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

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  12,237 ratings  ·  1,297 reviews
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 r
Kindle Edition, 336 pages
Published August 19th 2014 by Dutton Adult
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Homan Lau I think he gives out exactly one advice for each chapter. You may find out the keyword first, then listen to how he elaborates it.
Vishal Have read the first third of it yet. As expected from any standard popular Psychology work by a serious author, no expletives or frown-worthy language…moreHave read the first third of it yet. As expected from any standard popular Psychology work by a serious author, no expletives or frown-worthy language are present(less)
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SJ Loria
Jul 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 ...more
Sep 20, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
David Rubenstein
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
Gretchen Rubin
This is a very wide-ranging book that covers a lot of ground about how the mind works. I was particularly intrigued by the discussion of the default mode (also called the task-negative mode) of the brain.
Mar 03, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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
Kara 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, ...more
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
K.J. Charles
Ironically, there was just a lot too much information in this and I overloaded.

The basic premise was interesting--looking at how much more mental work we have (numbers of people known, tasks to do, things to keep track of) and noting that our brains aren't wonderfully adapted to this scale of managing. However, this was expanded at what really felt unnecessary length and I ran out of steam at 28% although it's not like I have a lot of steam these days so this may be my fault.
Jul 31, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-brain, library
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
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
Mar 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Laura Noggle
2.5 Rounded up

Hodgepodge of everything ranging from interesting to tedious at points.

I could have done without the tips for organizing my junk drawer, but it was not *all* bad. Segments were quite all right!

You’d think a book dealing with organization wouldn’t be so totally random.
Nov 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, on-hand
Cognitive psychology applied to everyday challenges. I read it really slow because I didn't want to miss anything. ...more
Jan 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.

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 ...more
L.A. Starks
Feb 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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. ...more
Nov 11, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book itself is information overload, with an abundance of disparate ideas, themes, and anecdotes. Too much stuff makes for poor organization.
Krishna Kumar
Some editing would have been good. It goes on and on regarding various topics that could have been their own books.
Donna Craig
The information in this book is interesting. However, it felt scattered rather than organized into actionable chapters. Almost as if he fails to demonstrate an organized mind in his writing! It does contain a great deal of information about how minds work and can be organized.
Tomas Liutvinas
Jan 06, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I would not recommend this book. Its a waste of time, that could be spent reading books that are actually interesting, useful or at least entertaining.

Instead, I would suggest looking up a video or a few articles about Bayesian probability/theorem or picking up one of the following books: Thinking Fast and Slow, Deep Work or 59 Seconds.

I did like the book at the start and I think it might be worth reading at least up to half. Seems like this author likes 'Thinking Fast and Slow' and the authors.
Wanda Pedersen
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
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 ...more
Sep 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, science
I liked the idea behind this book (deserving 5 stars), but man was it verbose and disorganized (-2.5 stars)!
Sahar Sabati
May 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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....
Jul 05, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
meh. Nothing new or all that interesting. And for a book about organization, it's highly disorganized. ...more
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Daniel J. Levitin runs the Laboratory for Musical Perception, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University, where he holds the Bell Chair in the Psychology of Electronic Communication. Before becoming a neuroscientist, he worked as a session musician, sound engineer and record producer. He has written extensively both in scientific journals and music trade magazines such as Grammy and Billboard.


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As the final days of the year tick themselves off the calendar, the 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge is coming to a close. Sincere...
43 likes · 15 comments
“Multitasking has been found to increase the production of the stress hormone cortisol as well as the fight-or-flight hormone adrenaline, which can overstimulate your brain and cause mental fog or scrambled thinking. Multitasking creates a dopamine-addiction feedback loop, effectively rewarding the brain for losing focus and for constantly searching for external stimulation. To make matters worse, the prefrontal cortex has a novelty bias, meaning that its attention can be easily hijacked by something new—the proverbial shiny objects” 22 likes
“The neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks goes one further: If you’re working on two completely separate projects, dedicate one desk or table or section of the house for each. Just stepping into a different space hits the reset” 20 likes
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