5 min read

Cognitive Drains

Cognitive Drains

Have you ever felt overburdened?

Almost like all the things in your mind seem to be surfacing all at once.

All your unfulfilled desires.

All the things you have to do.

And you can't help but feel completely out of control?

Today, we're going to explore these experiences – more specifically cognitive drains. And how we can resolve them.

Cognitive Drains Come From Tracking

Simply put: a cognitive drain occurs when your mind allocates its resources to remembering a certain task, goal, or dream.

When you tell your mind: "Don't forget to grab milk from the store" or "I want to start a business!"  — your mind will consume energy in order to keep that information ready for once you need it.

Cognitive Drains Stop You From Doing Things

Think about it. With your mind having to keep track of all the things you have to do – where will it get the energy to actually do them?

Is it possible that motivation/skill has nothing to do with why you aren't doing the things you should?

Holy shit.

One of the reasons why we're in paralysis isn't because we don't KNOW what to do next – it's because our mind is holding on to multiple different desires/intents at once.

It simply doesn't have the energy to start DOING.

Hands holding things can't actually function.

If you have something in your hands, you can't really do anything.

Your mind works in a similar way. If it's holding on to something, it won't be able to DO other things. It's currently occupied.

If you can somehow let go of the things in your hands, you'd be able to function properly.

Maybe the same would work with your mind?

all those tasks make your mind INFLATE

Cognitive Drains Lead To Urgency Traps

So a rather nasty side effect of cognitive drains is "urgency traps".

Urgency Traps Mask The Root Problem

The mechanism works like this:

  1. Your mind is keeping track of all your "to-dos"
  2. As a result – you feel overwhelmed and paralyzed
  3. You don't do anything – the to-do remains unfulfilled
  4. A deadline comes – The Urgency Trap
  5. You suddenly have tons of energy/motivation
  6. You complete the task at the last minute
  7. Your mind releases the cognitive drain but it also trains a bad habit of using urgency as motivation

An urgency trap is when you rely on an impending deadline to actually accomplish things. You procrastinate until the very last minute.

Can you relate?

This is a dangerous game. If you don't catch yourself doing this then you may go many years needlessly suffering. You could go many years not fulfilling your true potential.

All because we've been treating our minds as to-do lists and not vehicles for action.

Uncompleted Tasks Tie Up Cognitive Energy

So the principle should be clear by now.

But what should we do?

Two Fixes:

  1. Satisfaction
  2. Grief

Satisfy The Desire / Task

This is simple. When you tell your mind to remind you to go buy milk AND you actually do it. This resolves that cognitive drain. It frees up your mental RAM.

Practical Step: Keep a to-do list (as you are already) and be acutely aware of how your mental state changes as you check each task off.

Are you feeling lighter? More energy? Notice that.

Grieve The Desire / Task


Normally we reserve grief for losing a loved one but there is so much more it can do for us.

A lot of us have desires that cannot be completed immediately. Some people have the desire to "save the world" or "start a billion dollar business". These are lofty desires that take ALOT of mind power.

As a result, we go through life accumulating desires without ever finding a resolution.

And the truth is: you can't satisfy every desire you have.

You may have noticed that every so often your mind shows you old desires that keep on coming back.

Why Do Desires Keep Coming Back?

Imagine a boomerang. Every time your mind presents you with a desire that you either don't grieve or don't satisfy – you in effect throw that desire back out (like a boomerang) and eventually it'll come right on back. It never comes to rest.

this is supposed to be a boomerang - midjourney
Practical Step: Take out your journal and make an attempt to write down all the "dreams/desires" that you have made in the past.

Attempt to grieve them. Remember, there are no right ways to grieve. Just make sure that it's healthy – no alcohol, drugs, food etc...

It can be as simple as saying to your mind "Let's grieve this desire, it is okay to feel whatever comes up, no need to hide."

Go back and find that resolution. After the session, notice your mental state.

Your mind may feel different.

In Practice:

Imagine that you've just started your work day. Instead of throwing yourself into all the work, you have to do. Take some time to list out all the things that are currently acting as cognitive drains in your mind.


  • Start my Assignment
  • Cancel my Netflix membership
  • Apologize to my friend
  • etc...

Then reflect on the ones that you can immediately satisfy. And just do it.

Otherwise, grieve the desire to complete them. If you are stressed over an upcoming exam you need to study for, book some time for later that day to study. Afterwards – take some time to grieve your desires around studying & passing the exam.

This keeps your mind fresh in the present moment and able to ACTUALLY work.

Protocol = Schedule + Grieve

Make sure to schedule the things you need to do in an external system – not your mind.

Once scheduled – clear your mental RAM – and grieve your desires to accomplish everything right this minute. You made the schedule -> follow it.

And WOW! You'll feel so FREE!

Give it a try and feel free to let me know if it worked for you!

with love