I highly recommend The Organized Mind by Daniel J. Levitin. Since reading it I have changed the way I approach daily tasks and technology. I’ll share some nuggets and strategies I have implemented but encourage you to read the book as it contains a wealth of information. You can also hear Levitin on the Diane Rehm Show.
My top three takeaways were “satisficing”, toning down the multitasking and reaping the benefits of daydreaming.
Levitin discusses the term “satisficing”. The gist is that some choices may not be “the best” but are good enough to settle on. This is opposite the sentiment of comedian Aziz Ansari’s commentary on our culture that when he thinks “I need a toothbrush”, he first has to research online reviews for “the best toothbrush”. Each decision requires energy. If you look for “the best” in everything, then you have less energy for big decision making. So find out what is most important to you and what you can satisfice on (maybe which toothbrush you buy) so that you can put the most energy into the most important decisions.
Levitin writes that multitasking “makes us demonstrably less efficient”. “It takes more energy to shift your attention from task to task. It takes less energy to focus. That means that people who organize their time in a way that allows them to focus are not only going to get more done, but they’ll be less tired and less neurochemically depleted after doing it”. Our brains are like toddlers we have to keep focused!
Lastly, not only is day dreaming good for you, you may actually be productive while doing it! Levitin explains that when trying to solve a problem, if we allow our brains to daydream, “This distinctive and special brain state is marked by the flow of connections among disparate ideas and thoughts, and a relative lack of barriers between senses and concepts. It also can lead to great creativity and solutions to problems that seemed unsolvable”. This explains why we come up with solutions to problems while laying in bed at 2:00am.
Things I have implemented since reading that I have found to be helpful:
Weed Out My Feed If I haven’t talked to you in five years I’m sorry but I am removing you from my Facebook newsfeed (Here’s How). Before Facebook, there was no need for daily updates on that one guy I had a class with Sophomore year. That is unnecessary information taking up brain space.
Sunday Night Stylist On Sunday, I pick out five outfits and group them in my closet. Then during the busy workweek I have less decisions to make. Many successful CEOs wear the same thing everyday to forgo this energy-depleting decision – I don’t think I’m quite ready to adopt a Steve Jobs look – but this is a start. I also cleaned out my closet, donating any unused clothes (asking myself the question “Does this spark joy?” – from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up). This way I am not wasting time looking through unnecessary options.
What’s a Girl “To Do”? Each work day I write in a notebook the date and list the things I want to accomplish, even if it is simply “email John”. I put a star by the things that absolutely have to be done. I put a check by each “to do” once I finish. Things that were not checked are moved down to the next day. This allows me to focus because I am not thinking in the back of my mind “don’t forget to do…!”.
Play Hard to Get With Email I see you email notification box, popping up in the right hand corner. I know you want me to click on you…but you will have to wait. Levitin writes, “If you’re checking email every five minutes, you’re checking it 200 times during the waking day”. When I receive email, the impulsive side of my brain wants to see what it is! My new rule: I devote my attention to what I am doing at the time. Then, when I am done or made progress, I will take a break to check email. When I check that email, I make an effort to address it that moment and then delete or send it to a categorized folder.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T My S-L-E-E-P I view sleep or laying down as a time to “reset” my brain. I used to get frustrated when I couldn’t fall asleep. Now, I approach that time with respect and consider it nourishment I am giving to my mind. Even if I am not asleep, my brain is still benefitting from having the chance to relax and wander. I feel less frustration when I view it in this beneficial way and I actually fall asleep easier because I am not stressed.
What are some strategies you use to keep your mind organized?