Giving you a
little time for

Talking Cents


Book review on The Organised Mind by Daniel J Levitin

While browsing our local bookstore recently I came across Daniel Levitin’s latest book titled The Organized Mind. As an accountant I am always looking for ways to de-clutter my mind to allow me to focus on the task at hand without being side-tracked by other items on my to-do list or even just general “stuff” that I’ve not attended to that keeps floating around in my mind.

Daniel is a cognitive neuroscientist at McGill University but don’t let this intimidate you out of reading the book. Daniel is able to target his message to the level of professionals, managers and generally anyone who makes important decisions during their daily routines.

Without engaging in a full book review I have chosen to focus on a few key messages that I took from reading this book that have helped me personally.

If you have ever wondered why you can remember where your home is but can never remember all of your passwords and PIN’s (the average person has 19 passwords!) it is because your brain is hardwired to instantly recall certain memories but not others. Knowing where to seek shelter or find food is essential to survival as a human being, remembering your Facebook password is not. With so much information the key is to establish systems so you don’t need to remember everything. Using a specific formula to establish passwords is one great example Daniel gives. Using such a formula only you know means you will instantly know your password and that it wasn’t something random you made up on the spot.

An illustration of an organised mind Daniel gives is of meeting with ex-USA president Jimmy Carter. Daniel states that Mr Carter spoke to him as if he had all the time in the world at his disposal, even though he probably had a meeting to attend to shortly thereafter. The reason Mr Carter was able to speak with such a relaxed mind was because he had a team of people to remind him and take him off to his next meeting, it simply wasn’t something he needed to remember so he didn’t. Now I know as a time poor business owner you may not have a PA or driver to do this for you. What you can do instead is use a smartphone to organise your day and alert you to move on to the next meeting or task. It’s all about using and customising the physical world around us to organise your day and limit what we actually need to keep at the forefront of our minds.

Likewise, you will always know where your car is, but have you ever had difficulty finding your car keys? If so, I’s because you have not made it a high priority to focus on the place you put them and were probably thinking about something else when you chucked your car keys on the bed. The solution is to get organised and have a hook in your home clearly labelled “car keys” and always put them on the hook. That way you only need to remember where the hook was, not create a new memory each time you get out of your car.

One tip that I have already employed is to have two separate computers. My laptop for work that only work gets done on and a MacBook laptop for home. This one gets used for paying bills, surfing the internet and indulging in my hobbies.

As a small business owner there are many tools at your disposal to simplify your life to allow you to focus on your business and your actual processes and goals. The key is to develop a system around you that frees up your mind and essentially gets your business out of your head. If your staff are constantly asking you questions that only you know the answer to you’re doing it wrong. Systemise what you can, when you can, creating categories that apply to you and your small business and then informing your staff of the same. Of course, in life there will always be the classic example of the junk drawer. Creating a file or category for a one off item is going too far, that’s where the junk drawer in the kitchen comes into play and Daniel says that’s okay, as long as you are using the established categories correctly first.

For more great tips on being a better small business owner contact mas accountants, the original accountants for small business, located in Sydney and Melbourne.

Liability limited by a Scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation