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The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload Hardcover – August 19, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Praise for THE ORGANIZED MIND
“Levitin is about as knowledgeable a guide to neuroscience as one might hope for...” 
New York Times Book Review

"[An] impressively wide-ranging and thoughtful work..."The Organized Mind" is an organized book, but it also rewards dipping in at any point, for there are fascinating facts and examples throughout."
The Wall Street Journal

"From how not to lose your keys to how to decide when the risks of surgery are worth it, Levitin focuses on smart ways to process the constant flow of information the brain must deal with." 
The Washington Post

"[M]ore than a self-help book...Levitin's insights into sleep, time, socializing and decision-making are profound." 
— San Jose Mercury News

"[An] ingenious combination of neuroscience and self-help." 
Kirkus

"By learning about how the mind processes information, readers with an interest in the brain will come away with insight into how they can better organize their lengthy lists, overflowing junk drawers, and cluttered schedules." 
— Library Journal

 
"Thought-provoking and practical-minded...this book may help you organise your
life, and it definitely explains why you should."
The Sunday Times of London

“Dan Levitin has more insights per page than any other neuroscientist I know. The Organized Mind is smart, important, and as always, exquisitely written.”
—Daniel Gilbert, Harvard University, author of Stumbling on Happiness
 
Combine genuine knowledge and scholarship with plain common sense and what do you get? A book that is really worth reading: Dan Levitin’s The Organized Mind.”
—The Honorable George P. Shultz, 60th U. S. Secretary of State
 
“There are surprising parallels between Levitin’s work and mine. Today’s environment in war, business, and just about everything else has increased in speed and complexity to the point where the essential quality required for success is adaptability. The Organized Mind provides the latest neuroscience on cognitive adaptability and how to apply it to so that leaders can excel. It is a tremendous achievement, and a must read for leaders at every level.”
General Stanley McChrystal, U. S. Army (ret.)
 
“A brilliant and engaging book about the science of thinking. The Organized Mind provides the tools that we all need to understand and manage the deluge of information that assaults us every day.”
Jerome Groopman, MD and Pamela Hartzband, MD, Harvard Medical School, authors of Your Medical Mind
 
“A profound piece of work. Levitin documents the mismatch between our narrow bandwidth hunter-gatherer minds and the multitasking chaos of today’s world. He even shows us how to stay sane in environments that are constantly tempting us to stretch ourselves hopelessly thin.”
Philip E. Tetlock, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
 
 “An erudite synthesis of Levitin’s own contributions, recent advances in our understanding of attention and memory, and a deep perspective on the ways the human mind works.”
—Stanley Prusiner, M.D. Nobel Laureate, director of the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, University of California, San Francisco
 
“Daniel Levitin’s book follows in the ancient tradition of knowledge as a guide to a better life.  Discover the creative power of organized thought, whether you are a writer or a scientist, a disorganized mess or a super robot seeking new frontiers of effectiveness.”
 Eric Kaplan, co-executive producer and writer, The Big Bang Theory, writer, The Simpsons and Flight of the Conchords

“An eloquent spokesperson for our field. Levitin writes about the brain with an ease and familiarity that is captivating.”
—The late David Hubel, Nobel Laureate in honor of discoveries concerning information processing in the human visual system
 
“Fascinating… Combing neuroscience and cognitive psychology, the Organized Mind underscores the critical importance of individuals taking charge of their own attentional and memory systems so they can lead optimally productive and satisfying lives. Invaluable insights are offered with regard to organizing our homes, social world, time, decision-making, and business world.”
Nadine J. Kaslow, Ph.D., president of the American Psychological Association and professor and vice chair, Emory University School of Medicine
 
 “This book is far more than tips on how to think clearly and manage information overload. It is also a tour through some of the most exciting aspects of contemporary neuroscience and cognitive science, with a specific emphasis on implications for everyday life. Anyone who has ever wondered about the mind will find much that is fascinating and useful in these pages.”
Stephen Kosslyn, dean, Minerva Schools of Arts and Sciences at the Keck Graduate Institute, former chair, department of psychology, Harvard University
 
“Running a major PBS television series on tight budgets and turnarounds requires organization and efficiency and sometimes a little magic too. Levitin’s behind the curtain peek at the brain’s inner workings of decision-making provides that extra bit of magic—and would make a fascinating documentary in and of itself!”
—Pamela Hogan, Emmy award-winning Producer for PBS
 
“A how-to book on how to stay sane—how to tamp down on that fire-hose of information and choices that we face each day, and direct it all toward our own goals and purposes.  It’s an owner’s manual for your mind.”
—Congressman Alan Grayson, U.S. House of Representatives
 
