The Organized Mind by Daniel J. Levitin

Summary
  1. How to organize your life to spend more time on the rewarding rather than mundane things (externalize as much as possible, set routines, remove the unnecessary)
Key Takeaways
  1. Be adamant about finding ways to externalize your brain as much as possible. This leads you to forget less, be less stressed and gives your brain the space and capacity to focus on truly difficult problems which you enjoy
  2. Brain organization is amazing but not always optimal
  3. Organized mind leads to good, effortless decision-making
  4. Happy people don’t have more, happy people want what they already have
  5. Decision overload leads to being less productive and loss of motivation
  6. Attention is the most essential mental resource for any organism
  7. Layers of people let leaders let go and gain a zen like focus since they don’t have to worry about their schedule, etc.
  8. Attentional filter best picks up on change and importance
  9. Switching attention comes with a very high cost. Limit multi-tasking!
  10. Don’t need to limit information, just need consistent and efficient ways to organize it all
  11. We are hardwired to impose structure on the world
  12. Active sorting, what you need to do right now, is vital for organization, efficiency and productivity
  13. Fundamental principle of being organized is to shift to-do list, information, whatever you can into an external source
  14. Consciousness lies on a continuum
  15. Sustained attention relies on noradrenaline and acetylcholine
  16. Develop zen-like focus by giving all your attention to one thing at a time
  17. Memory not just a replaying of a past experience but a rewriting of past experiences
  18. Best remember what is unique, leaves an emotional imprint
  19. Must be able to zoom in and out (detail vs. whole picture, what Elon Musk is incredible at)
  20. Categorize – gross/fine, functional equivalence, things similar in particular situations
  21. Writing things down conserves mental energy by not having to worry about it
  22. If it takes less than 2 minutes, do it immediately
  23. Home and work environments are an extension of your brain – make it easy, calm and organized
    1. Have things used often visible, hide otherwise (helps you relax, avoid distributions)
  24. Create a junk drawer for things which cannot be organized
  25. Create different work spaces for different kinds of work
  26. Batch emails, create a special account which only a few people have
  27. Child like sense of wonder leads to very strong memories
  28. New acquaintances – write down why and how you met, their expertise, who introduced you, other context
  29. Can leverage other people’s expertise and use them as your external brain
  30. On average, people are Terrible at detecting lying and if people like us
  31. Being transparent enables social ties and makes it easier for people to forgive us
  32. Indirect speech – quantity, quality, manner and relation
  33. People have a very hard time ignoring information which is later shown to be false
  34. Daydreaming helps recalibrate/restore the brain (multitasking does not)
  35. For any large task, break into small, actionable chunks
  36. Chunking is much more productive and having a clear start/stop time helps you form solid memories
  37. Experts know what to pay attention to and ignore much better than novices
  38. Sleep – unitization, assimilation, abstraction
    1. Memory consolidation occurs within the first two hours of NREM and last 90 minutes of REM (alcohol disturbs both of these cycles)
    2. Jet lag hack – before traveling east, get into sunlight early in the day and before traveling west, avoid sunlight early and expose yourself to bright light in the evening
  39. Must disconnect sense of self-worth from outcome of a task
  40. Successful people paradoxically fail much more than “failures” but their reaction to failure is much different as they consider it a learning experiences
  41. Creativity comes from integration of executive and daydreaming mode
  42. Arrange life for flow moments – reduce change, be comfortable, avoid distractions, easy environment, etc.
  43. If make it big, have assistants take care of everything so you can focus 100% on the task at hand
  44. People typically ignore base rates when making decisions
    1. Bayes rate – take base rate and relevant information into account before making a decision
    2. Decisions must be made with long-term view, use probabilities and expected value over the long-term
    3. Don’t fall for denominator neglect (ignoring the scale, magnitude of safe car rides whenever we hear of a horrendous crash)
  45. Effective leaders
    1. Adaptable, responsible, high in empathy, able to see problems from all side
    2. Have high social intelligence and flexible, deep analytic intelligence
    3. Quickly understands opposing views, how people came to hold them, how to resolve conflicts in ways that are perceived to be mutually satisfying and beneficial
    4. Adept at bringing people together who appear to have conflicting goals
    5. Uses empathy to allow people or organizations to save face in negotiations
    6. Often great storytellers
    7. Build cohesive teams through mutual trust
    8. Create shared understanding
    9. Provide a clear and concise set of expectations and goals
    10. Allow workers at all levels to exercise disciplined initiative
    11. Accept prudent risks
  46. Function best when under constraint but allowed to be creative within this constraint
    1. Internal locus of control vital for self and employees
    2. Employee morale and performance improves when understand how their work fits into the big pictures
  47. Best filing system requires least  searching time, transparent to anyone, easily described, external brain
  48. Tickler files/reminders for deadlines, must know how long the task will take to complete
  49. 10 parameters max for optimal decisions, 5 is optimal though
  50. Take 10 minutes post meeting to summarize, write down action steps, etc.
  51. With information overload, must teach children to be critical, independent, clear and complete thinkers
  52. Not so important to know a fact as to know where to find/how to verify
  53. The more sense/dimensions you can involve, the better your recall will be
  54. In the pursuit of learning, slower is often better
  55. The greatest scientists tend to be artists as well
  56. Appendix – how to create your own 4 fold (Bayesian) decision making table for medical decisions or anything else
What I got out of it
  1. Really interesting book. Externalize your brain, get into flow by being 100% on the task at hand, junk drawer, chunk, weave other senses/emotions into whatever you want to better remember

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