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The Concept Of Entropy Drag

November 4, 2013

Our brains are masterful at keeping track of the things that are important to us. Every bit of information that is perceived is analyzed for relevance to our existing scheme of affairs. Items that are deemed relevant are stored in a short-term memory loop until appropriate action is decided and dispatched. Our brains are constantly scanning our internal and external environment for signs of relevance and contemplating what to do about them.

Short-term memory takes energy to operate, however, and is limited in its capacity. Just like having fifty browser tabs open degrades your computer’s performance, having a psyche cluttered with open loops drains our mental energy. This is the energy that we use to make decisions, use willpower, and pay attention, and experiments have shown that it can be depleted, an effect called decision fatigue.

When we make a decision, our brain does its best to take all possible factors into account. This means that the more undecided outcomes we are contemplating, the more difficult each individual decision becomes, which makes even small and inconsequential decisions become exhausting and even paralyzing.

When you have a ton of unresolved debts, an email inbox with hundreds (or thousands) of unprocessed communications, an immense backlog of stagnant projects, a disorganized and cluttered environment, and a relentless schedule of situations and people demanding your attention, the sheer mass of open loops creates an effect I call “entropy drag”. The lower your burden of entropy drag, the more streamlined you are and the easier it is to navigate through life. The greater the burden of entropy drag, the more energy it takes just to maintain your existence, leaving you feeling exhausted despite accomplishing nothing.

Change in entropy drag creates a positive feedback loop with itself, whichever direction it moves in. This means that a small increase tends to accumulate more, but a small decrease conversely frees up energy that can be leveraged into further decreases. Therefore, making a small improvement and then compounding this into greater and greater gains is key to creating and sustaining a life of ease.

What can you do today to decrease your personal burden of entropy drag?

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