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The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload PDF, ePub eBook


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Title: The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload
Author: Daniel J. Levitin
Publisher: Published August 19th 2014 by Dutton
ISBN: 9780525954187
Status : FREE Rating :
4.6 out of 5

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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 rep 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 Mind shows how to navigate the churning flood of information in the twenty-first century with the same neuroscientific perspective.

30 review for The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload

  1. 4 out of 5

    SJ Loria

    This review will be three parts. First a quick paragraph about what this book is. Then, some of the practical tips and facts from the book itself and finally a why this book matters (and how it relates to The End of Absence) kind of rant. Also quotes at the end. 1. What this book is. I'm not entirely sure if this book is supposed to address what it means to have an organized mind or how one can implement structure in order to achieve an organized mind. It's a bit of both, which services perhaps to This review will be three parts. First a quick paragraph about what this book is. Then, some of the practical tips and facts from the book itself and finally a why this book matters (and how it relates to The End of Absence) kind of rant. Also quotes at the end. 1. What this book is. I'm not entirely sure if this book is supposed to address what it means to have an organized mind or how one can implement structure in order to achieve an organized mind. It's a bit of both, which services perhaps to clutter its overall purpose. It also addresses organization across so many different facets of life (the workplace, the home, teaching, thinking) that the scope perhaps dilutes the effectiveness. It tries to be something for everything, and maybe that's not possible. I appreciate the effort, but not all sections are equally strong and it takes on too much. It’s interesting to learn about the different types of memory and which parts of your brain are involved in thinking them though, that’s neat. 2. Practical tips and facts Externalize (write things down, label drawers) and categorize (do now, delegate, do later, and check your lists to revise them) Guard your mind, create a schedule that maximizes your effectiveness that takes into account neurological science Have a junk drawer, but remember to organize that every once in a while Compartmentalize Take naps, day dream There is no such thing as multi-tasking, don’t kid yourself, it’s inefficient Thinking takes energy, neurons are living cells and require oxygen and glucose Sort things in to categories, and then sort these into categories with periodic checks Only check your email three times a day There is the central-decision making mode and the mind wandering mode, both are important for brain development and success so you should allow yourself to do both (and all the app noise doesn’t let mind wandering mode happen) Gay people are actually important for preserving family genes because they invest in the childcare of an infant but don’t produce any offspring (apparently he’s summarizing Richard Dawkins on this point, interesting) The serotonin transporter gene SLC6A4 has been found to correlate with artistic behaviors as well as spirituality, both of which appear to favor the mind-wandering mode. [This is the most scientific way one can possibly say “it’s ok to zone out and marvel at clouds.”] 47 Value the long term goal, not the short term rush The process of learning yields better results than the googlization of facts style of learning - I call it the elbow grease approach. This means write things down on paper, say them outloud, learn the old fashioned way if you want to get the maximum effect. Typing on a screen is easy, not to mention the 48 other tabs that are distracting you and the glow of the screen that your brain isn't used to. 3. Why this book matters. (I typed this up stream of consciousness style in an electronics store yesterday) So I'm at a store where they are currently looking at my phone because the headphone jack doesn't work properly. For the record, I love music. I spoil the sense of hearing because I cherish music. Excellence in sound. So during exercise this morning when the sound once again came out of only one ear (regardless of the headphone) yet again I said, OK, it's worth going into an electronic store to get this fixed. They're looking at it in the back room, as I'm in a room full of dazzling screens on every side. Literally, all sides. Today my goal was also to type up my review to The Organized Mind, and I had been zoning out and thinking about the point of the process of discovery as it relates to learning. How actually looking something up makes you learn it far better. I was reminiscing about riding my bike to the library, I’m watching two kids not facing each other staring at a screen and speaking to one another through the headsets. He handed me this tool and said, “Here you go, I don't want you to be bored while you wait” as he left. I wanted to tell him, but, it's not a bad thing to be bored. Neurological research is showing more and more the precious importance of the ability to be bored. It's more important in the development of children and adolescents, more than two hours of screen time is related with increased ADHD rates, aggressive behaviors and antisocial behaviors...and probably negative life outcomes once those kids live long enough to test that hypothesis. And probably very negative long term effects on the ability to connect with other people. Family, friends, romantic partners…yikes News flash, your 2,000 twitter followers don't actually give a shit about you, they just want to see sexy photos. And while the endorphin rush from seeing 295 updates does feel good, I’ll concur to that, but in the long run that shit is the loneliest way to live. The point of The Organized Mind and also The End of Absence and a lot of the scientific research I've read over the past few years is this. Guard your mind. Yes, it's cool to live in the dazzling array of electronics, but while it's convenient that you can instantly find out how much the Empire State Building weighs that doesn't mean you always should. The grey matter up there, and the process of evolving into how we put grey matter up there, took place over hundreds of thousands of years and the instantaneous pop up window way of learning isn't quite in sync with us as a mammal. Read books, daydream, take naps, create spaces where electronics are put away completely. It’s you who should be doing the becoming, not your damn fool computer. Oddly enough, it's essentially in line with Eastern philosophical thinking. If you want to get a summary of The Organized Mind go to a yoga class, or read Peace is Every Step. It's the same point, but one approaches from the western, empirical scientific process based thinking, the other from the more intuitive, collective, calm eastern way of thinking. The both point to the same truth. You must live a certain way, make certain choices that seem boring but in the long run are better for you and essential for your ability to maintain a relationship. Says the man who is typing this all up on a computer, and as we all know we're happy computers exist and I'm happy you're reading this but let's both go do ourselves a favor and turn these things off, go read a book or go have a conversation with a loved one. Last point, then we’ll get to the practical stuff. I saw a couple the other day probably in their 80s walk arm in arm to the car. He opened the door for her as she got in the car, they smiled at one another, and then he hurried around to his side of the car. There’s wisdom in that. Out with the old, in with the new and the shiny and the screens, but as we evolve we can retain the best of the old ways as we improve with the new electronic toys. At least I think that’s possible. At least I choose to live my life in a way that I maintain that hope, because it’s a simple choice in this situation, not a data driven empirical analysis, and I would rather chose the side of life here that results in a more fulfilling life. Be organized. Be your best organized self. Quotes From the many thousands of ways that individuals differ from one another, a mathematical model can be constructed that accounts for a great deal of variation, organizing human differences into five categories: extroversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness to new experience, conscientiousness….conscientiousness is the best predictor of many important human outcomes. In 2011 Americans took in five times as much information every day as they did in 1986 – the equivalent of 175 newspapers. During our leisure time, not counting work, each of us processes 34 gigabytes of 100,000 words every day…our brains do have the ability to process the information we take in, but at a cost: We can have trouble separating the trivial from the important, and all this information processing makes us tired…with a processing limit of 120 bits per second, this means you can barely understand two people talking to you at the same time. 7 The amount of scientific information we’ve discovered in the last twenty years is more than all the discoveries up to that point, from the beginning of language [ed note, in terms of quantity, not quality or importance to human knowledge]. Five exabites (5 x 10 to the 18th) of new data were produced in January 2012 alone – that’s 50,000 times the number of words in the entire Library of Congress. 15 The serotonin transporter gene SLC6A4 has been found to correlate with artistic behaviors as well as spirituality, both of which appear to favor the mind-wandering mode. [This is the most scientific way one can possibly say “it’s ok to zone out and marvel at clouds.”] 47 People who read literary fiction (as opposed to popular fiction or nonfiction) were better able to detect another person’s emotions. 119 By 1859, the average family group in Europe had dropped from twenty people to ten living in close proximity, and by 1960 that number was just five. Today, 50% of Americans live alone. 121 Online interaction works best as a supplement, not a replacement for inperson contact. The cost of all our electronic connectedness appears to be that it limits our biological capacity to connect with other people. 127 Studies have shown a dramatic decline in empathy among college students, who apparently are far less likely to say that it is valuable to put oneself in the place of others or to try and understand their feelings. It is not just because they’re reading less literary fiction, it’s because they’re spending more time alone under the illusion that they’re being social. 131 “It takes time to shift your attention from task to task. It takes less energy to focus. That means that people who organize their time in a way that allows them to focus are not only going to get more done, but they’ll be less tired and less nurochemically depleted after doing it. Daydreaming also takes less energy than multitasking. And the natural intuitive see-saw between focusing and daydreaming helps to recalibrate the brain. Multitasking does not. Perhaps most important, multitasking by definition disrupts the kind of sustained thought usually necessary for problem solving and for creativity…in multitasking we unknowingly enter an addiction loop as the brain’s novelty centers become rewarded for processing shiny new stimuli, to the detriment of our prefrontal cortex, which wants to stay on task and gain the reward of sustained effort and attention. We need to train ourselves to go for the long reward, and forgo the short one. Don’t forget the awareness of an unread email sitting in your inbox can effectively reduce your IQ by 10 points, and that multitasking causes information you want to learn to be directed to the wrong part of the brain.” 170 Sleep is among the most critical factors for peak performance, memory, productivity, immune function, and mood regulation. Even a mild sleep reduction or departure from a set sleep routine can produce detrimental effects on cognitive performance for many days afterwards. 189 Even give or ten minute “power naps” can turn around negative emotions and increase happiness. 193 Most students today do not know the pleasure of serendipity that comes from browsing through stacks of old academic journals, turning past “irrelevant” articles on the way to the one they’re looking for, finding their brains attracted to a particularly interesting graph or title. Instead, they insert the name of the journal article they want and the computer delivers it to them with surgical precision, effortlessly. Efficient, yes. Inspiring, and capable of unlocking creative potential, not so much. 378

