By Trevor Coltham
One day you wake up and decide to go on the latest fad diet.
Maybe in desperation to lose several kilos you choose the lemon detox program and fast for 10 days.
If you’ve ever attempted such a feat, after a while your mind automatically realises something it needs is missing.
As a survival instinct your brain will begin to focus exclusively on the missing thing – food.
When you are hungry, and you can’t eat, you tend to fixate on food. You are likely to notice adverts for food, takeaways when driving and talk a lot more about what you will cook after the fasting period.
This version of scarcity causes the mind to focus even more on what is missing and reduces our ability to focus on other important tasks or activities.
The same is true for lack of other things like money, a loving relationship, a job if you’ve been retrenched.
The catch is the more we focus on what is missing today our behaviours direct us towards more scarcity in the future.
If you were looking in on someone with a money mindset challenge, you are likely to be surprised at their actions – they may use their last $50 to buy lottery tickets and not be able to pay to get to work for the next few days. In that moment, the brain doesn’t appear to see the contradiction in less than ideal behaviour.
This scarcity mindset also applies to time, which is the main point of this article as I hear it come up as a limiting factor in nearly all my client interactions.
Consider Kelvin, a young and energetic sales professional who has set himself loft financial goals. He also has a young family, and recently two experienced internal support staff left. His existing clients are not getting looked after. He starts to get up earlier and heads to the office at 6am and rarely gets home before 8pm. Rather than go to the gym he helps put the kids to bed then goes for a run before opening his laptop to do some more work before bed. On a good night he gets 4-5 hours of sleep.
When I speak to him, he complains he doesn’t have the time to do the prospecting he needs to do so he is falling behind on his revenue numbers.
After 3 months, Kelvin is arguing constantly with his wife, his kids fight going to bed, he has stopped going for runs and he is eating when he can on the run.
Kelvin regards ‘time’ as his most scarce resource.
Time becomes more elusive . Kelvin becomes more frustrated and stressed out.
The key is to recognise your brain is just doing what it is programmed to do.
What is important is being able to break apart what is important and why.
The next step is to plan. Allocate dedicated resources to what you really want in your role, with your family and what will deliver the most benefit.
In Kelvin’s example, if going to the gym is valued, then he must allocate the time in his diary and decide that’s what he does at 7-8am on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
When he is with his kids or partner, he chooses to be fully engaged for the two hours. It’s also important to schedule in down time. Time dedicated to think, meditate and refocus.
This allows the brain the opportunity to be creative and figure out other ways to get more things done, by delegating, outsourcing etc.
It’s also about learning to say no to activities that would be nice to do, but don’t directly deliver against your goals and values.