“In the age of TMI, we all need better organized minds.  With characteristically clear prose and scientific insight, Dan Levitin gives us tips on how to get or mental closets in order.  I really enjoyed this book.”
—Joseph LeDoux, Center for Neural Science, New York University
 
“Dan Levitin has done it again.  Having explained music and the brain, now he shows us the best, most effective ways to organize the rest of our life by giving us key insights into how the brain works.  His style is so appealing, his knowledge so deep and practical, that we learn, from The Organized Mind, not only why we do what we do, but how, potentially, we can run our lives more smoothly, efficiently, and even happily.”  
—Cathy N. Davidson, director, The Futures Initiative, City University of New York, author of Now You See It:  How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn

”Using the latest information on the brain and how it works, Levitin presents a series of ideas on how to organize one's life and business.  Essential reading for anyone who aspires to be highly effective.  Or even find their keys!"
David Eidelman, MD, dean of the McGill University Medical School
 
The Organized Mind is for anyone interested in how the human mind organizes, and on occasion disorganizes, the world around us. It is engaging, witty, compelling, and infused with science. Levitin shows how principles from psychology and cognitive neuroscience can help us better organize our daily lives. Move over, Freakonomics, there’s a new kid on the bookcase.”
Gerry Altmann, professor of psychology at the University of Connecticut, and author of The Ascent of Babel
 
“Daniel Levitin takes us from the prehistory of thought and language, and our hunter-gather ancestors, right up to the middle of the information explosion we are all living in right now.  From filing cabinets to smart phones, calendars, multi-national businesses and Wikipedia, he reveals the science behind how we organize our world—and how we can do better. An extraordinary work from one of our most gifted writers.”
—The late Phil Ramone, producer, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Elton John, and Luciano Pavarotti
 
“Levitin is funny, informative and insightful. It’s like having a friend who’s a neuroscientist showing you how creating a little order in your brain can unlock so much creativity.”
 — Len Blum, screenwriter, The Pink Panther, Meatballs
 “The Organized Mind reads like a movie— not the dry tome you might expect. It’s an exciting tour through the science of productivity and how to best manage your thinking to get things done—and be more creative at the same time."
— David Allen, author of Getting Things Done

“Bring[s] to light interesting perspectives on this increasingly relevant topic.”
—Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft
 
“The time is rapidly approaching when insights driven by Big Data will dominate not only most business decisions but also many choices we make in our personal lives. So when I read a review of Levitin’s book, I sat up and took notice because I’m bombarded by information every hour of every day. Levitin does an excellent job in discussing the science of thinking in language that’s not only clear and informative but also entertaining. Readers of this book will get a better understanding of the mind along with some valuable guidance on how to exploit the emerging world of Big Data."
— Mark Hurd, co-CEO of Oracle Corp. 




Praise for This is Your Brain on Music

"Endlessly stimulating.”
--Oliver Sacks
 
“An unusually deft interpreter.”
--New York Times
 
“Deepens the beautiful mystery that is music.”
--David Byrne, founder of Talking Heads
 
Praise for The World in Six Songs
 
“Will leave you awestruck.”
--New York Times
 
Masterful… Eminently enjoyable.”
--Los Angeles Times
 
“A fascinating, entertaining book… may stick in your head forever.”
--Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love

About the Author

DANIEL J. LEVITIN, PhD, is the James McGill Professor of psychology and behavioral neuroscience at McGill University—where he also teaches in the graduate school of business—and dean of the College of Arts and Humanities at the Minerva Schools at KGI. The author of two New York Times bestselling books, This Is Your Brain on Music and The World in Six Songs, he splits his time between Montreal and Orinda, California.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton (August 19, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 052595418X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525954187
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (171 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,572 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Daniel J. Levitin is the James McGill Professor of Psychology and Music at McGill University, Montreal, where he also holds appointments in the Program in Behavioural Neuroscience, The School of Computer Science, and the Faculty of Education. He is also Dean of Arts & Humanities at the Minerva Schools at KGI. An award-winning teacher, he now adds best-selling author to his list of accomplishments as "This Is Your Brain on Music" , "The World in Six Songs" and "The Organized Mind" were #1 best-sellers. His work has been translated into 20 languages. Before becoming a neuroscientist, he worked as a session musician, sound engineer, and record producer working with artists such as Stevie Wonder and Blue Oyster Cult. He has published extensively in scientific journals as well as music magazines such as Grammy and Billboard. Recent musical performances include playing guitar and saxophone with Sting, Bobby McFerrin, Rosanne Cash, David Byrne, Cris Williamson, Victor Wooten, and Rodney Crowell.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

170 of 176 people found the following review helpful By Ryan J. Dejonghe TOP 500 REVIEWER on August 20, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Daniel Levitin’s ORGANIZED MIND seeks to take the figurative junk drawer of our mind, explain how the mind works, and help us live more thought-out and productive lives. His knowledge comes from his own years of teaching and research and has been influenced by mind pioneers such as Daniel Kahneman, Amos Tversky, and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The end product is an awesome journey into the realms of our minds that enlighten and inspires action.