  2. 5 out of 5

    Claudia Putnam

    Who came up with this title, anyway? The marketing dept missed it on this one. It's more about why we're NOT organized than about how to organize. You could say it's about how brains try to organize info, and the barriers to organization in this day and age. There's very little actionable advice. A lot of digression into everything the author has ever learned about how brains function. Whether it's sleep phases, flow states, rational decision-making--most of this stuff has been published elsewhe Who came up with this title, anyway? The marketing dept missed it on this one. It's more about why we're NOT organized than about how to organize. You could say it's about how brains try to organize info, and the barriers to organization in this day and age. There's very little actionable advice. A lot of digression into everything the author has ever learned about how brains function. Whether it's sleep phases, flow states, rational decision-making--most of this stuff has been published elsewhere. So, I guess you'd call this a synthetic work. Nothing wrong with it, except that very little of it seemed new to me. For example, the sleep phases stuff has been passed around on FB for ages now, and the REAL question is, what to do about it? If humans are more naturally oriented to a lunar cycle (which makes sense given that for most of our evolutionary history we were hunter-gatherers and not farmers), how to we get society to function on a 25-hour daily schedule? If people naturally sleep about 4 hours, wake up for about 2, and then return to sleep for another 4, again, how is that supposed to fit in today's world? (Also, what should they do in the 2 hours? Get up and do stuff? Lie there in the dark?) Since most of us don't have personal assistants, pretty much all that was useful was the index cards thing, using calendars more comprehensively (man, do I miss Palm Pilots... we're still not back to where we were 10 years ago regarding calendaring), and blocking off no-internet time for uninterrupted work, which I already do. (I highly recommend the Chrome extension stayfocusd (the name is not a typo) for blocking/limiting social media and other selected websites, including Goodreads. Unfortunately, Android does not enable browser extensions, so you can still run apps on phones, which is a nasty sneakaround for the addicted.) Lots of info on raising children, some really shallow discussion of complementary & alternative medicine, a long discussion on medical decision-making, and a lot about rational decisionmaking, which has been covered by lots of other people in full-length books. In short, the book wasn't very well organized, and you kind of have to have an organized mind in the first place to pick out the relevant details about organizing your mind.

  3. 4 out of 5

    David

    This is a wonderful book about the modern mind. Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin has written a comprehensive, yet engaging book about brain science, organization techniques, office clutter, memory, and the ever-present kitchen junk drawer! Levitin has interesting things to say about the curse of e-mail, and the curse of passwords in the computer era. So, what is the greatest organizational component of the mind? It is attention--the "most essential mental resource for any organism ... The attention This is a wonderful book about the modern mind. Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin has written a comprehensive, yet engaging book about brain science, organization techniques, office clutter, memory, and the ever-present kitchen junk drawer! Levitin has interesting things to say about the curse of e-mail, and the curse of passwords in the computer era. So, what is the greatest organizational component of the mind? It is attention--the "most essential mental resource for any organism ... The attentional filter is one of evolution's greatest achievements." It allows us to take in all these details in real-time, non-stop, yet not get bogged down and distracted by irrelevant details. There is a more than a little bit of a self-help attitude in this book. Levitin recommends making use of 3x5 index cards to jot down notes and "to do" lists all the time. The cards can be reordered and re-prioritized whenever desired. By writing things down, it gives your mind permission to go off and focus on other things. Levitin makes numerous references to executives who have assistants whose job it is to keep the day's agenda straight, and to keep the big shot's activities rolling along. This allows the executive to focus on the task at hand, and keeps irrelevant distractions at bay. Levitin has nothing but bad things to say about multitasking. He writes that multitasking can increase the production of the stress hormone cortisol and the fight-or-flight hormone adrenaline. These chemicals can overstimulate the brain and cause scrambled thinking. Multitasking put the brain into a feedback loop that rewards it for losing focus, and causes one to constantly search for external stimulation. Levitin describes how sleep is not an all-or-nothing state. Parts of the brain can be awake while other parts sleep. I personally can think of times, when driving along a featureless highway, when I suddenly realized that I didn't remember being conscious for the last minute or so. Part of my conscious brain may have fallen asleep, while my subconscious brain took over the driving. Oh, and while we are on the subject of highway driving, Levitin reviews the logic behind the numbering system for interstate highways. I never realized just how much information is packed into the numbers that are used for interstate highways! So much, so very very much of this book really hit home for me. For example, Levitin writes about how couples in a close relationship implicitly share responsibility for things that need to be remembered. Neither member of the couple knows everything--both members have unique expertise. And, to the point, after a very long relationship, if one partner dies, the other partner can be left stuck not knowing how vast swaths of day-to-day life are navigated. I personally know just how true this is. Then, Levitin talks about matchmaking or "romantic partner assistance", a job that is actually thousands of years old. However, in the past decade, one-third of all marriages in America began with an online relationship. Half of these relationships were via social media, while the other half began on dating sites. I thought that the book was excellent until I came up to the very last paragraph of the book. At that point, I realized that Levitin had read my mind, and shouted out the very best for last: Every so often, the universe has a way of [cleaning up] for us. We unexpectedly lose a friend, a beloved pet, a business deal, or an entire global economy collapses. The best way to improve upon the brains that nature gave us is to learn to adjust agreeably to new circumstances. My own experience is that when I've lost something I thought was irreplaceable, it's usually replaced with something much better. The key to change is having faith that when we get rid of the old, something or someone even more magnificent will take its place.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kent

