Use index cards: What neuroscience tells us about getting organized

Excerpt from an article in the Washington Post, 14 Sep 2014 featuring Daniel Levitin — a McGill University professor of psychology and behavioral neuroscience — and his book, The Organized Mind.

Dr. Levitin suggests writing down each thing we need to do on separate 3×5 index cards.

“It’s not about having a perfect system, but the 3×5 cards offer the freedom to reorganize and re-prioritize — to put things in piles or change the order of things. At some point in the day, your priorities change. It’s relatively simple to go through the whole stack, find the card you want and put it at the top of the pile.

The problem with the computer is that it’s a place where everything is done, and you don’t associate it with your to-do list. The index cards, on the other hand, become the place you go to see what’s up next or to put down thoughts. Your brain remembers and associates a certain activity and a certain focus with those index cards, or with your notebook, or your paper and pencil list. Which one doesn’t matter. They’re each a physical object in a particular physical space, as opposed to the computer screen, which has 100 different activities associated with it, from watching videos of a cat playing a piano to doing your email. That kind of fractionating of purpose is difficult for the brain to deal with.”

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