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July 10, 2017

Attention is Expensive

“The often-used phrase ‘pay attention’ is apt: you dispose of a limited budget of attention that you can allocate to activities, and if you try to go beyond your budget, you will fail.”
(Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow)


In this age of technology, a lot of attention is being paid to our struggle with attention. Usually, we’re decrying the fact that the lightning speed of our screens and apps is decreasing our ability to keep focused.


That we’re diminishing our attention spans is true, but it may not be the lightning quick changes of our screens doing all the damage.


Turns out, as the brilliant Dr. Kahneman points out, our brains each have an attention budget for the time between sleep. When the average day for the average person was spent on the long hours of farming, this attention budget wouldn’t get used up very quickly, and thus we had attention to spare. Now, with our eyeballs surrounded by screens, and our days crammed with more and more activities, we’re exhausting our budget before breakfast. And then living on attention debt, fueled by caffeine.


Pay attention to your attention-spending today. What are you asking your brain to invest in? And what happens when you overspend during the day, long before you spend the evening with your family?


Peace begins with pause,


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