    This book is a dangerous combination of mildly compelling and vastly overwritten. I'd be reading and getting frustrated by the repetitive use of examples, the divergence from the main theme, the pointless asides, and then OCCASIONALLY an interesting tidbit would crop up. In the end, it wasn't enough to hold me, and I ended up skipping/speeding through massive portions of it (audiobook). The first chapter about the mind's states of attention, and the challenges of/resources lost when switching th This book is a dangerous combination of mildly compelling and vastly overwritten. I'd be reading and getting frustrated by the repetitive use of examples, the divergence from the main theme, the pointless asides, and then OCCASIONALLY an interesting tidbit would crop up. In the end, it wasn't enough to hold me, and I ended up skipping/speeding through massive portions of it (audiobook). The first chapter about the mind's states of attention, and the challenges of/resources lost when switching through those modes, was interesting. But then it devolved into overwrought chapters about the history of categorization, chapters on how to take pills and handle social media, and more I can't recall because it just wasn't worth it. This could be summed up by an Inc. or Fast Company productivity listicle. Here's my shot at it. Save yourself a LOT of time: * use external systems to aid your memory * use affordances to create cues for what to do (a key hook by the door, for example) * the brain is great at noticing change, so arrange things differently when you want to remember/notice them * attention takes resources, so give yourself breaks to rest * shut down external distractions (email/chat/text/etc) when you need to get stuff done.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    Can I just say that I found it incredibly ironic that a book on organization in an age of INFORMATION OVERLOAD was so very long? It would have been well-serviced by a developmental editor, one capable of trimming the often protracted prose and tightening the book's overall focus. This book is slightly misleading as it's not really a "how to get organized" manifesto. It takes lengthy detours into the inner workings of the mind, including how the brain organizes information as well as the ways in Can I just say that I found it incredibly ironic that a book on organization in an age of INFORMATION OVERLOAD was so very long? It would have been well-serviced by a developmental editor, one capable of trimming the often protracted prose and tightening the book's overall focus. This book is slightly misleading as it's not really a "how to get organized" manifesto. It takes lengthy detours into the inner workings of the mind, including how the brain organizes information as well as the ways in which the twenty-first century interfere with that biological system. I dearly love cognitive science, though, so I found those parts quite enthralling. For anyone interested in learning more about memory, this book provides a wonderful dip into the proverbial pool of cognitive science. It's less helpful when it comes to providing ways to better organize information, time, and our world. The first section, with its exploration of cognitive science, sets the stage well, but the following sections often didn't follow through on the promise of organization. The section on the social world especially seemed to detour in ways that only grew more frustrating with the section's end, when the author admits that everyone has their own way of organizing their social world and he can't quite help. There's no denying Levitin is a strong writer. Like his past books, the prose in The Organized Mind is immensely readable, but the author's rather annoying tendency to outline in extremely meticulous detail example after example after example can muddle his overall point and slow the reader's pace. This is a good one to skim (especially the first section!), but I wouldn't recommend sludging through the whole thing.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    I dipped into this off and on as one of the books I kept at my desk at work. Full confession: I did not read every word on every page. I stuck to a close read of the chapters most relevant to my interests and the work I do as a librarian, and skimmed the rest. This is quite the comprehensive overview of the neuroscience of information organization. The first chapter, "Too Much Information, Too Many Decisions: The Inside History of Cognitive Overload," had a lot to say about how people handle the I dipped into this off and on as one of the books I kept at my desk at work. Full confession: I did not read every word on every page. I stuck to a close read of the chapters most relevant to my interests and the work I do as a librarian, and skimmed the rest. This is quite the comprehensive overview of the neuroscience of information organization. The first chapter, "Too Much Information, Too Many Decisions: The Inside History of Cognitive Overload," had a lot to say about how people handle the flood of information in the 21st century. I thought a lot about what I read in this chapter, how it applies to undergraduates that I teach research skills and information literacy skills to, and explains a lot about why despite hours of instruction on the scholarly sources, some students will still just do a Google search. He also introduced me to the idea of satisficing, the idea of "good enough," and how it applies to information. Fascinating, and my group of librarians has had several interesting conversations about this idea - how it relates to the evaluation of resources, to-do lists, even revising. He follows this by talking about "Highly Successful Persons" and how the most successful people are likely to have staff who do a lot of information filtering for them, allowing them the luxury of focus, deep thinking, and creativity. So what do the rest of us do? We have to create systems of filtering before we even get bogged down. (And of course my brain is off thinking about how to use this idea as a librarian.) In the chapter, "Organizing our Social World," I was fascinated by the section on people being indirect. It is something I've struggled with since moving to the south (where people will not say "I disagree with you" but also in my marriage! I never just say "Please put X away" but approach it indirectly. And since my husband, according to Levitin, will not display "cooperative behavior" and play part of my social game, I am not successful in my indirect request. But fascinating! The chapter called "What to Teach our Children" also had some interesting information about evaluating sources, fake news, and what the immediacy of information means for the younger generation. The notes in the back have even more information and I found myself sucked into them at times. I wouldn't overlook them. But this is not a quick read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ben Babcock

