Personal Productivity, Productivity & Lifestyle

Review: Brain Rules by John Medina

In pursuit of maximum productivity and good mind habits, I put together a list of recommended books on time tracking, habit building, and other productivity-related topics. I hope to review a few of those books on the blog and share what I learn from them. First up, Brain Rules by John Medina.

John Medina is a molecular biologist and research consultant. In Brain Rules, he outlines 12 principles of how our brains function.

I’ve never before seen a book that seamlessly weaves science and daily routine like this one does. Each chapter teaches a fascinating fact about how our brains work. Medina breaks up scientific explanation with real-life applications for how you and I can harness the brain’s rules for our personal life. Also, at the end of each chapter he has an idea section in which he outlines potential applications for the education system and business world. Some of his ideas are a little crazy (e.g., treadmills instead of desks in classrooms), but hey, sometimes radical ideas are what we need.

If you are interested in a quick list of productivity tips and the idea of reading a 460-page book has no appeal, have no fear! Medina ends each chapter with convenient summaries: one page with 3 to 6 bullet points that help sum up his main ideas. I loved having the summaries. For the chapters that I really enjoyed, it was nice to have a refresher to remind me of everything I had learned. For a few chapters (cough rules five and six cough), it allowed me to skip the boring stuff and still feel like I understood the gist of what Medina was trying to say.


(Medina is a master of simple graphics and eye-pleasing summaries.)

A few of the chapters had me oohing and aahing with amazement and interest (see rules 3 and 9). However, the majority of the book moved slowly. Not every principle was backed by quite enough evidence. A few chapters seemed bulked with unnecessary anecdotes.

All in all this was a unique and interesting read for learning about the brain and how I can use my brain better. The biology itself was fascinating, and being able to apply it to my daily life made it even more so. I learned a whole lot of things that I will be applying to my life and sharing with others. I also hope to explore a few of the principles more in-depth here on the blog in the future.

If you still don’t want to buy the book, Medina makes his brain rules fully accessible by posting videos about them and summaries online on his website.

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