A wonderfully executed book which sets out with the lofty objective of organizing and taming our society’s fast-paced lifestyle, Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life is a true prize in its class of literature. It’s extremely thoughtful in its prose, giving the reader countless images and examples to better understand the relevance of the scientific information presented.
The authors — an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard’s Medical School and assistant psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Department of Psychiatry and “Coach Meg,” the founder and CEO of a leading corporation which focuses on building international standards for professional health and wellness coaches — offer a very holistic approach to decreasing the frenzy that so many of us encounter in our daily lives. They complement each other wonderfully. Dr. Hammerness (the professor) usually approaches the reader head-on, lobbing out new tidbits of scientific research and trying to get the reader up to speed on the ever-evolving field of neuroscience. Coach Meg, on the other hand, greets us at the end of each chapter in a more “nitty-gritty” manner, giving us practical steps to take on our journey toward less chaos.
Each chapter walks the reader through a clear and concise look at one “Rule of Order,” as the authors term these guidelines to gaining control and order in our every day. They typically illustrate where so many of us go wrong and help us pinpoint the moment or moments that lead to disarray. Many of the cases highlight individuals who have made it into adulthood with varying levels of ADD or ADHD, often through acquisition of coping skills that unfortunately have their limits. When these people or those coping skills have met their limits, Dr. Hammerness conveys to the reader, he often sees them in his office, eager for their first appointment.
As a younger professional in the sciences who has been diagnosed with ADHD, I can easily empathize and readily understand these individuals. Throughout the book, we see myriad cases in which people struggle to keep their heads afloat in a world that seems to never stop picking up the pace around them. The authors relay tales of mothers who allow themselves to obsessively get roped into cleaning a garage, while the rest of the world spins out of control, and contractors who forget pertinent details needed to keep business booming in a subpar economy.
Within this book we gradually move with the authors through the all of the Rules of Order: “Taming the Frenzy;” “Sustaining Attention;” “Applying the Brakes;” “Molding Information;” “Shift Setting” and “Connecting the Dots” (where we learn to put together each one of these valuable tenets to form a practical design with which to newly approach our lives). If ever, during the course of the narrative, we doubt the real need for adjusting our turbulent lifestyles, the authors rein us back in with new understandings in neuroscience and another example of someone burning the proverbial candle at both ends.
At one point the authors even lure us into a few examples of people “multi-tasking,” goading us into momentarily believing that those people who seem adept in this supposedly coveted ability to handle more than one task at a time are superior. But quickly we see that multitasking is akin to seeing a snapshot of a juggler with a dozen balls in the air. We don’t see the juggler drop all of the balls in the next snapshot, so don’t truly have an accurate depiction of the ability or limitations of the juggler.
Similarly, when we see the person in the office next door texting, typing and listening in on a conference call, we should understand that each of those tasks will be of poor quality and many likely will not be completed at all. There are, Dr. Hammerness assures us, limitations with any human brain.
For anyone who has sought this title out in a bookstore, there will likely be no disappointment with the content. Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life is an extremely well-constructed and astutely interesting mix of science and recipe book, arming the modern-day person with countless tasks consistently scheduled, a more productive and less stressful manner with which to approach life. By the end of the last chapter the authors seem like two dear friends with whom we have learned invaluable skills, like stepping back from each situation and assessing before acting. With them we learn to welcome an interruption and flex with the changing nature of the world around us. Surely if we follow these two recommendations alone, we can thank both authors for a few added years!
As the book claimed from the beginning, Coach Meg and Dr. Hammerness offer us tools with which “to tap into our embedded organizational skills, improve focus and attention and better structure our life.” As someone who has at times struggled with the challenges of ADHD, I practice mindfulness meditation, engage in regular physical activity (which the authors strongly urge) and attempt to eat well. This book is a priceless addition to my library in terms of very tangible life skills that will certainly improve my ability to organize and manage my hectic schedule.
In addition, I look forward to pursuing some of the websites and citations found within this gem. For these two gifted authors to utilize them, it will certainly be worth my time and effort to follow up on all extraneous information offered. I cannot recommend Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life enough, as it truly does just what it sets out to do: educates and empowers the reader to “train your brain to get more done in less time.” It would hard to begin to put a cost on that.
Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life: Train Your Brain to Get More Done in Less Time
By Paul Hammerness, MD and Margaret Moore
Harlequin: December 27, 2011
Paperback, 272 pages