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6 mins

Simplify Thinking: Daniel Levitin On How To Organize Your Mind

In this episode of Simplify, neuroscientist Dr. Daniel Levitin unlocks the secret functions of the human brain and explains how to keep your mind healthy.
by Natallia Darozhkina | Apr 19 2018

A lot of the things that we’ve learned about how our brains work are simply not true. Get this: did you know that a small part of your brain can fall asleep while the other parts are awake and working?

Furthermore, we can’t even trust our memories—they can be shockingly fallible. It turns out that much of what ends up getting stored in memory, especially what people remember about themselves and their past, is a distortion.

In order to keep your mind healthy (and not lose precious IQ points!) it is important to let your mind do its “cellular housekeeping,” which Levitin explains in the episode.

“One of the things that we can do for our brain that’s underappreciated is try to avoid complacency. Seek out the novel, seek out the new, that’s the way to stay young.”
Daniel Levitin

By the end of this episode, you’ll find out how to bring your thoughts in order and organize all the information in your head. Tune in to hear about the ways to train your brain and how to finally stop losing those house keys!

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Who’s Daniel Levitin?

Daniel Levitin

Dr. Daniel Levitin is a Canadian cognitive psychologist, neuroscientist and musician with professional background in science, as well as in the music record industry. After working as a session musician, live sound engineer, and record producer, Levitin went on to earn his Ph.D. in Psychology and worked on issues in Human-Computer Interaction at a Silicon Valley computer firm. Throughout his career, Levitin has been writing for both scientific journals and audio magazines, and in 2006 he published his first book on how music affects humans This Is Your Brain On Music, which became a #1 best-seller. His most recent books The Organized Mind and Weaponized Lies examine our thinking in the information age and have also become bestsellers in the US and Canada.

Daniel Levitin’s recommended reads

1. Becoming Leonardo: An Exploded View of the Life of Leonardo da Vinci by Mike Langford

Leonardo Da Vinci left the world with a lot of questions after his death. In the book, Becoming Leonardo, the author studies the authentic nature and life of the mysterious Renaissance polymath based on the available evidence. Langford in detail describes Leonardo’s life journey as a fascinating and dangerous adventure, whose unbelievable discoveries and outstanding inventions inspire every reader.

Comment from Daniel: “I have just finished reading Becoming Leonardo which is a fantastic book about Da Vinci by Mike Langford. I reviewed it for The Wall Street Journal by the way and loved it. And I’ve been recommending that to everybody.”

2. Absolutely on Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa by Haruki Murakami

The book Absolutely on Music consists of a series of conversations between two maestroes and close friends: international best-selling author, Haruki Murakami, and the former conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Seiji Ozawa. They talk about their common passion — music — and share their personal thoughts on everything from their favorite performances to Murakami’s visit to Ozawa’s retreat for musicians.

Comment from Daniel: “I’ve read everything now by Haruki Murakami. And my wife just got me for my birthday a Murakami book I didn’t even know about, which I adored. It is called Absolutely On Music, and it’s conversations between Murakami and the great conductor Seiji Ozawa. A lot of good stuff in there.”

Extra credit reading

If you would like to learn more about the functions of our brain and how to sustain a healthy mind, check out this book list created by Ben and Caitlin!

Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep by David K. Randall

We need sleep to survive, and we spend about a third of our lives sleeping. But what is actually happening in our brains during that time? The British journalist, David K. Randall, got interested in this topic when he injured himself by sleepwalking into a wall one day. And because he had a vested interest in figuring out how to sleep better, he asked experts and combined all their ideas in this book.

You can read (or listen to!) the key insights from each of the following titles on Blinkist in 15 minutes or even fewer:

The Blue Zones whisks you through the regions of the world with the highest concentrations of healthy centenarians. By examining how people in these regions live and interact, we gain insight into how to extend our own lifespans.

The Seven Sins of Memory offers a close look at the seven ways our memory can let us down: from why we always lose our car keys to why some people are haunted by recurring negative thoughts. The book also discusses how to mitigate these shortcomings and why they’re actually trade-offs for massive memory benefits. By examining how our memory works and its faults, we see that these weaknesses are actually just side effects of a very clever system.

What’s Simplify?

Simplify is a podcast for anybody who’s taken a close look at their habits, their happiness, their relationships, or their health and thought “There’s got to be a better way to do this.” We talk to bestselling writers, productivity wizards, sex geniuses, and happiness experts to find it for you.

Simplify is made with love by Blinkist. Click here to try Blinkist free for 14 days with the voucher code: orwell

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Talk to us!

We want to hear from you!

Specifically, we’d love to hear how you would answer one of the questions we always ask our guests: “What have you discovered was much easier than you initially thought it was?”

You can just record your answer with a voice memo app of your choice and then email it to us at [email protected]. We are looking forward to listening to your responses, and stay tuned—you just might hear yourself on a future episode of Simplify!

If you want to say hi to Ben and Caitlin in the meantime, you can find them on Twitter: @bsto and @CaitlinSchiller.

Who made this?

Your hosts are Caitlin Schiller and Ben Schuman-Stoler.

Stellar research and production assistance by the outstanding Natallia Darozhkina.

Thanks to Nico Guiang for our awesome intro and outro music. Listen more on Soundcloud or check him out on Facebook.

Sound and editing by Ben Jackson and Ody Constantinou, who once helped solve a crime by opening up a colleague’s MacBook Pro, where the stolen money was found.

Got links?

Daniel Levitin’s website:
David Allen’s Getting Things Done® Method:

Read the transcript here!

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