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

Daniel J. Levitin

Personal Thoughts

Summary Notes

Satisficing and Decision Making

  • Satisficing is a decision-making strategy or cognitive heuristic that entails searching through the available alternatives until an acceptability threshold is met.
  • Satisficing is one of the foundations of productive human behavior; it prevails when we don’t waste time on decisions that don’t matter, or more accurately when we don’t waste time trying to find improvements that are not going to make a significant difference in our happiness or satisfaction.
  • Satisficing is a tool for not wasting time on things that are not your highest priority. 
  • One of the most useful findings in recent neuroscience could be summed up as: The decision-making network in our brain doesn’t prioritize.
  • Our brains do have the ability to process the information we take in, but at a cost: We can have trouble separating the trivial from the important, and all this information processing makes us tired.

Benefits of Efficient Organization

  • Zen-like focus!
  • Productivity and efficiency depend on systems that help us organize through categorization. Fundamentally, categorization reduces mental effort and streamlines the flow of information.
  • Seneca recommended focusing on a limited number of good books, to be read thoroughly and repeatedly. Too much information could be harmful to your mental health.
  • Keeps us from forgetting or losing things
  • 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.

David Allen’s Trick

He recommends this mnemonic for fine sorting your To-Do list into four actionable categories:

  • Do It
  • Delegate It
  • Defer It
  • Drop it

If you can attend to one of the things on your list in less than two minutes, do it now!

David Allen, the efficiency expert, observes that what people usually mean when they say they want to get organized is that they need to get control of their physical and psychic environments.

  • Mark Cuban, the owner of Landmark Theatres and the Dallas Mavericks, echoes what many CEOs and their employees say about meetings: They’re usually a waste of time. An exception is if you’re negotiating a deal or soliciting advice from a large number of people.
  • Warren Buffett’s datebook is nearly completely empty and has been for twenty-five years—he rarely schedules anything of any kind, finding that an open schedule is a key to his productivity.

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

Daniel J. Levitin
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