    I first heard about this book when Daniel Levitin appeared on a Spark episode to talk about organization. I recommend you follow the link and listen to the interview; his examples are pretty much straight from the book, so it should give you a good idea of whether or not to read this. I mentioned the book to my friend Rebecca, because it seemed like she would be interested in it. Lo and behold, she goes out and buys the book herself … and then turns around and lends it to me before she reads it, I first heard about this book when Daniel Levitin appeared on a Spark episode to talk about organization. I recommend you follow the link and listen to the interview; his examples are pretty much straight from the book, so it should give you a good idea of whether or not to read this. I mentioned the book to my friend Rebecca, because it seemed like she would be interested in it. Lo and behold, she goes out and buys the book herself … and then turns around and lends it to me before she reads it, because she has other books to read first. I don’t know this happened, but somehow I managed to acquire excellent friends. Anyway, The Organized Mind is not a GTD (Getting Things Done) book in that it doesn’t pretend to have one amazing system to turn you into a productivity powerhouse. Rather, Levitin aims to use cutting-edge neuroscience and cognitive psychology to give the reader some insight into how our brains organize information and use that to make decisions. As he points out several times, humans are unique among animals for our ability to plan for the future and visualize alternative scenarios. But another thing that makes us unique is our ability to hack our own brains. That’s what Levitin is trying to teach us here. He’s showing us how to hack our brains. It doesn’t matter if you’re the best (or worst, I guess, depending on your perspective) procrastinator: you can still be productive if you can find a system that works for you. And the best way to do that is to be aware of how your brain works, and to work with your brain rather than fighting it. The first part of the The Organized Mind addresses the way our brain reacts to external information. Levitin identifies two complementary modes of attentional awareness: the default mode, or mind-wandering/daydreaming mode, and the central executive. The former is so named because it appears to be what our brains lapse into given the chance. It’s good for creativity, for chewing over tough problems “subconsciously” (in quotations because Levitin points out that consciousness is a more fluid notion than it used to be). The latter is what takes charge when we need to accomplish a specific task. It says, “Hey, we need to do this now!” If you’re following a recipe or, like me, writing a book review, your central executive is keeping you on task. I like how Levitin’s careful explication of current neuroscience reinforces how we used to view the brain in such black-and-white, siloed terms. To some extent this remains the baseline in mainstream perceptions of the brain: you are a “left-brain” or “right-brain” individual; you are logical or you are linguistic. Eyeroll. Levitin points out that being detail-oriented and organized is not necessarily antithetical to creativity; some of the most successful creative people succeed because their organizational system gives them more time to be creative. Similarly, specific cognitive functions are not always localized; sometimes they are distributed among neural networks throughout the brain. This is particularly important when forming memories—the same memory might be triggered by a sight, sound, smell, or link to another memory or concept, because of how memories get formed by our networks. Levitin is very skilled at using computer metaphors for describing how the brain stores information without making the common mistake of likening the brain too much to a computer. Of course, even with a better understanding of how our brain works, there are limits to how far we can push that lump of grey matter. Levitin is a big proponent of cognitive offloading as a way of dealing with information overload. Basically: if you write something down, your brain treats it as stored, and stops mulling it over so much. Want to stop worrying about how much you have to do? Jot down a to-do list. Consequently, in this model of cognition, external organization systems are not just productivity fetishes but potentially useful adaptations. The Organized Mind explores several such systems, from the random-access 3x5 index card system to flat files and computer storage. Levitin makes it clear that he’s not trying to advocate “One System to Rule Them All” but instead encourage the reader to find something that works for them. I was surprised by how fascinating I found some of the history behind these systems. We take file folders for granted, but there was a time when they were being introduced and everyone was as excited about them as we are about the new iPhone. (Apparently Dewey premiered some of this technology at 1893 World’s Fair, which would be the equivalent of a modern day tech expo like CES.) There are some interesting anecdotes, such as the fact that the majority of people didn’t know the order of the alphabet in the eighteenth century. As a student of English literature I knew about the great variation in spelling, but it just didn’t occur to me that the order of the alphabet would be so unimportant. This just demonstrates how our current cultural values bias our view and assumptions of the past. At times Levitin’s digressions get the best of him, and he wanders off into tangents that don’t seem as related to organization as I would have liked. His discussions of statistical decision-making reminds me a lot of How Not to Be Wrong , with a few of the examples almost verbatim. And he refers to the work of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky quite a bit, being a student of the latter, so there is some overlap with Thinking, Fast and Slow . For what it’s worth, Levitin’s writing is more enjoyable. The Organized Mind also has much to say about education, a topic I’m just a little passionate about. Neuroscience seems to support constructivism—the theory of learning that promotes student-led inquiry and construction of knowledge, rather than merely receiving it from an expert. Levitin points out that doing something imprints skills on our brain in a way that merely reading about or hearing about something does not. There are a couple of times in my notes where I’ve just jotted down, “Flipped classroom!” (a term in which students learn by tackling problems set by the instructor, who acts as another resource or guide but doesn’t actually lecture or otherwise instruct). And the conclusion is basically an impassioned plea by Levitin to make sure we are teaching students what they need to know for now rather than what we thought they needed to know a decade or two ago. In the Internet age, students need to be critical thinkers and problem solvers. It’s not about what you know, it’s about what you know about how you can get the knowledge you need. I can’t not recommend this book. It’s intelligent, insightful, and well-written. The barrier to entry is on the higher side; even after hiding away the four-fold tables primer in an appendix, Levitin leaves an awful lot of science and math vocabulary out on the lawn for the neighbours to see. (Is that … is that a correlation coefficient in your driveway? How gauche!) I say this not to frighten but to be upfront: this is not a beach read type of popular science book but a “frown and think” type. I still recommend it, but know what to expect and what frame of mind you’ll need to get the most out of it. Oh, one last thing: this might seem like a thick book. However, if you are like me, the first thing you will do is flip to the back and see if there is an index and notes. There are, and they are over a hundred pages combined. This is a well-indexed, well-annotated science book, and that is even better. Sexy, even. Because I have a confession, ladies: I like big brains. I cannot lie. And you other brothers? You cannot deny that when a girl walks in with a big heavy bag and shoves a book full of learning in your face you get pumped … to spend a weekend reading about cognitive neuroscience. Or is that just me?

  8. 5 out of 5

    K K

    Eye and mind opener A lots of topics to think about, good as reference to go back and reread. The citations make it easy to go deeper into any of the topics.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Orsolya

    Our brains are remarkably able to store an insurmountable wealth of information… Or are they? Having not been biologically created to receive as much stimuli as we do in the modern world; how can our brains cope? How is the information stored and organized? Best-selling author, psychologist, and neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin explores these questions in, “The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload. Levitin divides “The Organized Mind” into three main parts with th Our brains are remarkably able to store an insurmountable wealth of information… Or are they? Having not been biologically created to receive as much stimuli as we do in the modern world; how can our brains cope? How is the information stored and organized? Best-selling author, psychologist, and neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin explores these questions in, “The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload. Levitin divides “The Organized Mind” into three main parts with the first explaining how information is sorted within the brain on a neurological standpoint; followed by how we organize our outside world and then a ‘how-to’ of sorts. For those who enjoy neuroscience, the first section will be especially pleasing as Levitin strikes again with his ability to mix neuroscience and psychology in an entertaining and readable way but without dummying down the information. In fact, Levitin is one of the few authors who present scientific jargon without overwhelming the reader; blowing one away with amazing information and thus keeping reader attention. Levitin also incorporates some humor, interactive exercises, and easy-to-understand examples into the text which breaks the heaviness of the topic. This is well-received as “The Organized Mind” is a slower read not because of poor writing but because there is a lot of information to absorb. The negative of this is that some of the material will quickly become dated as time goes on. Unfortunately, “The Organized Mind” takes a drastic turn after approximately 80 pages, entering the second section. Ironically for a book on organization, it feels like Levitin can not maintain his focus and strays on various tangents; losing his thesis. Although his scope of research and intelligence is impressive; the presentation lacks a cohesive strand bouncing from psychology to case studies to science but without truly connecting these ideas: everything is very choppy and cut apart. These areas are also interspersed with tips on organization which are so out of place (and sometimes, plain ridiculous); that they can be skimmed or skipped all together. Also evident is Levitin’s habit of repetition of ideas or using the idea differently in various sections to appeal to the topic at hand. As a result, “The Organized Mind” weakens in strength and slows its pace. As “The Organized Mind” proceeds, it truly loses its message with much of Levitin’s text being conjecture or even common sense, filling pages merely to add length. On the other hand, the material is still interesting enough to justify continued reading. “The Organized Mind” can be compared to a conversation which is “all over the place” but still with enough depth to find it satisfying. The concluding chapters of the second section elevate the confusion even more as they have no correlation with the topic and are lax in the science. In fact, there are many “I have no idea what is going on!”-moments. Levitin strays greatly from the aim of “The Organized Mind” and even ventures down a social history path. At this juncture, the text is very ‘up and down’. Similarly, the final (third) section of “The Organized Mind” strays from both its individual sectional intention and that of the overall book. The message of the organization theme is lost and once again, the science is eschewed. To add to the disappointment, the ending is abrupt and doesn’t summarize the book resulting in a weak and less-than-memorable ending. “The Organized Mind” rounds out with an appendix and notes which include sources. Although the notes are (author-admittedly) not exhaustive; they show great research and even encourage further reading. Unfortunately, only the beginning of “The Organized Mind” is powerful and on-par with Levitin’s usual excellence. After this, the text is jumbled and the thesis is lost producing a weak work. Despite these major flaws, “The Organized Mind” is still an interesting piece and is much better than other books on similar topics. The bottom line though: it is not cohesive and not as great as expected from Levitin. “The Organized Mind” is recommended for fans of the author or those who search out all neuroscience books but it is not necessary to rush into it.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Dejonghe

