Cognitive load matters. Mullainathan and Shafir believe that scarcity imposes a similar mental tax, impairing our ability to perform well, and exercise self-control.

~ Farnam Street from,

Short of food: starving. Short of water: dehydration. Short of money: in debt. Short of time: over-committed. Short of attention: distracted, mindless. But also, short of outlets for creativity? Short of satisfaction? Short of peace? Short of meaning?



These distractions aren’t just unproductive, they’re anti-productive. They create more work than they replace.

~ Mark Manson from,

I wish I had learned much sooner the idea that distractions aren’t just wasting the time spent on the distraction, but are in fact decreasing the value of the time I do try to spend on anything focused and productive. Alas, it took me decades of experimenting to deeply understand it for myself before I could truly learn the lesson. Manson’s article is, as usual, irreverent and explicit—but it has some terrific points in it about how to go about crafting an attention “diet” to take back your mind.

My mind does need a lot of down-time and relaxation. But none of that looks like distraction. I deeply love sitting down to some great science-fiction movie with popcorn. I also deeply love me some burly physical work where my mind can press the “body: do things” button and then wander out of the control room for a snooze on the terrace. (I imagine Homer Simpson’s sipping-bird left in the control room; but mine’s pressing the, “continue hard labor,” button rather than his nuclear reactor alarm reset.)


The only resource more precious than time

Unlike money, everyone is ultimately on a level playing field when it comes to time. We all get the same allowance of twenty-four hours a day. Just as there are ineffective ways of investing your money, there are ineffective ways of investing your time.

If we all have the same amount of this essential resource, why do some people achieve so much, and others so little? Where we start from — in terms of economic class, skills and education — certainly has something to do with it, but there are just as many riches-to-rags stories as there are rags-to-riches stories, so obviously there is another factor at play here.

~ David Cain

I found the realization that it’s really my attention that is my limiiting resource to be both liberating and scary. Liberating because it means that all I need to do is focus my attention and long-term success is within my grasp. Applying my attention, even in short stretches, inevitably leads to progress on my favorite projects. And scary because every time I’m tired, run-down, don’t want to do something– every time, food or the Movie-monster call my name, entertainment or distraction– there are so many opportunities for me to turn my attention away from the things I find valuable.