The Good Old Dump and Chunk

Hagrid’s right. Better out than in.

In a previous post I mentioned my struggle with Adult ADHD and offered to share some strategies I’ve found helpful to deal with symptoms. Well, it turns out it’s impossible to fit everything into one post, so I’m just going to talk about mental health A LOT — in addition to TV shows, movies, books, podcasts, eventually some travel stuff, and every once in a while some rock climbing — on the blog. 

This is my blog, and I do what I want. 💁🏻‍♀️🤗

Anyway, I wanted to start with something I’ve been doing a lot lately — the dump and chunk. 

Sure, it sounds gross, but isn’t it also catchy?

You Dump It Then You Chunk It

You won’t be surprised to learn I’m a to-do list person.

I have an obsession with notebooks, pens, and productivity apps which means I end up with several to-do lists across multiple mediums. Then I completely forget why I did that, or simply choose to disregard my system for my own convenience.

And then there’s the clutter… visual clutter clutters my brain which already has its own clutter to deal with, and then I’m overwhelmed with options on what clutter to tackle first. Ahhhhh!



At least that used to be my reaction. Now it’s more like, Ahh—oh yeah, I forgot I know how to deal with this shit now.

  1. Dump out all of the to-dos from your brain.
  2. Chunk ‘em into smaller chunks and maybe into even smaller-er chunks.

Easier said than done, but it makes the mountain ahead more manageable and boosts your confidence along the way.

The Dump

Dump it all out. You need to know everything you’re dealing with. Don’t worry about putting all of your to-dos onto one list. A messy dump is perfectly fine. Just get everything out of your head. 

Acknowledging all of the things you have on your plate might seem like a nightmare, but I think it has the complete opposite effect. It’s very cathartic. I’m often left feeling like the weight on my chest has lightened some.

A messy dump is perfectly fine.


Here are the various places where I keep my to-dos:

  • Extra-large notebook that was previously used for work stuff but now has random notes for when I need a larger space to organize my thoughts. It’s spiral-bound with a pink hard cover, and I felt it was too pretty to write on until one day I needed paper. 
  • Regular composition notebook I use for journaling
  • Small spiral notebook I bought for my husband but have since co-opted as my own
  • Notes app on my phone
  • Google Chrome tabs I’ve left open on my phone for a week
  • Google Chrome windows with various tabs I’ve left open on my computer for days
  • Mail on my desk I opened but wasn’t interesting or urgent enough to deal with
  • Emails I’ve read but left unread as reminders to look at them later
  • Reminders app on my phone (the bullet above^ reminded me. Ha!)
  • Letters on the fridge
  • Google Drive
  • Airtable
  • Todoist 

The Chunk

Don’t be afraid to get granular. Break things out into as many steps as needed if that helps. 

Again, this can be messy. We’ll organize this info after.

Below is an example of how my own dump and chunk works. The main bullets are part of the original dump. The indented bullets are the chunks.

Cristy’s List of Things For Example Purposes

  • Groceries
    • Add items to list app
      • Check pantry, fridge, bathrooms
    • Place curbside order
    • Pick up order at 12 pm
  • Dishes
    • Put away clean
    • Load dirty
    • Start wash
  • Comedy show at 8 pm
    • Arrive by 7:45 pm
    • Leave by 7:15 pm
    • Start getting ready at 6:45 pm
    • Walk Ladybird at 6:30 pm
  • Taxes
    • Find out good time
    • Add to calendar
  • Mail
    • Sort
    • File
    • Shred

I personally need to break things out so I know where to start. I also get great satisfaction from crossing things off my list, so I give myself plenty of tiny wins with each step scratched out. Hooray for dopamine!

I work backwards to figure out the times and yet, I’m still often late. In my defense, I live in the worst part of town for traffic, and my internal clock is still on Latino time which is about 15 minutes behind.

Organizing and Prioritizing Tasks

My system isn’t perfect, but I think it’s a good start. That’s because I’ve borrowed from Getting Things Done, the method based on a book I’ve started twice and have yet to finish. (Is that ironic? Alanis Morissette forever confused me.)

Basically, I review each item, decide on an action item, and then plan when I’m going to take care of it. 

Assess each to-do

I ask myself questions to figure out exactly how much time and energy I’ll need. 

  • What does “done” look like?
  • Is there a deadline?
  • Do I need to do this myself, or can it be delegated?
  • How long will it take to get done?
  • Does it need to get done today?
  • Does it need to get done soon, like within a week?
  • Are there things I can group together to get done around the same time?

Decide on an Action

Keep it simple.

  • File it or put it away
  • Dispose (recycle, trash, donate)
  • Delegate
  • Plan for it (do it now, add to calendar, set Reminder)
  • Undecided (I put it somewhere to deal with it later)

Plan When to Do It

If the task can be done in two minutes or less, I do it right away to get it over with.

If I can combine it with others (errands, emails, calls, etc.), then I schedule a time to knock out those tasks. 

If I don’t know what to do with it, and it’s not urgent, I put it somewhere to deal with later. I have a bin for documents, use Airtable for project details, and Todoist to keep track of deadlines as well as tasks with no due date.

Don’t Forget to Commit

Honestly, this is the hardest part. Uncomfortable emotions — like fear of failure or rejection — may trigger procrastination, either to delay the inevitable or subconsciously sabotage efforts.

Somedays are harder than others, but I find that blocking time on my calendar really helps. I’m also working on routines and rituals to help me get certain tasks done with less internal turmoil. 

Last But Not Least: Practice Self-Compassion

Sometimes things just suck, and that’s ok.

Don’t beat yourself up when your day doesn’t go according to your plan. Be flexible and do what you can with the resources, time, and energy you have at the moment.

Things fall apart all the time. It’s not the end of the world.

When you find yourself in a negative loop, stop and ask yourself if you’d tell those same things to a friend. Probably not. Then actually talk to yourself as if you were talking to a friend. It works.

I’m curious: What do YOU do when you’re overwhelmed with your to-do list?

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