I’m an organization junkie. This does not mean that I am incredibly organized but I am by turns, fascinated and panic stricken by keeping track of all the minutiae that demands recognition. I have tried dozens of different types of planners, software systems galore, apps, programs, reminders in lots of different flavors. They all clamor for my attention, probably making the situation ever worse. My car reading this week (listening actually) is a book called The organized mind : thinking straight in the age of information overload by Daniel J. Levitin. Levitin writes about how the latest brain science can help us keep track of our keys, our minds and all those other bits that so often go astray in the tsunami of information. I immediately started to apply some of the techniques that he talks about. One of these is “offloading”, that is, making the information that you want to remember external to yourself. GTD or “Getting things done” by David Allen is a good example of this. Allen recommends writing everything you have to do on index cards or slips of paper and dumping them all into a box. Then you break them into actionable work items. Your energy goes into working rather than remembering. Levitin recommends using existing tools like setting up automatic tabs in your browser that will open the things you use most frequently automatically. The bane of my life is remembering passwords (I use a tool for that too) but the time I waste in trying to remember all the locations and passwords is discouraging. So, I took all the sites that I go to frequently and programmed them into Firefox to load automatically as tabs. Oh joy! My brain felt immediately better.
He addresses the neuro-science around remembering and forgetting, right down to the chemicals involved and how many watts your neurons consume multitasking. He doesn’t recommend multitasking as a practice at all, citing the exhaustion that comes of code switching, that is switching between tasks frequently. The brain apparently has a pleasure center connected with novelty that kicks in when almost anything distracts you from working. The allure of email and Facebook when that report is due is familiar to all of us. If you want to understand that attraction this is the book to check out.by