According to a Harvard behavioural economist and a Princeton psychologist:
“If you have very little, you often behave in such a way so that you’ll have little in the future”
These guys have just published a book entitled “Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much”. It doesn’t just cover being money poor, it looks at being time poor as well.
What they found is that money and time poor people have trouble escaping from the poverty trap because they have to single-mindedly focus so much on the problem, they lose perspective. They only look for immediate solutions that will fight the fire in front of them. They can’t see the longer term consequences of something that appears to fix the problem right here, right now.
Scarcity saps your mental energy so much that you can’t think straight. You have tunnel vision. That’s why people take out pay-day loans, and borrow short-term if they can’t afford to pay off other loans – it gets them over this hump.
How did this play out with the time poor? They carried out experiments on Harvard students, with video games. They had a fixed time to answer a question or complete a task. Some were allowed plenty of time. Others weren’t, but could to borrow time (time they would also need in the future). The borrowers got into a debt spiral, and they never won back enough time to pay the debt. These very smart people behaved incredibly irrationally under time pressure.
I was thinking about the irrational things I’ve done, and seen other people do, when I’ve been so squeezed for time that I can’t see my nose in front of my face. Here are just a few I’ll fess up to:
- Saying “I haven’t got time to show someone else how to do this” and doing it myself.
- Soldiering on through gritted teeth, as proof that I’m tough
- Working stupid hours covering three time zones, instead of dropping one
- Imagining that I was making myself indispensable by working long hours
Funny that they didn’t seem so stupid at the time, but looking at them now, they’re absurd.
Which gave me an idea for a competition.
We’ll give a £20 Amazon voucher to the best true life story about how you did something that only made things worse, when you were already time poor.
Please tell us your (true) story where it says “Please Leave a Comment” below. The more ridiculous, the better. We’ll pick a winner and announce it in two weeks’ time, on the 19th of October.