Dear Drs. Graham and McDonald:

Thank you for your last newsletter about scarcity. I now understand how a shortage of something I need — like time or financial security — can affect how my brain works. Your explanation helped me understand why I am exhausted all the time and struggling to maintain focus this summer. 

In that post you mentioned that each individual has his/her own bandwidth and that, although no one can alter their bandwidth significantly, there are some ways we can mitigate our scarcity response. One of the strategies you mentioned was setting boundaries. I’ve been working at home for over three months, and I find that I am working even more now than I did before the pandemic. My boundaries between work and home are completely blurred. How can I establish boundaries when there aren’t any “real” ones?   

Still Working At Home


Dear Still Working,

Since scarcity is defined as not having enough of what you need, the first step is to identify what you need more of in your life so you can function better. Next, identify what changes need to happen so you can get more of that resource. For most of us that means we need to set boundaries to let others know what works for us — and what doesn’t. Some of us are parents working full time while also supervising young children and running a household. Others are empty nesters leading organizations while also aiding elderly parents. Still others are single professionals spending too much time alone. Perhaps your home life is a complex combination of all of these. Whatever your situation, the common denominator is the need to set situation-appropriate boundaries so you can get more of what you need.

To begin creating helpful boundaries, observe yourself throughout the day. Identify what you’re feeling (Irritated? Sad? Overwhelmed?). Then try to pinpoint what is making you feel that way. If you find you feel irritated when your work is consistently interrupted by family demands, you might negotiate with your partner/parent/child for segments of time when you can work uninterrupted. If you feel sad or lonely, you could consider scheduling regular virtual visits with friends instead of trying to get all of those household tasks done every night. If you feel overwhelmed because of too many family responsibilities, you need to communicate to others that you need help with these tasks. You may have to experiment with ways to communicate boundaries until you find something that feels authentic and effective. Enlist others whenever possible. And, let go of guilt. There is nothing wrong with asking for what you need. 

Exercising this skill in all domains of your life will prove invaluable for dealing with future challenges that may require you to operate at your maximum bandwidth. As we mentioned in our previous post, the effects of scarcity are not limited to current crises. The scarcity effect is actually one of the themes we delve into in our Transforming Success® program, because operating from a scarcity mindset is a pervasive problem for so many professionals. Setting boundaries represents your first step toward shifting away from overtaxing your bandwidth and operating from a place of scarcity to creating space in your life for what recharges and replenishes you.  

We’re excited to announce a new virtual version of our Transforming Success® program that launches in early 2021. Until now, Transforming Success® has only been available to participants through company-based programs. We’re happy to extend the opportunity for participation to individuals (including those whose companies may choose to cover the cost). To be notified when registration opens for this new program, join our Transforming Success® Virtual distribution list at

Register now for our February 2024 Dare to Lead™ workshop!Learn more