstar, but the goals have to be reachable in shorter periods. It is extremely demotivating if you set up a band within a short time and are successful in your city but you think you did not have achieved anything because you are not on a music channel yet. So if you define your goals as listed below, you can better achieve your larger goals:

▢ I go to the karaoke bar every 3 days for 3 weeks, sing at least 3 songs and take feedback
▢ Until Easter, I wrote a song and sang it in public
▢ Until next October I found a new drummer for my band


A goal must be useful to you. If it was your childhood dream to become a football player, but you have been a passionate kickboxer for years or if you are not interested in football anymore, you can strike that goal off with a clear conscience. Another good example are Nice-to-Haves, which disguise themselves as goals. If something would be simply nice to reach without added value for oneself, then strike off that goal or put it far down in the list.


Each goal must have a date. As you have seen in the example above, there are temporal provisions: "Until Easter…", "…for 3 weeks…", etc. This declaration is one of the most important, because it also shows very well how difficult it is to reach the respective goal. For example if you write, "I want to clean my kitchen until next Thursday." and "I want to clean a whole house with 10 rooms until next June.", it becomes clear very quickly, that you rather want to clean the kitchen than a whole house.

In order to not just do the things that are easier to achieve, the goals will be prioritised in the following.

What is important for you?

You have now several pages with some sub-headings per area and detailed tasks. Read them all again very carefully! Focus on the things that really matter to you. Sort your lists by priority and by deadline (the most important at the top). If you have done this for all 5 areas, you need to select an area that needs a lot of attention and that you want to start with immediately.

If you are done with creating your defined goals, it can happen that you think to already have achieved something and you put the list aside for a very long time. Come as soon as possible to the implementation phase! Even if it is only the preparation for the next day, that can already be the reason to better start the day with uncomfortable tasks.

Things change in life

You have worked on your goals every day and you can be proud of it. But you should check at least every 1-3 months whether your goals on your lists are still the goals in your life. If you have a digital calendar, it is recommended to enter a repetitive date to read and if necessary edit your brain dumps. Things change very often in life. If it bothers you to work on your goals for a long time, check your brain dumps and see if you have to split a goal in sub-goals after all. If, however, you have not be able to develop fun for a long time, then take a long break or focus on other goals. Maybe you only have a small motivation gap.