Achieve Greater Productivity and Better Decision-Making with a Simple Perspective Shift

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Last Updated on November 20, 2023 by Bill Truby

A Harvard Economist, Sendhil Mullainathan, partnered with a Princeton psychologist, Eldar Shafir, and found that a scarcity of anything affects you, often in ways you are not aware of. They discovered that a scarcity of ANY type affects decision-making and productivity, and it does so in ALL aspects of life, even in areas not related to the shortage.

This is easy to understand if you think about a shortage of something critical to existence, say water. If you don’t have enough water it’s hard to think of anything else. This distraction causes poor decision making in general, and prevents you from being efficient and getting as much done in all areas of life.

The researchers suggested that the reason this occurs is because our minds have a limited “bandwidth” to process things. Scarcity of anything absorbs a lot of that “bandwidth” AND diverts our attention. The result is poor decision-making and reduced productivity. Amplifying the problem was this: The negative results showed up in areas of life not even connected to the scarcity.

Shortage of anything can affect you negatively. A shortage of money can affect relationships by taking up the mental bandwidth needed to be emotionally present. A business with a critical shortage of customers can cause leaders to make poor decisions about staffing or purchasing.

What about something we all experience – scarcity of time? Same results! A shortage of time led to poor decision-making AND caused people to be less productive within the time they had.

Looking at the conclusions of this research was illuminating and interesting. But the solution was simple and surprising. You’d think that eliminating the scarcity would give the most relief and better outcomes. But the answer to the problem was much simpler than that. The solution was FOCUS!

Since “distraction” is the core problem; “focus” is the core solution. In fact, if the scarcity COULD be eliminated, all that really did was to allow a person to focus once again. “Focus” reduced stress, created better decision-making, and generated greater productivity. This was true for all scarcities.

What about those of you who can do more than one thing at a time? It was rare that multitasking helped since it took away from focus. Focus was the key. Here’s what to do…

If you are a cook in a restaurant, focus on what you are doing for THIS customer. If you are a manager working on scheduling staff but have limited people, focus on scheduling staff, not the fact that you don’t have enough people. If you are at dinner with your spouse, focus on THIS moment, THIS dinner, not the phone on your lap under the table.

This is really about perspective. It’s about where you CHOOSE to hold your attention. Stay in the moment. Focus. You’ll make better decisions and get more done.  (Ok…you can now begin closing those other 14 windows open on your computer).

Bill Truby

Founder and President of Truby Achievements