Do The Thing: Take Control Using the Scarcity Principle

We all have that one thing that we want to get done. That one goal, financial milestone, achievement, you name it. I’m talking about the Thing with a capital T, because it stands out. And we would give everything to see it solved, sorted or figured out. But, more often than not, life gets in the way, and we tend to lose focus of that overarching goal that should be our guiding light. Fear not, dear reader, for I am going to share my best tips and concepts that will help you stop procrastinating (even reading articles like this one) and get you to do the Thing.

“But, how are you going to persuade me?”. Let me introduce you to the scarcity principle. The scarcity principle is a fundamental concept in human psychology that highlights how limited availability of resources or opportunities can significantly influence our behaviour and decision-making processes. When something is perceived as scarce, whether it’s time, money, or a product, it tends to be valued more highly, and there is a sense of urgency to obtain it. This psychological phenomenon has been widely studied and applied in various fields, including marketing and sales, where it is used to create artificial scarcity and drive up demand. However, this principle is applicable beyond marketing and sales. Psychology is about the human psyche, and that involves every aspect of life. Whether it is personal finance, physical health or “doing the Thing”, we can understand the scarcity principle and use it to our advantage. Time to put on our Economic caps and dive right into it!

Some things just don’t make sense, until you start working on them.

Applying Scarcity to Financial Goals

Goal-setting and budgeting have already been discussed, so I will not go into much detail about the subject. What I want to talk about, however, is how setting financial goals (or any kind of goals, for that matter) creates a sense of scarcity and can get you in the right mindset.

By setting financial goals, you are essentially creating a scarcity of money, time, or opportunity. For example, if you set a goal to save €5,000 for a holiday in Japan next summer, you are creating a scarcity of money, as you have to allocate a certain amount of your income to your savings every month, and you have to limit your spending on other things. You are also creating a scarcity of time, as you have a specific deadline to achieve your goal, and you have to act fast before the opportunity expires. You are also creating a scarcity of opportunity, as you have to choose between different alternatives, and you have to sacrifice or forego some things in order to achieve your goal. As you can see, scarcity is very closely related to many of the principles that we’ve seen in previous entries, such as opportunity cost and the time-value of money.

By creating a sense of scarcity, you are increasing the perceived value, attractiveness, or urgency of your financial goal, and you are triggering a psychological response that makes you more motivated and productive. Even if this means you’re targeting your most “primal” self, you are doing it from a rational and logical standpoint: The Economic Man isn’t at odds with his nature; he embraces it and uses it to his best interest.

What is “Doing the Thing”?

As simple as it may sound, it is worth spending some time explaining this concept. Let Strangest Loop give it to you in the most concise and insightful way possible:

Preparing to do the thing isn’t doing the thing.

Scheduling time to do the thing isn’t doing the thing.

Making a to-do list for the thing isn’t doing the thing.

Telling people you’re going to do the thing isn’t doing the thing.

Messaging friends who may or may not be doing the thing isn’t doing the thing.

Writing a banger tweet about how you’re going to do the thing isn’t doing the thing.

Hating on yourself for not doing the thing isn’t doing the thing. Hating on other people who have done the thing isn’t doing the thing. Hating on the obstacles in the way of doing the thing isn’t doing the thing.

Fantasizing about all of the adoration you’ll receive once you do the thing isn’t doing the thing.

Reading about how to do the thing isn’t doing the thing. Reading about how other people did the thing isn’t doing the thing. Reading this essay isn’t doing the thing.

The only thing that is doing the thing is doing the thing.


Doing The Thing requires clear focus and a lot of guided effort.

Creating Scarcity: Constraints and Rules

The Thing can be overwhelming, and we may not even know where to start, but we know it needs to get done. How can the scarcity principle be of any help here? Just like sports, video games or even communities have rules and constraints, adding scarcity into your plans and goals can limit your course of action. When there are no rules, things stop being funny or challenging to become overwhelming and pointless.

Creating the sense of scarcity that we talked about earlier around the Thing will make it more appealing and urgent to you. Planning and measuring is a fundamental part of doing the Thing, but the Thing gets done when you’re able to “catch” yourself slipping or running away from it. It becomes imperative that you understand what the Thing is, why you want to do it, whether or not you really want to do it and, most importantly, how whatever it is that you are doing right now aligns with the Thing. Combine that with the right set of constraints (time, energy, money…) and you will reach a state of perfect alignment between your values and your actions.

Don’t let those constraints keep you from making progress, though: view them as a guide, especially at the very beginning. As you keep working on the Thing, your available resources will probably increase, and your knowledge of the Thing will make you more productive, which can result in a compounding effect that will give you positive momentum. This stage is hard to reach, especially without the right amount of inner dialogue and conscious effort, but the scarcity principle can help you set the stage if you stay Economic and let your rational self take the wheel.

So, what is “your” Thing? When you have your answer ready, let me know in the comments, and get ready to start working on it! And remember: “Doing the Thing” isn’t about grand gestures or elaborate plans—it’s about consistent, focused effort…. The Economic Way 🙂



  • Mullainathan, S., & Shafir, E. (2013). Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much. Macmillan.
  • Duhigg, C. (2014). The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. Random House Trade Paperbacks.
  • Dean, E. et al. (2020). Principles of Economics: Scarcity and Social Provisioning.


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