We’ve all known that one person who’s always extremely busy, juggling countless projects, while still trying to maintain a stable personal life, among a bunch of other things. Whenever asked, he’s just trying to meet a deadline, always working late into the night, on 3 different projects due within close proximity of each other. It might be a friend, a coworker, a relative – at least for my group of friends, it was me.
The lives of human beings are now just growing busier than ever. Looking at simply ONE of your many email accounts will show you quite a number of messages just waiting to be answered. Appointments must be postponed due to unforeseen consequences, relationships suffer due to unequal time distribution, and we start going out and meeting people and socializing less. It’s a vicious cycle, and so many people are falling into these every day.
Some researchers from Harvard University liken this sort of busy-ness to overdue bills, in which one simple thing prevails: scarcity. You have a scarcity in time when you have an extremely busy schedule, and with overdue bills, you have a scarcity on what you can go out to do or buy.
However, these same researchers argue that this scarcity mindset also creates a form of thinking that encourages people to always be actively or subconsciously thinking about all the things that are scarce. If your busy schedule causes a scarcity in time, you’re always constantly checking whether you’ll have enough time to finally catch up on your deadlines today, or tomorrow, or the next day. Your mind is so occupied with scarcity that it affects the way we think. In a way, it’s imposed on us, by us.
Furthermore, when constantly preoccupied about this type of scarcity where we’re feeling something lacking, you make yourself busier, by overall reducing productivity, or dwelling on the scarce aspect more frequently.
In addition, people often suffer from the planning fallacy, which basically states that we’re sometimes too optimistic about how long something will take, saying a task “can be done in just 30 minutes instead of 1 hour if I put my head to it.” This isn’t too dangerous on itself. However, when we start stacking tasks on this false idea – this planning fallacy – it’s immediately evident that we’re putting ourselves up for failure.
In the words of the researchers,
Scarcity captures our attention and provides quite a narrow benefit: We do better jobs of managing pressing needs. However, in exchange for that slight benefit, it costs us so much more: we neglect other concerns, and we become less effective in the rest of life.”