the organized mind book coverReviewed by Poppy Johnson

In his book, The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, Daniel J. Levitin discusses how people can keep organized in the current age of digital information overload. Levitin states that our human brains can only really process small amounts of information at one time. It can be very helpful to learn to separate various brain regions–for example, economic and ethical decisions are managed by different brain regions. We can learn to stretch our brains and their capacity by continuously playing stimulating brain games. Our own world provides clues as to how we can analyze and categorize information better.

Among other things, Levitin covers the processing capacity of the human mind, which is measured at 120 bits per second. This is the bandwidth at which the human brain can safely focus within itself to complete all of the tasks at hand. Anything done over the possible bandwidth results in feelings of being overwhelmed. It is also the reason why listening and talking to three separate people at the same time is nearly impossible for us. Our brains need time to wonder, meditate and “check out” every now and again, to allow us to focus more intently when we return and when it’s necessary for our very survival (or when the boss is looking).

Levitin spends time to describe our brains and what can happen when we are unable to manage the wealth of information available in this digital age. The book is separated into three parts. Part one includes information on too much information, too many decisions, and tips for focusing our attention span and organizing information in general. The second part continues the quest toward understanding our brains and includes information on organizing our homes, our social connections, our time, and our personal and professional lives. The third section includes information on teaching children how to communicate with their peers in a digital age, as well as odds and ends that the author calls everything else. There is also an appendix and notes at the end of the book to help those who want to do further research on the topic.

Levitin’s book succeeds in its intention to explain what the human brain is wired for and what we are unable to handle in the long run. Our brains have evolved but were never intended to stare at pixels on a computer screen for hours at a time. It is no wonder that we now suffer more chronic problems as a result of our multitasking and trying to do more than one thing at a time.

I recommend The Organized Mind to anyone is interested in human psychology, as well as learning more about the brain and its capacity to remember and to manage information in a digital age.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

After a decade of working in several NYC law departments and teaching, Poppy decided she enjoyed writing full-time. She currently works as a freelance writing consultant, and lives with her husband and sons on the East Coast.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Penguin Group. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.