    Daniel Levitin’s ORGANIZED MIND seeks to take the figurative junk drawer of our mind, explain how the mind works, and help us live more thought-out and productive lives. His knowledge comes from his own years of teaching and research and has been influenced by mind pioneers such as Daniel Kahneman, Amos Tversky, and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The end product is an awesome journey into the realms of our minds that enlighten and inspires action. This book is huge. At times Levitin may appear longwind Daniel Levitin’s ORGANIZED MIND seeks to take the figurative junk drawer of our mind, explain how the mind works, and help us live more thought-out and productive lives. His knowledge comes from his own years of teaching and research and has been influenced by mind pioneers such as Daniel Kahneman, Amos Tversky, and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The end product is an awesome journey into the realms of our minds that enlighten and inspires action. This book is huge. At times Levitin may appear longwinded in his narrative—but that’s okay. Trust me. As he unravels the various layers of mental organization, he sidebars into various studies and interesting factoids. At first, you may think Levitin is being ironically unorganized, but later chapters tie it back together. Other times, Levitin may tuck in a brief statement that will cause you tunneling into Google for more information (though many notes for further study are linked at the rear of the book). Levitin differs himself from Kahneman’s THINKING, FAST AND SLOW by saying there are “four components in the human attentional system”: mind wondering mode; central executive mode; attentional filter; and, attentional switch. What mostly comes into play are the first two components. I have some issue for the terminology “mind wondering mode”; I would have liked Levitin to expound more on mindfulness and what component it falls into. THE ORGANIZED MIND offers more explanation than step-by-step or bulleted technique. I appreciated this approach, feeling it strengthened the technique through knowledge of why it works. Levitin uses the ideas of offloading brain information through index cards, calendaring, contact sheets—much like our mind uses random access memory versus chronological memory. Some of these techniques were explained in the books THE POWER OF FORGETTING and ESSENTIALISM, but not nearly in the depth of knowledge that Levitin offers. Category management is a huge topic throughout the book: reasonably so. It is one such tool that the recent FLUENT FOREVER book used in learning foreign languages. Levitin continues this insight into everything from organizing our homes to making life-depending healthcare choices. Levitin combines it all together, showing how Highly Successful Persons (HSPs) are able to succeed by naturally using these strategies. I was pleased to see Levitin address the fundamental need for sleep, exercise, and exposing oneself to nature. These are not just “you should” statements, but as mentioned before, these are well-documented, scientifically-backed recommendations. There are also sections dealing with procrastination, crowdsourcing, the dangers of multi-tasking and teaching children safe web research, and much more. It all plays into more information than you’ll want, but definitely will include any information you are trying to find or need. All-in-all, this is a great book that’ll make you think and learn better. Thanks to Dutton for sending this to me for review.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Andrea McDowell

    OK, I didn't completely finish it--I skipped/skimmed the last two chapters (not quite sure why this book required an extended discussion on the pitfalls of wikipedia, but there it was). The book was ok. It repeats a lot of the popular experiments other authors of popular psychology books use, which makes me wonder if maybe the Invisible Gorilla etc. are the only experiments that have been done in the past 20 years. Regardless, I wasn't sure why they were there. They're interesting experiments an OK, I didn't completely finish it--I skipped/skimmed the last two chapters (not quite sure why this book required an extended discussion on the pitfalls of wikipedia, but there it was). The book was ok. It repeats a lot of the popular experiments other authors of popular psychology books use, which makes me wonder if maybe the Invisible Gorilla etc. are the only experiments that have been done in the past 20 years. Regardless, I wasn't sure why they were there. They're interesting experiments and he wrote about them well, but they had only tangential relevance to the book's subjects (of organizing and not being overwhelmed by information overload), and it struck me as both unfortunate and ironic that a book about how much we are overloaded by information nowadays chose to communicate that by overloading readers with information. Come on. Did we really need a 20 page discourse on the origins and development of the flat-file hanging-folder system? No. If you are already a fairly organized person, you won't find anything new here. The advice portion can be summed up in a paragraph: 1. Externalize your organization. Don't keep everything in your head. Make folders, boxes, cubbies, ticklers, whatever; it doesn't matter so much what you do, as that the information is organized in the physical world. 2. Put everything in your calendar. Also put reminders for everything in your calendar. 3. Don't check your email and social media compulsively. Use tools to put limits on how much you can be distracted online. 4. Use file folders and organize them, maybe alphabetically or by subject. (I'm not kidding. He discusses the pros and cons of each.) 5. Really lucky people get to hire assistants to be their organization for them. Chances are, you don't. If these are things you already do, or already know, then you are screwed, my friend, because there is apparently nothing else to be done to manage the overwhelm.

  12. 5 out of 5

    David Ranney

    For people of any age, the world is becoming increasingly linear---a word I'm using in its figurative rather than mathematical sense. Nonlinear thinkers, including many artists, are feeling more marginalized as a result. As a society, it seems we take less time for art. In doing so, we may be missing out on something that is deeply valuable and important from a neurobiological standpoint. Artists recontextualize reality and offer visions that were previously invisible. Creativity engages the br For people of any age, the world is becoming increasingly linear---a word I'm using in its figurative rather than mathematical sense. Nonlinear thinkers, including many artists, are feeling more marginalized as a result. As a society, it seems we take less time for art. In doing so, we may be missing out on something that is deeply valuable and important from a neurobiological standpoint. Artists recontextualize reality and offer visions that were previously invisible. Creativity engages the brain's daydreaming mode directly and stimulates the free flow and association of ideas, forging links between concept and neural nodes that might not otherwise be made. In this way, engagement in art as either a creator or consumer helps us by hitting the reset button in our brains. Time stops. We contemplate. We reimagine our relationship to the world. Being creative means allowing the nonlinear to intrude on the linear, and to exercise some control over the output. The major achievements in science and art over the last several thousand years required induction, rather than deduction--required extrapolation from the known to the unknown and, to a large extent, blindly guessing what should come next and being right some of the time. In short, they required great creativity combined with a measure of luck. There is a mystery to how these steps forward are made, but we can stack the decks in our favor. We can organize our time, and our minds, to leave time for creativity, for mind-wandering, for each of us to make our own unique contribution in our time here. Overlong with nothing new to say, Levitin is only successful in 'organizing' for uninformed readers some oft-referenced case studies from cognitive science and offering some half-hearted advice for practical application. Admittedly I have some familiarity with the subject material, but I had almost no reason to annotate while reading. Too late and undercooked.

  13. 5 out of 5

    د.أمجد الجنباز

    كتاب عميق وخطير وصعب. يتحدث عن الدماغ وكيف يعمل. ويحوي نصائح عملية متناغمة مع آلية عمل الدماغ لتحسين حياتنا الكتاب علمي، ومؤلفه بروفيسور وباحث في الدماغ. ولذلك فأسلوب الكتاب صعب وجامد. ومع ذلك فهو ممتع ومفيد للغاية

  14. 4 out of 5

    Nick Richtsmeier

    Books like An Organized Mind are such a struggle to review. On one hand there were sections of this book that were so rich and so valuable that I either went and implemented the changes suggested or spent hours thinking through how the issues Levitin raises have broad and sometimes unintended consequences. And yet, I find it difficult to rate this book more than 3 stars. It was dense, and not in a good way. There were long sections of under-edited rambling. The author was over-indulgent with his Books like An Organized Mind are such a struggle to review. On one hand there were sections of this book that were so rich and so valuable that I either went and implemented the changes suggested or spent hours thinking through how the issues Levitin raises have broad and sometimes unintended consequences. And yet, I find it difficult to rate this book more than 3 stars. It was dense, and not in a good way. There were long sections of under-edited rambling. The author was over-indulgent with his own ideas and lacked the discipline to edit what should be included and shouldn't be included in this valuable popular examination of human neurology and behavior. Herein lies the irony. How is it that book shouting about the importance of the organization, satisficing and de-cluttering in the age of over-information be so cluttered by... over-information? It is a quandary I myself don't have the proximity to the author to address. All I can offer is the warning to those who would wish to find a clear path to their own mental organization from Levitin's book--you won't find it here. What you will find are moments of uncommon brilliance that I can't imagine have missed by avoiding this book. And along side those moments are stretches of common ramblings that a skilled writer and ideator like Levitin should have been able to avoid.

