Nonfiction Book Review: The Organized Mind by Daniel J. Levitin

The subtitle of this book is Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload and this book was a bit overwhelming. Stuffed full of examples how we are consuming too much information, the book was solidly scientific but offered scant advise on how to actually make your life easier.


SYNOPSIS

New York Times bestselling author and neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin shifts his keen insights from your brain on music to your brain in a sea of details.

The information age is drowning us with an unprecedented deluge of data. At the same time, we’re expected to make more—and faster—decisions about our lives than ever before. No wonder, then, that the average American reports frequently losing car keys or reading glasses, missing appointments, and feeling worn out by the effort required just to keep up.

But somehow some people become quite accomplished at managing information flow. In The Organized Mind, Daniel J. Levitin, PhD, uses the latest brain science to demonstrate how those people excel—and how readers can use their methods to regain a sense of mastery over the way they organize their homes, workplaces, and time.

With lively, entertaining chapters on everything from the kitchen junk drawer to health care to executive office workflow, Levitin reveals how new research into the cognitive neuroscience of attention and memory can be applied to the challenges of our daily lives. This Is Your Brain on Music showed how to better play and appreciate music through an understanding of how the brain works. The Organized Mindshows how to navigate the churning flood of information in the twenty-first century with the same neuroscientific perspective. from Goodreads.


MY THOUGHTS

Recently, I discovered this amazing website called, Five Books. This website will give you 5 books, recommended by experts in the field, on a given subject. You can search by so many things – fiction and nonfiction.

Building on my love of habits, I wanted to check out books on productivity. David Allen, creator of Getting Things Done, recommended starting with this book.

Remember, I went into the book looking for ways to be more productive. With that goal in mind, this book was a bit of a disappointment. At 383 pages, the book revels in describing in detail how our world has changed dramatically but our brain has not. There are chapters on how to Organize Your Home (sir……we know we should put like items together, we all have Pinterest), Organizing Your Social World (you have too many friends on Facebook), Organizing Your Time (get a calendar, use the calendar, or hire an assistant), Organizing Information for the Hardest Decisions (medical stuff, be critical thinkers), and Organizing the Business World (zzzz). In each section, the author breaks down why these situations are so difficult to navigate with the information overload and, truthfully, if I was looking for a follow up to Factfulness, this would have been perfect. It is well written, supported in scientific evidence, and organized in an approachable manner. But, I wanted tips on productivity! Here is all I managed to gather:

  • The brain has a limited number of decisions per day – don’t overload it
  • The cognitive losses from multitasking are even greater than the cognitive losses from smoking pot (yikes)
  • Procrastination is (the time to complete a task x distractibility x delay) divided by (self-confidence x task value) which makes perfect sense!
  • If you want to organize your life like a CEO, hire an assistant

As David Allen says, this book validates the need for an external brain. Making lists, keeping your calendar organized, and keeping track of all the ideas your brain has is necessary. The Organized Mind convinced me that all of those mechanisms are not a crutch but a necessary by-product of living in the age of information overload.

If you are wondering why you are always overwhelmed or exhausted, this book is an excellent place to start. It certainly made me realize why meal planning is easier to do on the weekend than answering an evening question of “What do you want to eat.” My brain is done making decisions when I am finished with work! Simplifying my desk makes work easier, eating the same thing for lunch everyday can make my lunch hour relaxing, and I’ll never be as organized as someone with a full time assistant and that’s okay. Well, obviously, it isn’t okay because I brought up my lack of assistant three times so it clearly bothers me. I want a productivity tip between “write it down” and “pay someone to keep you on task” but, sigh, there doesn’t appear to be one.


Tell me, please! How do you keep track of everything?


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