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Category: Luxury

Train your brain for efficiency

Chances are you have cooked some pretty elaborate plans to trick yourself into being more productive.

Have you considered the role your surroundings play in your everyday life? It turns out that one of the easiest ways to bring about change in our lives is to actually change our environments. What if the layout of your bedroom or the distance from your desk to the kitchen was impacting your productivity and decision making? There is plenty of room for each of us to improve. Here is how and why making some changes to your environment works.

Your brain is efficient
Making decisions is draining. (Heard of “decision fatigue”? It’s real!) We can only make so many choices per day before we start to run out of steam and need a rest. But we are faced with countless choices every time we wake up! Should I go back to sleep? Should I shower or brush my teeth first? What will I wear to work? Should I try out that new shortcut to the office? It can become stressful for your brain to struggle with a choice every time one of these little prompts presents itself. That is why we rely on decision shortcuts called habits.

A habit is just a routine that you regularly perform. Most of the time we don’t even notice that we are engaging in a habit because it’s second nature to us. And there is a reason for that. It is your brain saving energy by going on autopilot to perform an action without having to make a decision. That way you can use the bulk of your mental power on unique and important problems that might pop up during the day, not on thinking about when you should brush your teeth!

Trick yourself into making wise decisions
What does your brain’s love of shortcuts have to do with your environment? Let us look at an example.

Your alarm clock is right next to your bed. It goes off every morning at 7:30am. It does not take you long to figure out that you can smack the snooze button and go straight back to sleep with hardly any effort. Before long you have hitting the snooze button every time the alarm goes off without even thinking about it. You have trained yourself to sleep in later by making your alarm easier to turn off. But what if your alarm was on the other side of your room? What if to silence it you had to stand up, walk over, and hit a button? That simple change could give you the jolt that you need to wake up and get your day started on time!

Take a look at your surroundings and ask yourself what kind of behavior it encourages. Is it more convenient for you to grab a soda from the fridge or fill up your water bottle? When you work at home, are you in the middle of distractions like the kids playing or too close to the TV? At work, does your office layout lend itself to productivity or socializing with your co-workers?

It might take some legwork to get started but try to arrange your life in a way that makes wise decisions easier. You might be surprised by the results!

The Financial Literacy FAIL

Financial literacy fails because it addresses only one problem:   It focuses on facts and figures while largely ignoring behavior.

This is insane.

This is like promoting sex education that talks about penises and vaginas while never discussing what it’s like to be madly in love with somebody so in love that your brain stops working and you just end up being ‘CLOSE’ anyway.  For sex education to be effective, it has to deal with real-world circumstances and behavior.  It has to teach about psychology and emotions, not just body parts!

The same is true with financial literacy.

Literacy = “… the ability to use printed and written information to function in society, to achieve ones goals, and to develop one’s knowledge and potential.”

  1. Folks are too influenced by a barrage of media, admitting they are influenced by it but ADMIT and recognize it and then NOT fall prey to the temptation to buy just because they have great marketing.
  2. THINK about spending. Ensuring that each dollar has a purpose before it even comes into their hand.   Stop spending on impulse and be deliberate about where those dollars go.

Instead of teaching Americans about credit cards and rates of return, we need to be teaching them about behavioral finance.  We need to be showing them how to break free from the marketing messages that are all around.  We need to be showing them how to set (and achieve) personal goals, especially financial goals.  We need to teach skills like conscious spending.

Ultimately, if we want Americans to be smarter with their money, we need to encourage them to consume less media — to avoid advertising — and we need to teach them to master the emotional side of personal finance.  We need to show them how to change their BEHAVIOR.  We need to appeal to their self-interest.  We need to help them find intrinsic motivation to save.

Each of us needs to dig deep inside to find what it is that’s important to us, what it is that brings us joy, and we need to prioritize that instead of all the other garbage.  I’m not suggesting that we abandon traditional financial literacy completely. But I think a constant push for more financial education is a waste of time and is not enough.  To truly be successful, financial education has to address the behavioral side of money because that is absolutely the biggest piece of the puzzle.

What do you think?  Have you seen this happen in your life?   Leave a comment below.

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