  15. 5 out of 5

    L.A. Starks

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This is a superlative book about brain science (longer dendrites on the right side of the brain--who knew?), organization, statistics, and a host of related topics. Every man and every woman who cares about the men in her life should read the information/statistics on prostate biopsies and prostate cancer that starts at page 240. BTW, it will not be what readers expect to hear.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cathleen

    This book will soon become dog-eared from all of the re-reading and noting I'll be doing. For anyone who feels inundated by the never ending torrent of info or anyone interested in learning, memory, and retrieval, this book is well worth reading.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Nothing reveals more about our vigorous, bootstrap American culture than self-help literature. And nothing reveals more about our own insecurity and alienation than that same literature. While we are simultaneously driven to control our destinies, we are also driven to reach for a book to rescue us from our inability. This reveals our deep-seated dread of contingency and imperfection and our deep-seated hunger for universality and perfection. The desire for change implies the need for change. I Nothing reveals more about our vigorous, bootstrap American culture than self-help literature. And nothing reveals more about our own insecurity and alienation than that same literature. While we are simultaneously driven to control our destinies, we are also driven to reach for a book to rescue us from our inability. This reveals our deep-seated dread of contingency and imperfection and our deep-seated hunger for universality and perfection. The desire for change implies the need for change. I see that same dread and hope in my own encounter with this genre. I don’t remember the moment that the pendulum began swinging toward self-reflexivity, but I’m pretty sure that prior to my self-help binge, I was perfectly capable of doing the things that much of the self-help literature suggested. I was fine at reading books until I read Mortimer Adler's _How to Read a Book_, after which I couldn’t make heads or tails of a book. Should I be underlining it, highlighting it, making an outline, memorizing the page numbers, indexing them all? After reading David Allen’s _Getting Things Done_, I remember coming to a crisis point in my ability to properly prioritize my tasks. Granted that I now had a system to process incoming tasks, I now found that my previous knack for “just knowing” which tasks took higher priority had withered to the point that I could no longer decide if it were more important to “process my inbox” or “pay my electric bill.” That’s the problem with much of the self-help literature I’ve encountered. So much of the conventional wisdom in that literature, if applied too heavy handedly, can make one’s life worse than no system at all. Moreover, the people who tend to love this genre are generally conscientious (and insecure) folks anyway, so there is a very real danger that if such books are not careful, they can do more harm than good. Enter stage left: _The Organized Mind_ by Daniel Levitin. At the height of my crisis point, I suddenly realized three things about getting things done: 1. I cannot possibly do everything that comes across my “to do” list; 2. consequently, I need to learn how to prioritize and vet the things that do come through this list, and 3. how on earth am I supposed to be creative and add meaning to this world when I’m constantly having to shuffle my pile of tasks around? Levitin’s solution to my problem is neuroscience. Underlying the entirety of this book is the assumption that current neuroscientific research is a needed voice in this desperately overblown and oversold genre. His central, and more explicit, purpose is to convey the beautiful insight that an optimal human life balances both creativity with rationality, chaos with organization. You get from this book the much needed counterpart to almost all other self help literature: the recognition that this world is a complex and baffling place, and the human mind copes with that by categorizing it, but only imperfectly. At the end of the day, our categorizing and filing and sorting and sifting can’t do it all, and as we finally compartmentalize most of what we have, we’re still left with a handful of things that we must toss in a “junk drawer.” In other words, at the very least, we should recognize that no organizational system is air tight, and for us as human beings, that’s just fine. This book is structured into three parts. The categorization of these parts isn’t all that clear, even after having read the book. I'll take a stab at it though. Part one contains chapters 1 and 2, detailing his introductory assumptions. Chapter 1 claims that only over the last couple of decades has the sheer volume of data we face as a people increased to a critical state, and we are overloaded and struggling to manage it; chapter 2 argues that human memory is best served by (in fact, depends upon) categorization (or abstraction) from data, and it forms the very basis of human language. Part two, chapter 3-7, appears to be the application of those first principles to domains in our lives. Chapter 3 argues that we organize our homes best by externalizing our memories into our living spaces. Chapter 4 argues that we best organize our social lives through understanding social reasoning (and avoiding things like the fundamental attribution error). Chapter 5 digs deeper into subjective perceptions as it relates to time and attention—and why it passes so differently for so many activities and stages of life. Chapter 6 discusses medical decision making using statistical reasoning—which, he argues, we aren’t very good at doing, and chapter 7 discusses both the structures of business organizations, a defense of all this paperwork (finally!), and how a good business model will allow for human creativity. Part three, chapters 8 and 9, seems to serve as both a conclusion to the book and a “junk drawer” for his stray observations not easily categorized in the rest of the book. Chapter 8 argues that we should be teaching our children information literacy above all, and chapter 9 argues very eloquently that human creativity and human rationality should serve complimentary roles, rather than in opposition to one other. What makes this book so valuable, contrary to so many other self-help books, is that it doesn’t indulge in pandering or pedantry. Too many books are weak on research and overbearing in maxims. Daniel Levitin manages to avoid both an academic tediousness and a layperson’s favoritism for his/her pet rule. This work is both accessible to an average (but educated) reader, but rigorous enough for an academic reader (though probably not as useful to an established neuroscientist—for obvious reasons). Pedagogically, the book is structured quite well—each chapter building upon itself. That is, from a pedagogical standpoint, his reiteration of previous concepts helps the reader to learn things through repetition, like the role of the prefrontal cortex as the “executive center.” Having no background in neuroanatomy, this was appreciated. Nevertheless, there are some areas that didn’t quite work. For one, the chapters themselves are a bit lengthy. This is, I think, due to his categorization system. A great example of this is chapter 4, where he attempts to address how to organize our “social world.” The chapter begins with crowdsourcing, then moves to the sociology of cities/networking, then externalizing our memories to close social connections, then group membership decisions, social networking, intimacy, the virtue of “agreeableness,” matchmaking, online dating, lie detection, honesty and forgiveness, conversational implicatures and indirect speech acts, social contracts, oxytocin and vasopressin’s relationship to relationships, the “invisibility” problem of mental states, a discussion of judging others based on external criteria, belief perseverance, in-group/out-group bias, and wraps up by discussing bystander inaction—all in that order. These subjects fall under only five headings within the chapter (if you count the beginning of the chapter as a heading); most of his ideas just move from one paragraph to the next, like a stream of consciousness narrative. It’s enjoyable to read, and it does seems to make intuitive sense to go in the directions he does, but it becomes unwieldy and difficult to remember which path you’ve taken to get where you are. I also noticed that misleading title. I had picked it up thinking I would get a book about developing a way to organize what goes into my head, and how to arrange all of that information while it’s in there. Instead, I got a book that suggested offloading as much of that information as possible! It’s good advice, in retrospect, but it wasn’t what I was after when I picked it up. Perhaps that is his purpose, though—to rope in those who naively believe that they can have a memory megastructure inside their little heads. Instead, when all the science is tallied and reconciled, he reveals this as a lost cause. Overall, these weaknesses may actually be a result of his “joining of creativity and rationality.” They are large categories, but he allows himself the indulgence of meandering through much of the research to ensure that he’s covered a whole lot of material—to show the narrative relationship in much of human knowledge, rather than removing pieces that don’t neatly fit into easy categories. I like it. I think the primary point he is trying to convey, though, can best be summarized by a quote from the last chapter. With all the vast and inundating amounts of information at our fingertips, it’s becoming increasingly more important to recognize where computers and databases cannot go—and to recognize what characteristics of our humanness make us such a powerful and progressive species: our creativity. Computers, encyclopedias, and databases don’t have it. We do. Thus, he can say, “nonlinear, creative thinking [should] be tethered to rational, linear thinking in order to implement it in the most robust and rigorous way possible—the dreams of men and women paired with the vast resources of computers” (380). As we continue to consume our self-help candy, it’s best to attend to the insecurities that provide the impetus for so much of it. Computers we are not, but artists we are. If there is anything we should be more optimistic about, it’s the very human ability to take the data we’re given (and we can’t handle very much), and to dream and imagine where it might take us, or what it might mean. Looking at massive bones buried deep in the earth, we can imagine both dragons and dinosaurs. That’s just who we are. I think this book is a wonderful edition to a genre that is implicitly pessimistic about human organizational potential. Rather than lamenting “messiness,” Levitin celebrates it as that which gives us so much of life’s meaning. To rephrase Jesus of Nazareth when he said “man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for man.” So we might say that we are not created for organization, but organization was created for us—to free us to be more human.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Robert Muller

