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6 Ways Your Behavior Is Being Controlled

6 Ways Your Behavior Is Being Controlled


Do you think you are in control of your decisions? If you’re like most people, the natural answer is, “Of course.  While I may regret some, I definitely decided to make them at the time.” I hate to tell you this, but odds are that you are like the rest of humanity in that your decisions are more determined by your surroundings than by you.

We are bombarded with stimuli and thousands of decisions to make every day. Starting from when we wake up, we decided when to set our alarm, when to actually move out of bed, what to put on, what to eat… the list is nearly infinite. Even when we decide not do something, that’s also a decision. Clearly, it is more efficient for everyday actions to be put on automatic and become routines, but can some of these mental shortcuts carry over to influence bigger decisions? The answer is yes, and here are some of the most common ways how.

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1. Power of defaults, also known as the status quo bias

The default bias is a powerful psychological function. Because people tend to exhibit inertia, especially with more complex decisions, the default mode usually prevails. Whether it be the advanced settings on your laptop or iphone, a retirement savings plan, or a trade-off between reliability and rates, people overwhelmingly stick with the default, status quo, options. Some argue that as choices get more complex and people know less about the options, they don’t feel competent enough to switch from the default. However, even with basic tasks such as scrolling to the bottom of an e-mail to click “unsubscribe” to another spam e-mail, people are hesitant to take action, and thus continue to be bombarded by unwanted e-mail blasts. Think: Are you sticking with the default because its the best decision or just because it’s the easiest?

2. Forced functions

Forcing function means things are designed in a way such that people have to take certain actions in order to get what they want. Examples include having to take your card out of an ATM machine before receiving your money, having different sized medical delivery ports for different drugs, or having the car ding until you put your seat belt on. These are usually used to positively influence behavior by ensuring you do something to get the right result. Think: How can you take advantage of this? Maybe putting your phone on the other side of the room so you have to get up to turn the alarm off.

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3. N effect

In the journal paper, “The N-Effect: More Competitors, Less Competition,” authors Garcia and Tor found that when the number of competitors increases, people actually perform worse. For example, if you’re entering a race with thousands of other people, you may think there’s no chance of winning and not try as hard as if it were a race with only 50 people. Think: Next time your competing against a large group, remember most people aren’t giving their all, so if you do, you could have an extra advantage.

4. Relativity

Changing peoples’ anchor, or first piece of information, has huge effects on how they view everything else. Dan Ariely, in his book “Predictably Irrational” gives an example with the introduction of the Williams- Sonoma bread machines. When they first introduced them, people were hesitant to pay a premium for these machines; however, when they later introduced a model that was 50% more expensive, the first bread machines seemed like a bargain and sales shot up. Think: Are you actually getting a good deal or did something prior prime you to think that way?

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5. Hawthorne effect

The Hawthorne effect suggests that peoples’ productivity changes with environmental changes. While there is a bit of controversy surrounding the suggestion, the original study by Landsberger revealed that changing (whether increasing or decreasing) the lighting in a factory increased workers productivity. This could be because they felt watched when changes occurred, but despite the reason, peoples’ productivity tends to increase with environmental change and novelty. Think: How can you change your work environment in small ways to become more productive?

6. State/ Context dependent memory

Ever had a difficult time with recall? Turns out the state and context in which you learned that information is the most ideal one for recalling it. If you were drunk when you learned somebody’s name, you may have an easier time remembering it when you’re drunk again. Interestingly, but maybe not as applicable, if you learn information underwater, you’re more likely to recall it underwater, and if you learn it on land, you are more likely to recall it on land. Think: What type of environment will I need to recall this information?

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Sources:

Raymond S. Hartman, Michael J. Doane and Chi-Keung Woo. “Consumer Relation and Status Quo”
The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 106, No. 1 (Feb., 1991), pp. 141-162
Garcia, Stephen M. “The N-Effect: More Competitors, Less Competition.” Psychological Science 20.7 (2009): 871-77. JSTOR. Web. 24 Oct. 2014.
“Nudge” by Richard Thaler
“Predictably Irrational” by Dan Ariely

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Last Updated on August 16, 2018

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

The same old motivational secrets don’t really motivate you after you’ve read them for the tenth time, do they?

How about a unique spin on things?

These 16 productivity secrets of successful people will make you reevaluate your approach to your home, work, and creative lives. Learn from these highly successful people, turn these little things they do into your daily habits and you’ll get closer to success.

1. Empty your mind.

It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

Emptying your mind when you have so much to remember seems like you’re just begging to forget something. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s tasks.

Clear your mind and then start thinking only about what you need to do immediately, and then today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.

