An Organized Mind

The constant flurry and availability of information, at work and life in general, makes it challenging to focus. Distractions and interruptions are something we are all learning to manage effectively in order to make the most of our time and creativity.

Daniel Levitin, bestselling author of The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, says “Highly successful people have learned to maximize their creativity, and efficiency, by organizing their lives so that they spend less time on the mundane, and more time on the inspiring, comforting, and rewarding things in life.”

Here are five of Levitin’s suggestions for how to create the calm that comes from giving our brains less to think about, and ideas for implementing them.

Give things a place. Use bowls, trays, hooks, and baskets for your keys, wallets, and purses. Keep a tote by the door for outgoing mail, packages, and dry cleaning. Storing and retrieving becomes automatic.

Create visual cues for remembering important things. A post-it on the bathroom mirror or refrigerator, or an empty milk carton with your keys, will help you remember things when you’re in the flow of your daily routine.

Focus. Try setting a timer for 45-50 minutes and work on one task without interruption. Research says you shouldn’t intersperse little tasks (like checking email) throughout your day. Allocate a couple blocks of time each day to take care of the smaller tasks.

Don’t over-organize. "The obvious rule of efficiency is you don’t want to spend more time organizing than it’s worth. If you’re finding things quickly enough as it is, then don’t go to all the trouble.”

Don’t dilly-dally over things that don’t matter. “Figure out what your time is worth or what you and your company stand to gain or lose, and figure out how much time is worth investing in the decision.” Prioritize.

Diane Elkins