Monday, August 30, 2021

The Organized Mind can boost how you handle information

 I am grateful to Jen Mark for recommending this book.  We are Facebook friends that I think came about for a mutual interest in horses (I sold ads for an equestrian publication).  She is also independently friends with my son and I suspect the connection has something to do track practice and York University.

 Daniel J. Levitin offers better ways of dealing with the information overload we all contend with and that too often impedes our ability to prioritize and decide.  He uses a lot of words and examples to make his points and if you are interested they are well worth reading.  My goal is to summarize and highlight his "heavy" book so that you may or may not decide it is worth the effort.  I

If you would like to make better life decisions and form better habits, this is an excellent book.  Life and death decisions too often have emotional elements that cloud a rational decision that offers greater quality of life and longevity.  In addition to explaining the underlying foundations of organizing he dishes out several dozens of practical tips to make your life better.

"Attention is the most essential mental resource for any organism."  The brain is constantly monitoring a wide range of activity surrounding you and automatically filtering what is most necessary for your conscious awareness.  What you focus on in effect determines the quality of your decisions.  More from Daniel Goleman:

Daniel believes the ability to shift the burden of organizing from your brain to externals is the key to success.  Language was one of the first steps in this regard with writing another big step.

The author believes statistics help us make better decisions.  Of course we never have all the complete information to be certain, but by using the Bayes rules we can start with what we have and progress as more information becomes available.  Thomas Bayes was born around 1701 and his famous rules were not published until after his death.  For information on a very successful user of the Bayes Rules, Nate Silver check:  An important point is that correlation is not causation.

One statistical opportunity that too many misapplied occurred after the 9-11 attack.  Many were fearful of traveling by air, overlooking that the most dangerous part of airline trips is the drive to the airport.  Over the next year 2,170 more traffic deaths resulted than usual. 

Multi tasking is less efficient than focusing on one task at a time.   The brain is limited and in effect switching your focus and in each change requires some refocusing and drains energy.  Some people might be more efficient that others, but everyone loses by switching.  As I get older I appreciate this and am trying to modify my bad habits.

Filing helps us find relevant information quickly.  Having sold office supplies I appreciate that filing is critical to run any business (as well as your own personal interests).  Levitin points out that the first step is categorize everything you want to file.  A general principle is to file like items close to one another.

On a personal note at one point in sales I used what might be called recipe cards and developed the dilemma of how to file: alphabetical or by next call and how to prioritize.  If something or someone needed a response I needed to find my information quickly.  When I was able to switch to computer filing the possibilities expanded exponentially and I was able to locate and sort by such factors as priority, next call, travel areas, time zones, even such an item as floor type so I could find needed information quickly.  

Critical thinking should be a priority for education.  Not just accurate information, but the means to evaluate.  Daniel suggest we could use journalism standards set by the better news organization, specifically the New York Times and Washington Post.  They sometimes get beaten by organizations who jump on information before it is confirmed, but too often the information is incorrect and can have lingering negative effects.  Reputable publications do not publish information until it has been corroborated by another reliable source.   You cannot make rational decisions unless your information is accurate.  Another point emphasized is that we must encourage students (including ourselves) we must strive to understand other people and respect their differences.

The fight for your attention has been evolving.  As a salesman and employed by an advertising agency I realized that all the people I wanted to persuade to do something for my benefit had other things on their mind.  Businesses realize they must be more effective at gaining the attention of their prospects.  Technology and science are their tools.

Willpower is necessary to follow up your intentions.   It depletes with your energy, so it is better to do things early.   More about willpower including a reference to one of Daniel Livitin's resources, David Allen.  My favorite quote regarding willpower is "The will to win is not nearly as important as the will to prepare to win." by basketball coach, Bobby Knight

 Another common failing is not to prepare for failure.   Whatever technical system you store your information is likely to fail at some point.  There are lots of backup systems, but you need to be sure that they are not subject to the same action such as a bomb or a fire.  If it important enough you might consider distant locations or the cloud, but bear in mind they also have disadvantages.  On a more physical level we all plans that sometimes don't work out.  Before making a move in many cases your confidence level would be strengthened if you had plans for failure.

Modern technology has increased our choices beyond comprehension.  You can easily have access to unlimited amounts of music, film and reading.  The choices you do make will impact not only enjoyment of life, but also your ability to make decisions.  Consciously filter out that which doesn't interest you.

There is much more than I have covered and I suspect that many would find different points of greater personal relevancy.  It would be worth while for most of you to tackle Daniel J. Levitin's book.

Daniel is a busy author and you can keep up to date with his output at: I will end with his last sentence.  "The key to change is having faith that when we get rid of the old something or someone even more magnificent will take its place."

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