The Organized Mind by Daniel J. Levitin

From organizational structures to everyday routines, most of us fail to create systems that will help us process, archive and retrieve the information we need to make decisions effectively. By exploring the techniques in his book, The Organized Mind, Daniel J. Levitin invites us to learn about our own cognitive limitations when processing information in our digital, push of a button, instant feedback world, and lays down rules and practices that will help us master information retrieval which in turn improves our decision making processes.

The contents of the book is highly academic and is paired with anecdotes and testimonials to simplify the discussion; you only need to know basic math and understand human nature to follow the narrative. Explained in lay terms, the statistics and psychological concepts are not hard to grasp, and the insight each book section presents has continuity and good story telling. Every suggestion comes with proof of why it works, insight as to how it works and when it works best. The real life examples serve as advocates for the tools listed under each category of improvements which should at least convince you to try them.

The first parts of the book are directed at people looking for ideas to organize themselves, regardless if they are a supervisor, executive or house wife. It proposes that every second a person in a position of power spends organizing their thoughts, their workload and managing their day’s appointments will enable their success. As you declutter your world and organize information more effectively, you will become unencumbered by uncertainty, walking into a situation knowing exactly where things are and quickly retrieving the information required for a decision to be made efficiently. Some would argue that multitasking is the way to go but according to this book, it would only make things worse!

To expand on why this last piece of information is true, a couple of chapters are devoted to brain chemistry and brain function, and later chapters introduce the science and math behind the recent discoveries in regards to cognitive loss while task switching. Overloading your brain with too much information will slow you down, and the more channels you have open for processing data the worse off your performance will be and the brain will shutdown to reorganize thought processes and prioritize them.

By the end of part three the discussion ties all these topics and frames the success of organizing the mind by using statistical analysis. We are presented with Bayes’s rule to show how the statistical analysis of probabilities can give you an insight into the validity of professional opinions and statements. As an example, medical diagnostics and treatment is address using Bayesian statistics. What you will learn is truly enlightening.

Other notable works from Dr Levitin include “The World in Six Songs” and “This Is Your Brain on Music”.


If you liked this book, you will also like “How Not To Be Wrong, A Mathematical Approach to Thinking” by Jordan Ellenberg. For the MrsEnginerd review, click here.

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