Care More, Do Less

The information age has been a disaster for the human race

December 23, 2023


Our time is one characterized by short form entertainments; atomized attention; and a lack of any deep, persistent thought. One antidote is to care deeply and pay attention to something – anything – for a prolonged period of time.

A Heuristic

Doing many things at once brings about a busy sense of accomplishment. Like how a snack might be fulfilling for a short while. But snacks are no substitute for meals. Busyness can feel satisfying but the accomplishments are often not long lasting. Beyond a few fundamental necessities, tasks which yield long-lasting positive effects should take precedence. Certainly, maintain hygiene, enjoy meals, and sleep well. But email and instagram notifications needn’t be fastidiously monitored. In fact, doing so is not only pointless but comes at the expense of more fruitful pursuits. A heuristic I’ve found to be motivating is the question: “What can I do now that will positively change the future?” This question helps slice away the potent yet meaningless bids for my attention.


Days pass whether or not anything meaningful happens within them. So why not dedicate some care toward a lasting achievement. Ten minutes of focused thought feels like an eternity. Nonetheless, it merely takes ten minutes. As an example, ten minutes of focused thought at night dedicated to the possible actions of the following day can be quite impactful. Importantly, even small doses of a future-looking perspective creates a separation from the pull of instantaneous delights. It’s much easier to find oneself having wasted time than it is to actively plan for it. The alternative to a planned day is one that passes down the well-worn tracks of habit, for better or worse.

A Cautionary Tale

More concretely, here is a negative exemplar of an inconsequential day. I wake up and immediately open my phone to check social media sites for the latest content. I cycle between email, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Discord, and YouTube. When I’ve exhausted the novelties of the day for these sites, I’ll get out of bed. I turn on my desktop computer and recheck the same sites. Then I might play a video game, lately it’s been Valorant. Between games, I’ll continue to cycle through the various social media sites, checking for novelties with a thoroughness and diligence reminiscent of an animal grooming itself. My eyes grow weary, a sign for bed. The day has passed.

On Enjoyment

Caring about constructive topics has the benefits of persistence and compounding. Incremental improvements often last from one day to the next, and with luck, such improvements can build on each other. It’s often said that compounding interest is remarkable. But even without persistence or compounding, any gain is a great improvement compared to the transience of wasted hours, perhaps spent watching algorithmically selected short-form video content – engaging as that may be. Though I also agree with Bertrand that, “the time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time,” there’s something to be said for “moderation.”

Meaningful accomplishments are rarely made from a short burst of high intensity work, instead they come from a persistent effort and care sustained over a long period of time.