This book is huge. At times Levitin may appear longwinded in his narrative—but that’s okay. Trust me. As he unravels the various layers of mental organization, he sidebars into various studies and interesting factoids. At first, you may think Levitin is being ironically unorganized, but later chapters tie it back together. Other times, Levitin may tuck in a brief statement that will cause you tunneling into Google for more information (though many notes for further study are linked at the rear of the book).

Levitin differs himself from Kahneman’s THINKING, FAST AND SLOW by saying there are “four components in the human attentional system”: mind wondering mode; central executive mode; attentional filter; and, attentional switch. What mostly comes into play are the first two components. I have some issue for the terminology “mind wondering mode”; I would have liked Levitin to expound more on mindfulness and what component it falls into.

THE ORGANIZED MIND offers more explanation than step-by-step or bulleted technique. I appreciated this approach, feeling it strengthened the technique through knowledge of why it works. Levitin uses the ideas of offloading brain information through index cards, calendaring, contact sheets—much like our mind uses random access memory versus chronological memory.
Read more ›
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327 of 356 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Ian on August 31, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I think there is a cynical trend in publishing that goes like this: (1) identify a topic that is a real problem (2) reference new scientific discoveries (3) drone on and on to make it into a book as that's the most effective monetization strategy. This book is a prime example.

If you're looking for practical advice, look away. Levitin punishes you with a meandering and excruciatingly boring take on 'recent scientific discovers'. If you hang on and take your medicine, you're rewarded with the meagerest of unhelpful tips. For todo list management he suggests "you might want to try index cards!"

On the practical stuff, I think Levitin would have you read David Allen, who he mentions in worshipful tones. On the science, while probably accurate, he's not worth reading.

I wrote this review because I truly think it's a travesty that this is (currently) a #1 bestseller on amazon. The species is sagging.
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73 of 77 people found the following review helpful By Phil Simon on September 9, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Levitin’s topic is certainly a worthwhile one and he writes in an approachable style. I for one appreciated some of his references and personal stories. What’s more, Levitin has done his homework. I’m all for citing the works of others, and Levitin extensively references the work of plenty of prominent researches writers. (More on that below.)

At times, though, the book tends to wander. The Organized Mind doesn’t read like a single text. It is part business book, part decision making book à la Thinking, Fast and Slow, part science/neurology book, and part self-help book. Sure, it’s well written, but I would read twenty interesting pages on how the brain works only to get back to where he left off before. I was left wondering if less would have been more. That is, would a shorter but more focused book worked better? I suspect that the answer is yes.

There’s nothing wrong with The Organized Mind. It’s enjoyable enough. I’d stop short of calling it a must-read, though. This goes double if you’re caught up on Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Daniel Kahneman, Daniel Gilbert, and Dan Ariely.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars
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46 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Don on December 24, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
For a book about organization, Dr. Levitin writes in a meandering way about a breadth of topics. While some might find the ambition admirable, I found that it lacked credibility and focus. The book for the most part read like a news report of well-established findings in psychology and neuroscience, combined with self-help advice that didn't really have much to do with the neuroscience. From this muddled relationship, it became clear that Dr. L is neither an expert in the neuroscience research that he commercializes nor the self-help approaches that actually work. For the science, he oversimplifies brain region-based concepts such as prefrontal-driven executive function but in the same idea tries to talk about "real" substrates such as autism and dopamine. That's pseudoscience. He even calls NMDA receptors neurons, which really boggled my mind since he is somehow considered a neuroscientist. On the practical side, seriously, note cards was the big idea? Put your keys in the same place? Answer emails all in one time and don't go on Facebook? These were seriously all the big ideas of the first 200 pages.

A dull, meandering book with tenuous science. A real disappointment. Don't waste your money.
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67 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Book Fanatic TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 30, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This book is hard for me to rate. First of all I enjoyed the vast majority of it. It is a narrative tying together scientific studies, the experience of real people, and intuitive common sense. It was an enjoyable read for the most part. The writing is actually quite good. However, some of it is rather simplistic and obvious in regard to practical suggestions. When I got to the chapter on being organized in business what I mostly got was the recommendations and experiences of an executive secretary friend of the author. It was underwhelming.

The book is pretty long and if you like to read and you want to get some interesting information in an enjoyable way you will probably enjoy this book. If you are look for hard hitting practicality and content dense information, this book might not be for you.
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