Your mind has a limited amount of processing power. You should consciously choose how you spend this mind capital.

Any well-organized person will carefully manage her money and time, but few actually consider how they spend their thoughts.

One might think that choosing how to spend your mind is the same as choosing how you spend your time. Five minutes of reading a book means five minute of thoughts spent on the book, right?

This would be true if our brains were single-threaded, foreground-only. But they aren’t. They are complex things, with thoughts switching between the subconscious and conscious space, with short and long term memory.

Watching a terrifying news item for just 2 minutes can haunt us for years. Talking to a colleague for a few seconds can kick us out of the “zone” for several minutes. And seeing an advertisement for a second can change our feelings about a brand.

What matters isn’t just how you spend your time. What you allow to into your mind is just as important.

Things that consume mind capital: Advertisements, news, blogs, opinion pieces, memes, clickbait, gossip, relationships, conversations you have, conversations you overhear, music, responsibilities, reading prose, learning, your day job, your own company, empathy, fear, hate, …

Some of these things are engineered to infect your mind. Others are part of being human. Some are good, some are bad.

But they all consume your mind. And if you want to succeed at something that is hard, you will need to invest the biggest share of your mind into that. A professor once told the undergraduate audience in which I was sitting that if we wanted to really follow the lectures then we would “need to think about homework even in the shower”.

But don’t abandon your family for you startup, or stop reading books. The important thing is that you should consciously choose how you spend your mind. Spend time with your loved ones. Read good prose. Binge-watch a good show.

But constrain the things that drain your mind capital yet offer little in exchange. Maybe limit social media and news to the weekends. Avoid advertisements. And if you get bored from time to time, embrace it: Your mind will fill the void.

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