Saving every drop of attention

A car is a packaging of wonderfully controlled explosions to produce smooth forward motion. Most mass-market cars come with 4 cylinders, which explode 8000 times every minute, when we rev up to a modest 4000 revolutions per minute (RPM).

All of these explosions generate tremendous heat. A coolant cruises through a car’s plumbing, ensuring that this heat doesn’t cause a meltdown in the middle of a deserted highway. When the car is in motion, the cooling system works full swing to keep the temperature under control. When the car rests, the coolant returns to room-temperate. If there is a leak in the cooling system, the car steadily loses its cooling capacity and must be replenished frequently.

An automobile’s cooling capacity is a determinant of how well it can function. Our attention works in the same manner. All of us are given a finite amount of attention to “spend” on any given day. Rest and relaxation restores our capacity for attention. Distractions and interruptions leak away our attention, limiting our mental capacity.

The worth of our attention is reflected in the valuation of internet giants such as Apple, Google and Facebook. It is great business to go around with a vessel and collect all the attention that leaks away each time people glance at their mobile phones, binge-stream videos or scroll through feeds. Way better business apparently, than manufacturing car coolants. How many car coolant companies can you name?

Our attention is our capacity for doing work that matters most to us – work that develops us and create moments that make us happy. We’d do well to save every drop of it.

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