Here is an excerpt from Sam McNerney on cognitive psychology and in praise of doing one thing at a time followed by a little something on The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload and A Sense of Style: The Thinking’s Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. When Thomas Jefferson sat down to draft the Declaration of Independence, he probably wasn’t contemplating the basic principles of cognitive psychology. Jefferson, a self-professed Epicurean, was clarifying that the role of government was not only to secure the lives and liberties of its citizens. Yet he ordered the three unalienable rights to fit our cognitive processes. It’s much easier to hold in memory a short phrase (life) while we’re reading a long and incomplete phrase that its part of (liberty, and the pursuit of happiness).

The best strategy to unclog working memory is simple: do one thing at a time. The most productive people are not master multi-taskers; they carve out time to turn their phones off and ignore email. In The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, Daniel Levitin writes about research on “highly successful persons,” eminent CEOs, film producers, artists, investors—anyone whose is responsible for managing a lot of people. Most of them employ “productivity hours.”

I learned about the light-before-heavy rule in Steven Pinker’s A Sense of Style: The Thinking’s Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. As I read a few other examples (my favorite was Bruce Springsteen’s album The Wild, The Innocent, and The E Street Shuffle) I noticed that the book hovers around an idea central to The Organized Mind. The brain is an imperfect computer with finite resources, and we must treat it as such.

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Cognitive psychology: The Organized Mind

The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Daniel J. Levitin

The information age is drowning us with an unprecedented deluge of data. At the same time, we’re expected to make more—and faster—decisions about our lives than ever before. No wonder, then, that the average American reports frequently losing car keys or reading glasses, missing appointments, and feeling worn out by the effort required just to keep up.

But somehow some people become quite accomplished at managing information flow. In The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, Daniel J. Levitin, PhD, uses the latest brain science to demonstrate how those people excel—and how readers can use their methods to regain a sense of mastery over the way they organize their homes, workplaces, and time.

With lively, entertaining chapters on everything from the kitchen junk drawer to health care to executive office workflow, Levitin reveals how new research into the cognitive neuroscience of attention and memory can be applied to the challenges of our daily lives. This Is Your Brain on Music showed how to better play and appreciate music through an understanding of how the brain works. The Organized Mind shows how to navigate the churning flood of information in the twenty-first century with the same neuroscientific perspective.

Cognitive psychology: A Sense of Style

The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person?s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker

Why is so much writing so bad, and how can we make it better? Is the English language being corrupted by texting and social media? Do the kids today even care about good writing? Why should any of us care?

In The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person?s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century, the bestselling linguist and cognitive scientist Steven Pinker answers these questions and more. Rethinking the usage guide for the twenty-first century, Pinker doesn’t carp about the decline of language or recycle pet peeves from the rulebooks of a century ago. Instead, he applies insights from the sciences of language and mind to the challenge of crafting clear, coherent, and stylish prose.

In this short, cheerful, and eminently practical book, Pinker shows how writing depends on imagination, empathy, coherence, grammatical knowhow, and an ability to savor and reverse engineer the good prose of others. He replaces dogma about usage with reason and evidence, allowing writers and editors to apply the guidelines judiciously, rather than robotically, being mindful of what they are designed to accomplish.

Filled with examples of great and gruesome prose, Pinker shows us how the art of writing can be a form of pleasurable mastery and a fascinating intellectual topic in its own right.

Cognitive Psychology: In Praise Of Doing One Thing At A Time