Busy Brits hurry long-term decisions

11 March 2015

  • Nine out of 10 regret rushing career choice
  • 36% consumed by ‘life admin’
  • To-do list tasks linger on average nine weeks
  • One in five blames social media as distraction


Time-poor people around the UK risk rushing important long-term decisions, with nine out of 10 (90%) regretting rushing their career choice and 87% feeling regret over hurrying financial decisions, new research from Scottish Widows has revealed.


The study into managing time and life admin priorities found that people in the UK are becoming busier: 70%  feel more pushed for time than they did three years ago, with a quarter (25%) rarely or never having spare time and 26% feeling guilty if they ever do find themselves with time on their hands.


The poll of 2,010 people aged 21-65 showed seven out of 10 adults (69%) feel day-to-day tasks have become increasingly time-consuming over the past three years and highlighted how people are managing potentially life-altering tasks as a result.


More than a third (36%) admitted life admin– including financial planning, researching money-saving opportunities and banking – is their biggest time-stealer. Meanwhile, family responsibilities are also increasingly consuming schedules, with 77% of respondents spending more time on childcare duties and caring for the wider family (81%) now than three years ago.


According to the study, half of those surveyed have a personal to-do list, increasing to 70% among 26 to 35 year-olds. The research found that the most popular time to tackle to-do lists is on a Saturday morning in the living room. These ‘Saturday Morning Pyjama Planners’[1] are more time-aware than most as only 15% of the overall respondents are setting time aside to complete their lists.


The poll revealed tasks linger on our to-do lists for an average of nine weeks, with almost half (44%) admitting there are tasks every day that they never get to. A fifth of us blame social media as a distraction getting in the way of to-do lists and a further 20% claim lack of motivation prevents them from completing life admin. Family is the biggest diversion for 15% of those asked, while personal emails (18%) and online shopping (11%) are among the most common to-do list gate crashers. Housework topped the poll for taking up the most time outside of work according to 63% of those surveyed, while home improvement (40%), cleaning (35%) and paperwork (33%) were the most commonly put off household tasks.


Dr David Lewis, neuropsychologist, chairman and director of research at Mindlab International, has been working with Scottish Widows on the study. Some of his research specialises in brain research and neuroscience as applied to consumer behaviour and decision-making.

He said: “Failing to set aside time to plan important tasks and think about important life goals can lead to taking decisions which may have a long-term negative impact on your life. This can easily be avoided by investing a small amount of time regularly in considering your goals and prioritising your tasks.

“Research has shown that when obliged to make important decisions in a rush we risk becoming what psychologists call ‘hypervigilant’.In this highly charged emotional state, our ability to weigh up alternatives and identify priorities is significantly diminished.

“By taking simple steps, making use of constantly evolving technology we can be more flexible with our time. This will enable us to deal with personal admin at a time and place that best suits us as individuals and by doing so, we will create more freedom to do the things we most enjoy.”

Top Tips for Improving Productivity from Dr David Lewis


  • Ensure any goals you set yourself are realistic and achievable within the time available to you
  • If a goal is large and time consuming, break it into more easily achieved sub-goals. These will enable you to make faster progress and maintain high levels of confidence and motivation
  • Assess every task in terms of its importance and urgency

o   Bear in mind that not every important task is urgent and that some urgent tasks may be of little real importance

o   Those tasks with the highest combination of urgency and importance should be tackled first. Those low in both can be left to last or dismissed

- ENDS -

For further information, contact:

Kimberley Hamilton, Scottish Widows

0131 655 5450



Notes to Editors

This survey by Opinium was conducted on-line with 2,010 21-65 year-olds across the UK in January-February 2015.


Scottish Widows was founded in 1815 as Scotland’s first mutual life office. Becoming part of the Lloyds TSB Group in 2000, which subsequently became Lloyds Banking Group in 2009, Scottish Widows is one of the most recognised brands in the life, pensions and investment industry in the UK. The product range includes ordinary long term insurance, such as life assurance, pensions, annuities and permanent health insurance, and savings and investment products.


Dr David Lewis

A specialist in the subconscious influences that direct human behavior, David is an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine and of the International Stress Management Association.


He is founder and Chairman of Mindlab International, a university based research organisation dedicated to investigating the role of the unconscious in daily life.


An award-winning broadcaster and author, his most recent books include Impulse: Why We Do What We Do Without Knowing Why We do It; The Brain Sell: When Science Met Shopping and Fat Planet (co-authored with Dr Margaret Leitch) to be published in April.


David started by studying medicine before working as a journalist in London and Paris. In 1979 he returned to university and read neuropsychology. He has a First Class Honours degree (BSc Hons) from the University of Westminster and a doctorate (D.Phil) from the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Sussex. 


After lecturing at the University in statistics, clinical psychology and psycho-pathology, he left to found his own research organisation.





[1]Term denoting the highest percentage of to-do habits. (17%) of respondents with a to-do list typically spend the most amount of time on Saturday completing it, normally in the morning (37% of those who complete their to-do list on Saturday) and in their living room (47% of those who complete their to-do list on Saturday)