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Have a goal of reading more? Consider joining your local library. I’ve found that having a due date for a book and knowing that someone else may be waiting to read it encourages me to finish the book more so than if I had bought it myself. Plus walking through the library with the smell of books has a special quality that can't be replicated when ordering a book online.

Interesting essay from Gloria Mark on ‘our dwindling attention spans’. Two insights that stood out to me:

  1. While push notifications and alerts play a role in our shortened attention spans she says “it turns out that people are nearly as likely to switch their attention of their own volition. We are determined to be interrupted, if not by others, then by ourselves.”

  2. “The inability to pay sustained attention has repercussions. Studies consistently show that our blood pressure rises and our heart rate increases with fast attention shifts.”

The ill effects of constantly shifting our attention are known as a “switch cost”. Switch cost is characterized by the errors and delays that result from frequently shifting our attention.

There’s a great metaphor here. Companies go to great lengths to first create and draw attention to the high cost of switching from their product or service to another. This is known as the switching cost. It's cheaper for a company to maintain an existing customer rather than lose one and have to acquire a new customer or reacquire the lost customer. In the case of our personal attention, we’re the company, and maintaining our focus on a task rather than switching back and forth costs us less.

If we can only draw our personal attention to the high cost of switching.

Something as simple as walking requires us to have made a profound number of calculations that we don’t even consciously think about. Imagine having to write out instructions to program a machine on how to walk. There are so many calculations that must be made. It’s far more complex than we realize when we stand up to walk.

Joints along with many muscles are engaged and to the proper degree. Legs are coordinated so the result is continuous smooth forward motion. How far is your foot from the ground and how far should the step be? Our eyes and other senses are constantly alert for any obstacles that would be a hazard and need to be avoided. This information is used in coordination with the rest of the calculations necessary to walk. Why did we decide to walk in the first place? To get somewhere our brain calculated we needed to be. On and on and on. So many calculations. Yet we don’t even have to give much thought to all of this as we walk. It’s mundane. In other words, there are profound calculations our brains make every day without us even noticing.

Perhaps that is what a gut feeling or instinct is, a series of profound calculations that our brains have made, but we didn’t even notice ourselves making. Yet we have a sense for something, the gut feeling, the instinct. This, of course, isn't to say that a gut feeling is always right; just as we may occasionally stub our toe while walking due to a miscalculation or distraction.

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