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Maria Konnikova's New Book Borrows From Sherlock Holmes

“Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes” runs counter to our overscheduled lives.

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IN THE PIPELINE: Multitaskers, beware. The advice Maria Konnikova maps out in her new book “Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes” runs counter to our overscheduled lives. Borrowing from Arthur Conan Doyle’s pipe-smoking detective, Konnikova said the fastest route to Holmesian thinking requires disconnecting and focusing on one thing instead of trying to accomplish or follow multiple things at once. In addition, “Just a few minutes a day of sitting with closed eyes, focusing on the present moment and dismissing any distractions have been shown to improve cognitive ability and make us happier as human beings,” the first-time author said. “Work on being in the moment, on giving your attention entirely to whatever it is you’re doing instead of letting it flit from activity to activity.”


Truth be told, a little Sherlock-inspired slacking off can improve productivity. “The modern world is all about constant activity — and much of the modern business culture is about face time and hours, hours, hours. But that kind of push may well be counterproductive. One thing Holmes teaches us is that so-called slacking off may actually be incredibly effective in getting things done. The detective realizes the value of a well-placed break — a walk in the park, a trip to the opera, some time with a book that is completely unrelated to anything you’re doing in your professional life. We’re often afraid that if we take an hour — even 15 minutes — away, we’re slacking off. Many of us even eat lunch at our desks. I think that’s a gross miscalculation,” Konnikova said. “It’s hard to overstress the value of mind breaks. They make you more creative, and at the end of the day, far more productive — and happier, to boot.”


Konnikova, a psychology doctoral student at Columbia University, will be at 92Y Wednesday to discuss her 276-page tome before jetting off on her U.K. book tour. Holmes’ style also earned points with Konnikova. “Holmes brings elegance to almost everything he does. He is not only pristine in his thinking but in his lifestyle choices. The pipe, the violin, the love of opera, the deep knowledge of fine wine, fine art, fine music: It all points to a man very much in touch with the finer aspects of life,” she said. The Harvard grad will not be sporting a cape or deerstalker on her book tour, which returns to the U.S. Feb. 8 at her alma mater’s bookstore. But her research has lead to a new appreciation for hats and houndstooth. “In fact, I now own my first-ever houndstooth dress,” she said Monday.

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