The Organised Mind
by Daniel LevitinWho doesn't crave a bit more order in their lives? For Daniel Levitin organisation is more than being able to find both socks and remembering appointments; it's the key to both success and civilisation.
The book covers a lot of neuroscience. It's part self-help, part neuroscience, but the larger part is the science. This is a long and fascinating look at the brain, focusing first on how successful people use classification to be more efficient.
The modern world causes distractions that make it hard to concentrate. The author digs deeply into this topic, examining the addictive qualities of email and texting and the effects on dopamine and stress levels of constantly checking our messages. Luckily it's not all bad news: computers and improved filing systems are put in context as extensions of our minds, reducing the amount we need to remember.
The author also looks at the power of crowdsourcing. There is an examination of social networks and what they mean for intimacy and behaviour. The book also covers indirect speech, the dangers of loneliness, and the modern growth of "shadow" work. For a book on organisation it does veer quite off-topic, delving into the workings of the whole brain rather than simply how it relates to organisation. The role of oxytocin in autistic spectrum disorder and how it affects bonding, recognition of emotions, and the reduction of repetitive behaviours is just one of the intriguing digressions.
The book does eventually come back on track, dealing with the difficulty of making hard decisions, the impact of email overload, and the importance not only of having enough information but also of evaluating that information for truth and reliability. In the final chapter we learn why the junk drawer matters, and why it's inevitable in even the best-organised places.
This lengthy book contains solid research presented in an easily readable style. Part of the ease of reading is because the mind is inherently interesting because we all have one, but the author's engaging narration also makes this seem like a lighter read than it is. The book might help you become more organised since there are certainly a number of useful nuggets sprinkled throughout. This is an entertaining read that made me think differently about the way the brain works and how that relates to keeping on top of the chaos that threatens to overwhelm most people at work and home.
28th September 2016
Review © Ros Jackson
Source: own copy