This week I finally got round to reading Scarcity by Eldar Shafir and Sendhil Mullainathan, having had to wait for a month due to it being out of stock. That’s not even a joke.

Scarcity-featuer21-495x400

The book demonstrates how our behaviour changes when something we need is scarce. We focus on what we don’t have enough of, leaving less mental capacity for other stuff. I’d always thought that scarcity was about money, or material things, or natural resources like food and water. But I’d never considered it being about time.

It’s easy to understand with money. You’re a bit short, so you focus on saving a few quid here and there, maybe paying on a credit card that you wouldn’t normally use. But with time? Think about it – how does your behaviour change when you’re running late? Or up against a tight deadline? Do you become ruder? More irritable? Needing more peace and quiet? Or is that just me? Basic activities become luxurious, like spending time with friends and family, or having dinner with the children at the table. If that can ever be a luxury.

family-dinner

Suddenly, the decisions we make aren’t about the real, rational state of the world anymore. Instead, they’re about our ‘mental representation’ of the world at that time, driven by what’s front of mind and most important. So the authors argue (convincingly) that you need to ‘design life’s cockpit with scarcity in mind’, knowing that these occurrences are going to happen. If you don’t like your behaviour when you’re time poor, build yourself time in the day to step back and think, and have strategies ready to deal with the inevitable meltdown.

time-management

Oh, and you know when you check your phone a couple of minutes before an important meeting? You see a message that you wish you hadn’t seen, that plays on your mind and stays there throughout? Yep, that’s an example of you mind being distracted, giving some of it’s vital bandwidth to something else. So avoid the temptation – the messages will still be there when you get back, I guarantee it…

unread-mail-number-iphone

johnJsills

I really hope you enjoyed this article. If you did, I’d love you to subscribe to my blog at johnjsills.com/subscribe to get new thoughts sent to you on an infrequent basis, and find me on twitter @johnJsills.

.

Posted by johnJsills

One Comment

  1. youmustnotmissny March 19, 2016 at 6:02 pm

    Reblogged this on youmustnotmissny.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s