    The one thing this book has going for it is that it is organized, no doubt about it. It is also much too long and in need of serious editing, another case of way too much writing for the actual content. I was going along pretty well on the content until we got to the chapter on hard decisions, in which he introduces all kinds of stuff relating to making life-and-death decisions. He talks about statistics, probability (confusing the two, actually) and decision theory. The valuable part of this ch The one thing this book has going for it is that it is organized, no doubt about it. It is also much too long and in need of serious editing, another case of way too much writing for the actual content. I was going along pretty well on the content until we got to the chapter on hard decisions, in which he introduces all kinds of stuff relating to making life-and-death decisions. He talks about statistics, probability (confusing the two, actually) and decision theory. The valuable part of this chapter is his journalistic work reporting on how doctors and surgeons help us all make decisions on prostate cancer. The material on statistics and decision theory, however, lost me. A note: Bayesian statistics are not all about "conditional probability" (probability of this given that)--Bayes rule is about updating a prior distribution with data into a posterior distribution. How he can talk about Bayesian statistics without actually using the concept of a distribution at all is beyond me. Another note: a contingency table is not a decision tree. Really weird approach to decisions. He'd be much better off using the usual tree graph or (sigh) a Bayesian network representation. Then he got to alternative medicine. He defines "medicine" as treatments based on scientific evidence. Really! Shouldn't be talking so much to doctors, perhaps a little bit more to philosophers of science. He never mentions to important concept of "evidence-based medicine", which is, after all, unusual in today's medical world. It is not an oxymoron. Doctors don't prove things, they know things. It's not the same thing. And alternative medicine is not the simple negation of medicine--treatment not based on evidence. That's called circular reasoning--and without bothering to define "evidence" in any convincing way. I'm left thinking his real approach to evidence is like art: you know it when you see it :) . At that point, my brain shut down on me and I gave up.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Peter Mcloughlin

    I don't relate well to self help books. If I read a self help book I want it heavily disguised as nonfiction. This book is such a book. It is a clearing house of recent findings in psychology and brain science that involve everyday life and information on the internet. It does not give a recipe or winning plan but merely relates fascinating information about how our brains work and how information works on the internet. The self help advice is deeply disguised as a nonfiction presentation which I don't relate well to self help books. If I read a self help book I want it heavily disguised as nonfiction. This book is such a book. It is a clearing house of recent findings in psychology and brain science that involve everyday life and information on the internet. It does not give a recipe or winning plan but merely relates fascinating information about how our brains work and how information works on the internet. The self help advice is deeply disguised as a nonfiction presentation which is detailed and doesn't talk down to the reader. It is a good well written presentation of really good information for people who detest self help. Really enjoyable a true rating would be four and half stars.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sahar Sabati

    In an eye opening NPR talk, Harvard professor Ann Blair discusses how information overload is certainly not unique to the digital age. This same concern accompanied every invention related to any increase in our ability to more efficiently share more information. The question of organizing information started the instant humans invented writing. How will the information be stored? How will it be categorised? How can it easily be accessed, seeing as how the same information can be the answer to ve In an eye opening NPR talk, Harvard professor Ann Blair discusses how information overload is certainly not unique to the digital age. This same concern accompanied every invention related to any increase in our ability to more efficiently share more information. The question of organizing information started the instant humans invented writing. How will the information be stored? How will it be categorised? How can it easily be accessed, seeing as how the same information can be the answer to very different questions? Current questions regarding the unprecedented amount of information available in the digital age are similar to those we faced in the past. As we managed then to address them, we will be able to yet again learn to manage information overload and, taking full advantage of it, advance as a society. These are some of the questions that McGill professor Daniel J. Levitin addresses in his latest book, The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload. In the same tradition as his two best-selling books, This Is Your Brain On Music: The Science of a Human Obsession, and The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature, he walks us through complex concepts, explaining its intricacies in a clear and engaging voice. The fact that Levitin is a neuroscientist, a professor of Psychology and Behavioural Neuroscience at McGill University in Montreal where he runs the Laboratory for Music Cognition, Perception and Expertise lends the book scientific legitimacy. This is balanced by his philosophical side—reflected in pieces such as Amnesia and the Self That Remains When Memory Is Lost—which makes the science relatable to daily life. The three parts in The Organized Mind build on each other in a way long-time readers of my blog will immediately recognize. Levitin begins by discussing the information overload we are currently experiencing and how humans, on an individual level, are attempting to organise and use as much as of it as they can. In the second part, the author takes a step back from the individual to discuss the implications of information overload at the level of the home and of society, touching upon the way we can organise both in a more efficient way. The third and final part discusses the future, both in terms of how to raise our children in an age of information overload as well as what organizing information could look like as we continue evolving. That a vital part of our education should be to learn how to sift through and organize information in such a way that allows us to make decisions is one of the most important things I took from The Organized Mind. The quick shift from information available in books to information available online did not give us time to learn how to sift and organise efficiently enough, which creates a sense of helplessness and disempowerment. One sign of this is how the wealth of sometimes contradictory information keeps individuals from making decisions regarding diet or lifestyle best suited to them. Similarly, the wealth of sometimes contradictory information keeps individuals from making decisions regarding their contribution to the well-being of their communities. In both cases, individuals have good intentions that get lost in a sea of information. There is probably a strong connection with the increasing levels of apathy and lethargy and the sense of disempowerment related to information overload. While reading The Organized Mind will unfortunately not turn you into a master information organizer and retriever, it does give insight into how successful members of society, such as business executives, highly credentialed professionals, artists, and athletes, have “learned to maximize their creativity and efficiency by organizing their lives so that they can spend less time on the mundane, and more time on the inspiring, comforting, and rewarding things in life,” which is something that everyone can benefit from.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Wanda

    This is an excellent book, but the wrong one for me at this particular time. Much too dense, while I am starting to slip into my “Summer Festival of Reading Fluff.” Lots of good information on the organization of the brain and how to work with your weaknesses, rather than against them. It is entirely possible that I will read this again (preferably during the winter, which I habitually think of as part of the “School Year”) and get much more out of it the second time. Not the book’s fault—just bad This is an excellent book, but the wrong one for me at this particular time. Much too dense, while I am starting to slip into my “Summer Festival of Reading Fluff.” Lots of good information on the organization of the brain and how to work with your weaknesses, rather than against them. It is entirely possible that I will read this again (preferably during the winter, which I habitually think of as part of the “School Year”) and get much more out of it the second time. Not the book’s fault—just bad timing on my part.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Rob Dudek

    Quite a good read, but like so many others - it (most likely) has barely any information that you haven't picked up already from other books/articles. If you're new to the subject of 'attention' then yes, definitely give it a quick read - the book has many practical tips and facts that you'll find useful. E.g. Thinking takes energy - neurons require glucose and oxygen - so spend it on the things that matter. Otherwise, I'd say that there are better books out there that you'll find a lot more use Quite a good read, but like so many others - it (most likely) has barely any information that you haven't picked up already from other books/articles. If you're new to the subject of 'attention' then yes, definitely give it a quick read - the book has many practical tips and facts that you'll find useful. E.g. Thinking takes energy - neurons require glucose and oxygen - so spend it on the things that matter. Otherwise, I'd say that there are better books out there that you'll find a lot more useful.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ed

    An extraordinarily good book that covered so many subjects and has an immense impact on my life. It covers all aspects of how our mind is organized in our every day life from making decisions about tough medical situations, organizing our stuff, making decisions and a wealth of other areas. Probably the best written best edited non fiction I have read this year. I have bought copies for others and mine is out on permanent loan....

