Patton's Picks from the PMA Library: The Organized Mind

August 2020

The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the age of Information Overload by Daniel Levitin 


Neuroscientist and author Daniel Levitin details many of the functional nuances of the brain, ranging from explanations of how humans process and remember massive amounts of stimuli each and every day. Levitin goes on to explain how you can improve your cognitive abilities as well as avoid some of the "traps" and inherent weaknesses inherent in brain function. 

Three takeaways:

  1. No multitasking! Cognitive performance is best when in FLOW, i.e. undistracted and focused productivity, but we often fall victim to distractions and the multitasking myth. Levitin explains that multitasking expounds much more energy than focused work, and that allowing too much distraction will result in decision overload. Levitin encourages readers to consider using filters to limit overflow and save the brain's power for deep work (use airplane mode, email only 3x per day, etc.).

  2. Spend time wisely. Being organized in one's life reduces cognitive load caused by things like wasted time finding things.  Create routines!  As Levitin explains, the fallacy of multitasking and the need to complete assorted distracted tasks only depletes one's energy source. Speaking of using time wisely, Levitin reinforces sleep science, explaining that keeping a consistent bedtime and wake-up time are vital for routine and consistent brain functioning.

  3. Improve memory. Levitin repeatedly advises readers that in order to improve one's memory, it is critical to externalize the mechanisms of memory: write down all necessary tasks and don't depend on the brain. Memory unaided is unreliable, as the brain is sifting through tons of information, which makes it increasingly difficult to juggle all of one's responsibilities. 

The Organized Mind is a neuroscientist's explanation of the brain's processes for swift functioning, and a guide for maximizing the brain's potential. By learning how the brain is actually processing information, shifting attention, and remembering what should be done, you can identify the neurological trends at work and utilize your time and energy accordingly and effectively. 


Daniel Joseph Levitin, FRSC is an American-Canadian cognitive psychologist, neuroscientist, writer, musician, and record producer. He is the author of four New York Times best-selling books.