Here’s a guide to help you empty your mind and think sharper:

How to Declutter Your Mind to Sharpen Your Brain and Fall Asleep Faster

2. Keep certain days clear.

Some companies are scheduling “No Meeting Wednesdays,” which means, funnily enough, that no one can hold a meeting on a Wednesday. This gives workers a full day to work on their own tasks, without getting sidetracked by other duties or pointless meetings.

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This can work in your personal life too, for example if you need to restrict Facebook access or limit phone calls.

3. Prioritize your work.

Don’t think every task is created equal! Some tasks aren’t as important as others, or might take less time.

Try to sort your tasks every day and see what can be done quickly and efficiently. Get these out of the way so you have more free time and brain power to focus on what is more important.

Lifehack’s CEO has a unique way to prioritize works, take a look at it here:

How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

4. Chop up your time.

Many successful business leaders chop their time up into fifteen-minute intervals. This means they work on tasks for a quarter of an hour at a time, or schedule meetings for only fifteen minutes. It makes each hour seem four times as long, which leads to more productivity!

5. Have a thinking position.

Truman Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he was laying down. Proust did this as well, while Stravinsky would stand on his head!

What works for others may not work for you. Try to find a spot and position that is perfect for you to brainstorm or come up with ideas.

6. Pick three to five things you must do that day.

To Do lists can get overwhelming very quickly. Instead of making a never-ending list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, make daily lists that include just three to five things.

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Make sure they’re things that need to be done that day, so you don’t keep putting them off.

7. Don’t try to do too much.

OK, so I just told you to work every day, and now I’m telling you to not do too much? It might sound like conflicting advice, but not doing too much means not biting off more than you can chew. Don’t say yes to every work project or social engagement and find yourself in way over your head.

8. Have a daily action plan.

Don’t limit yourself to a to-do list! Take ten minutes every morning to map out a daily action plan. It’s a place to not only write what needs to be done that day, but also to prioritize what will bring the biggest reward, what will take the longest, and what goals will be accomplished.

Leave room for a “brain dump,” where you can scribble down anything else that’s on your mind.

9. Do your most dreaded project first.

Getting your most dreaded task over with first means you’ll have the rest of the day free for anything and everything else. This also means that you won’t be constantly putting off the worst of your projects, making it even harder to start on it later.

10. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule.”

The “Two-Minute Rule” was made famous by David Allen. It’s simple – if a new task comes in and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right then. Putting it off just adds to your to-do list and will make the task seem more monumental later.

11. Have a place devoted to work.

If you work in an office, it’s no problem to say that your cubicle desk is where you work every day.

But if you work from home, make sure you have a certain area specifically for work. You don’t want files spread out all over the dinner table, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not working just because you’re relaxing on the couch.

Agatha Christie never wrote at her desk, she wrote wherever she could sit down. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Thomas Wolfe, at 6’6″ tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. Richard Wright wrote on a park bench, rain or shine.

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Have a space where, when you go there, you know you’re going to work. Maybe it’s a cafe downstairs, the library, or a meeting room. Whenever and wherever works for you, do your works there.

12. Find your golden hour.

You don’t have to stick to a “typical” 9–5 schedule!

Novelist Anne Rice slept during the day and wrote at night to avoid distractions. Writer Jerzy Kosinski slept eight hours a day, but never all at once. He’d wake in the morning, work, sleep four hours in the afternoon, then work more that evening.

Your golden hour is the time when you’re at your peak. You’re alert, ready to be productive, and intent on crossing things off your to-do list.

Once you find your best time, protect it with all your might. Make sure you’re always free to do your best uninterrupted work at this time.

13. Pretend you’re on an airplane.

It might not be possible to lock everyone out of your office to get some peace and quiet, but you can eliminate some distractions.

By pretending you’re on an airplane, you can act like your internet access is limited, you’re not able to get something from your bookcase, and you can’t make countless phone calls.

Eliminating these distractions will help you focus on your most important tasks and get them done without interruption.

14. Never stop.

Writers Anthony Trollope and Henry James started writing their next books as soon as they finished their current work in progress.

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Stephen King writes every day of the year, and holds himself accountable for 2,000 words a day! Mark Twain wrote every day, and then read his day’s work aloud to his family to get their feedback.

There’s something to be said about working nonstop, and putting out continuous work instead of taking a break. It’s just a momentum that will push you go further./

15. Be in tune with your body.

Your mind and body will get tired of a task after ninety minutes to two hours focused on it. Keep this in mind as you assign projects to yourself throughout the day, and take breaks to ensure that you won’t get burned out.

16. Try different methods.

Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards. This made it easy to rearrange sentences, paragraphs, and chapters by shuffling the cards around.

It does sound easier, and more fun, than copying and pasting in Word! Once Nabokov liked the arrangement, his wife typed them into a single manuscript.

Same for you, don’t give up and think that it’s impossible for you to be productive when one method fails. Try different methods until you find what works perfectly for you.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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