  24. 5 out of 5

    Hamideh Mohammadi

    I liked the idea behind this book (deserving 5 stars), but man was it verbose and disorganized (-2.5 stars)!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Son Tung

    This seems to be just right for me at the current level of knowledge. Ironically, i'm overloaded with infomation from this book, mostly on scientific explanation of the brain. And from solid science, small handy tips offered here make really good sense. Its for the best when i can find a justified reason for small advices on efficiency, creativity (which often see as short articles circulated on social media). A few important points which i have to take note and digest slowly overtime: - There ar This seems to be just right for me at the current level of knowledge. Ironically, i'm overloaded with infomation from this book, mostly on scientific explanation of the brain. And from solid science, small handy tips offered here make really good sense. Its for the best when i can find a justified reason for small advices on efficiency, creativity (which often see as short articles circulated on social media). A few important points which i have to take note and digest slowly overtime: - There are 2 compelling properties of human brain : richness (remember many things) and associative access (your memory can be accessed by semantic or perceptual association, memory can be triggered by a smell, song, word, photograph or random firing neuron...). Individually or collectively, human has always been using ways to improve memorycapacity and indexing system. It is the language and writing system and now data storage online. It is nesscessary to externalize your thoughts by writing note and review later from an observer's perspective. (Using 3x5 cards is a powerful tool to prioritize, reorganize tasks) - Four components of human attentional systems: mind wandering mode, central executive mode, the attention filter, the attentional switch. We often are not aware of what we filter or when 2 modes switch to one or another. Daydream and mind wandering mode can have postive effect on creative tasks and problem solving. Day dream: is marked by a flow of a connection between disparate ideas and thoughts and relative lack of barriers between senses and concepts. It makes solutions for difficult problems which seems impossible before for us. Mind wandering mode: Our thoughts are mostly directed inward towards goal, desires, feelings, plans, relationship with other people, when ppl feel empathy towards one another. In central executive mode: both inward and outward. -Flow state is great! Fear center and self-criticism part of the brain are turned off, Flow creates higher form of efficiency and art, normally happens for experts or what you do best. (Read the book for more specific description). - Sleep: Experiments from US National Institute of Mental Health suggests that human at night sleeps 4 hours, wakes up for 1-2 hour (to ward off nocturnal animals) and back to sleep for more 4 hours. Naps during day less than 40 mins are beneficial. Naps right after the alarm goes off often interfere with brainwave patterns. So, the advice is to wake up consistently the same time everyday despite there are some nights with less sleep. - The author also included numberous aspects of organized thinking: skepticism, cognitive biases, organizational structures (compare advs/disadvs). Still my favorite part although i have somewhat earlier read on these topic. - And spirit of cleaning up your mind, your life: "Every so often, the universe has a way of cleaning up for us. We unexpectedly lose a friend, a beloved pet, a business deal, or an entire global economy collapses. The best way to improve upon the brains that nature gave us is to learn to adjust agreeably to new circumstances. My own experience is that when I've lost something I thought was irreplaceable, it's usually replaced with something much better. The key to change is having faith that when we get rid of the old, something or someone even more magnificent will take its place." I have been having a similar feeling: if i do not learn more and grow faster, sooner or later, terrible things will catch me off guard. Terrible mistakes should be avoided since who knows how bad things can go.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Vinod Peris

    The title of this book is an overload in itself, but the premise is solid. We are faced with too many choices today and these choices make us less happy, not more. And the trend is getting worse. Daniel makes his point by highlighting how the average grocery store now has over 40,000 unique products as opposed to less than 10,000 in 1975. Most of our needs revolve around 150 products and so we spend a huge amount of cognitive effort ignoring the thousands of items in the grocery store. Decisions The title of this book is an overload in itself, but the premise is solid. We are faced with too many choices today and these choices make us less happy, not more. And the trend is getting worse. Daniel makes his point by highlighting how the average grocery store now has over 40,000 unique products as opposed to less than 10,000 in 1975. Most of our needs revolve around 150 products and so we spend a huge amount of cognitive effort ignoring the thousands of items in the grocery store. Decisions like this are lurking at every corner of our lives. The online shopping marketplace has made it infinitely worse. I recall, going through the entire catalog (tens of thousands) of light fixtures in several online stores when I was remodeling my house a few years ago. While driving, I often feel the need to consider alternate routes and optimize for traffic. Many people I know, watch a show on TV while checking their mobile phones for updates on Facebook, Twitter, Email, etc. Daniel underscores the point that all this context-switching consumes energy and prevents us from making good decisions. The book starts out with lots of promise, but Daniel strays in his thoughts. Halfway through the book, Daniel decides to focus on Bayesian statistics and goes off into a detailed description of how to calculate the odds that your test was a false positive. He then veers off into leadership and the US Army’s Mission Command manual. While most of the information resonated well with my view of cognitive behaviors, the book meandered about and made for a rather slow read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Phil Simon

    Disclaimer: I received a review copy gratis via the publisher. Levitin’s topic is certainly a worthwhile one and he writes in an approachable style. I for one appreciated some of his references and personal stories. What’s more, Levitin has done his homework. I’m all for citing the works of others, and Levitin extensively references the work of plenty of prominent researches writers. (More on that below.) At times, though, the book tends to wander. The Organized Mind doesn’t read like a single tex Disclaimer: I received a review copy gratis via the publisher. Levitin’s topic is certainly a worthwhile one and he writes in an approachable style. I for one appreciated some of his references and personal stories. What’s more, Levitin has done his homework. I’m all for citing the works of others, and Levitin extensively references the work of plenty of prominent researches writers. (More on that below.) At times, though, the book tends to wander. The Organized Mind doesn’t read like a single text. It is part business book, part decision making book à la Thinking, Fast and Slow, part science/neurology book, and part self-help book. Sure, it’s well written, but I would read twenty interesting pages on how the brain works only to get back to where he left off before. I was left wondering if less would have been more. That is, would a shorter but more focused book worked better? I suspect that the answer is yes. There’s nothing wrong with The Organized Mind. It’s enjoyable enough. I’d stop short of calling it a must-read, though. This goes double if you’re caught up on Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Daniel Kahneman, Daniel Gilbert, and Dan Ariely.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Judith

    I wanted some helpful hints, but I felt overwhelmed by the amount of information in this book which kept reminding me that there is an overwhelming amount of information in the world right now, too much for us to process. For example, the author claims that in 2011, Americans took in five times as much information every day as they did in 1986---the equivalent of 175 newspapers. During our leisure time (just leisure!) we each process 100,000 words every day. The world has 21,274 television stati I wanted some helpful hints, but I felt overwhelmed by the amount of information in this book which kept reminding me that there is an overwhelming amount of information in the world right now, too much for us to process. For example, the author claims that in 2011, Americans took in five times as much information every day as they did in 1986---the equivalent of 175 newspapers. During our leisure time (just leisure!) we each process 100,000 words every day. The world has 21,274 television stations which produce 85,000 hours of original programming every day and we watch an average of 5 hours of t.v. each day. It's too much to manage, and we all know there is more coming every day. So his message is a good one, which is essentially to prioritize and learn to ignore a lot. But his message itself is a prime example of information overload and it would have been better if he had streamlined it.

  29. 5 out of 5

    C

    This book itself is information overload, with an abundance of disparate ideas, themes, and anecdotes. Too much stuff makes for poor organization.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Josh Czinger

    I found the book a little slow to get going and a little too exhaustive, if not exhausting, in its use of examples. However, the book is full of little nuggets that I wish more of us humans knew.

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