By: Andrea Ulrich, Certified Dietitian Manager & Health and Wellness Chair

Short on Time or Bandwidth? Or Both?

Bandwidth “refers to our cognitive capacity and our ability to pay attention, make good decisions, stick with our plans and resist temptations” (Mullainathan and Shafir, 2014). Scarcity of time impacts our bandwidth by bringing our minds back to those urgent, but unimportant tasks. These urgent matters take up mental space and limit our capacity for critical thinking and problem-solving.
How often to do you think, there’s never enough time in the day to do all the things that need to be done (caring for kids/parents, laundry, paying bills, etc.) let alone time to do the things that cultivate happiness, health, and wellbeing in life (fostering relationships, going for a hike)? We run around putting out fires, but not enough time sitting around the fire relaxing. We come to the end of a long and busy day and wonder why we don’t seem to make any progress on the important matters in life like our fitness, education, or career goals. If only we had more time… or a larger bandwidth?
“Bandwidth is a core resource… [that] affects the way we think and the choices we make.” (Mullainathan and Shafir, 2013). We manage our schedules and time, but typically overlook bandwidth (Mullainathan and Shafir, 2013). We manage what we can measure. Awareness leads to concentration and concentration leads to insight. Cultivate insight into your bandwidth and the factors that reduce/increase your bandwidth by bringing an awareness to areas in your life where you might experience scarcity.


Compare what you do/have with what you would like to do/have? Find ways to free up time on these tasks to free up cognitive bandwidth. Identify tasks that demand constant vigilance into one-time actions.

•    Scarcity of family time
How do you spend your time? How would you like to spend your time? Where can you change the way you spend your time? Action: set up a weekly activity together.
•    Scarcity of exercise
What activities do you like to do? How often do you perform this activity? Action: set up appointments with a friend to exercise together.
•    Scarcity of finances
Are you so busy that you forget to pay a bill and get hit with a late fee? Action: set up auto debit on bills or savings plans.
•    Scarcity of food
How often do you purchase an expensive sandwich because you didn’t have the food at home to pack a lunch or pick up take out for dinner? Action: plan ahead and stock up on nutritious items.




Mullainathan, S. and Shafir, E. (2014), Freeing Up Intelligence. Scientific American Mind, p. 58-63.
Mullainathan, S. and Shafir, E. (2013), Scarcity the New Science of Having Less and How It Defines Our Lives. New York: Picdor Henry Hold and Company