The Organized Mind: Internal and External Focus Differences

The Organized Mind: Internal and External Focus Differences

Here is an a excerpt from on the difference between internal and external focus, and why it matters followed by a book review on The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Daniel J. Levitin.

If our Paleolithic ancestors visited 2014, they’d notice a few changes. We’re mostly agrarian. We mostly live in buildings. We spend most of our days in small spaces staring at screens. Also, there are 7 billion of us—up from a few hundred thousand—and a few of them inhabit a small capsule that flies around the planet. And those tiny rectangles everyone stares at? They’re capable of accessing the entirety of information known to man, but most people use them to look at pictures of cats and get into arguments with strangers.

And yet, I’m willing to bet that if our ancestors moved to New York City or Hong Kong and landed a desk job, they’d encounter an even bigger difference: The mismatch between how much information the mind can consciously process (not a lot) and how much information it is exposed to (a lot). We don’t realize it, but we moderns are using a brain that evolved for an environment that no longer exists. If the past is a foreign country, it was a mentally peaceful one.

The confusing part is that despite warnings about the perils of information overload, we continue to multitask, obsessively check email, and text and drive. It’s like a statistician who enjoys playing the slots. He knows the house always wins, but near misses and occasional wins lure him back for more.

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Is there a way to manage information overload? Or must we return to the savannah? Daniel Levitin is a psychologist who warns about information overload, but he thinks that the answer is the former, and he has written a big book explaining why. The Organized Mind clocks in at nearly 400 pages, but Levitin has wisely organized the tome into small, digestible sections.

I’d like to talk about one, “Organizing The Business World: How We Create Value.” In it, Levitin makes a helpful distinction between “internal locus of control” and “external locus of control” and explains why it matters.

Internal Locus of Control

External Locus of Control

Why The Distinction Matters

See full article by

The Organized Mind – Description

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

New York Times bestselling author and neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin shifts his keen insights from your brain on music to your brain in a sea of details.

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, 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.

The Organized Mind – Review


“[An] impressively wide-ranging and thoughtful work…”The Organized Mind” is an organized book, but it also rewards dipping in at any point, for there are fascinating facts and examples throughout.” – The Wall Street Journal

“[M]ore than a self-help book…Levitin’s insights into sleep, time, socializing and decision-making are profound.” – San Jose Mercury News

“[An] ingenious combination of neuroscience and self-help.” – Kirkus

“By learning about how the mind processes information, readers with an interest in the brain will come away with insight into how they can better organize their lengthy lists, overflowing junk drawers, and cluttered schedules.” – Library Journal

“Dan Levitin has more insights per page than any other neuroscientist I know. The Organized Mind is smart, important, and as always, exquisitely written.”
—Daniel Gilbert, Harvard University, author of Stumbling on Happiness

Combine genuine knowledge and scholarship with plain common sense and what do you get? A book that is really worth reading: Dan Levitin’s The Organized Mind.”
—The Honorable George P. Shultz, 60th U. S. Secretary of State

“There are surprising parallels between Levitin’s work and mine. Today’s environment in war, business, and just about everything else has increased in speed and complexity to the point where the essential quality required for success is adaptability. The Organized Mind provides the latest neuroscience on cognitive adaptability and how to apply it to so that leaders can excel. It is a tremendous achievement, and a must read for leaders at every level.” – General Stanley McChrystal, U. S. Army (ret.)

“A brilliant and engaging book about the science of thinking. The Organized Mind provides the tools that we all need to understand and manage the deluge of information that assaults us every day.” – Jerome Groopman, MD and Pamela Hartzband, MD, Harvard Medical School, authors of Your Medical Mind

“A profound piece of work. Levitin documents the mismatch between our narrow bandwidth hunter-gatherer minds and the multitasking chaos of today’s world. He even shows us how to stay sane in environments that are constantly tempting us to stretch ourselves hopelessly thin.” – Philip E. Tetlock, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

“An erudite synthesis of Levitin’s own contributions, recent advances in our understanding of attention and memory, and a deep perspective on the ways the human mind works.” – Stanley Prusiner, M.D. Nobel Laureate, director of the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, University of California, San Francisco

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