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8 Ways That You Can Think Outside The Box Like Freakonomics

8 Ways That You Can Think Outside The Box Like Freakonomics

Sometimes, the most unusual of collaborations can produce the most spectacular results. This was certainly the case in 2005, when author Stephen J. Dubner and economist Steven D. Levitt joined forces to co-author the ground-breaking work Freakonomics. This book, which sold a staggering 5.5 million copies in more than 40 languages, was the first in a series that has combined unique and personal narratives with unconventional analysis to explore the benefits of innovative thinking.

The Freakonomics series has created a blueprint for thinking outside the box, and encouraged loyal readers to identify entirely new methods of solving their problems. Whether these relate to major global reforms or the issues that complicate everyday life, Dubner’s and Levitt’s literature has revolutionized thought processes and changed the boundaries of possibility for citizens from across the land.

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    With this in mind, what are the pivotal lessons that can be taken from the Freakonomics series and how can they be applied in your everyday life? Let’s consider the following 8 ways you can think outside the box like Freakonomics.

    1. You can say ‘I Don’t Know’

    A common theme that has ran throughout the Freakonomics series is that the majority of issues are more complex than they initially seem. We do not generally acknowledge this fact which subsequently creates a learning gap that can affect us negatively as we grow older. This is why the latest book in the series, Think like a Freak, has dedicated an entire chapter that encourages individuals to say ‘I don’t know’ on a more frequent basis and open up their minds to new information and understanding. This is particularly important when discussing environmental issues, as Dubner claims that such an outlook would prevent individuals from “getting on one side of the debate and digging in their heels” without a comprehensive understanding of the topic in question.

    2. You can think Small and Still Succeed

    This taps into another prolific section of the Think like a Freak book, which implores readers not to abandon their childlike instincts as they enter adulthood. After all, it is the child’s capacity for open-mindedness and curiosity that makes them able to absorb information in their infancy, while their ability to think small and without inhibition also enables them to conceive viable solutions for problems. The concept of simple and uninhibited thinking has been embodied by the brand Pokerstars, which employed hard working and renowned sporting legends such as Ronaldo and Rafael Nadal as brand ambassadors as a way of driving recognition, challenging existing misconceptions and transcending the industry in which they operate. By selecting a relatively simple and bold solution to a problematic marketing issue, the brand embraced childlike instincts to achieve success.

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    3. You can live with Risk Easier than Regret

    While it may be argued that bold and simplistic decision making can incur risks, this is not necessarily something that should be feared. One of the most persuasive arguments of the whole Freakonomics series is that risk represents an easier burden to carry than regret, as the latter occurs as a result of failing to take a chance due to fear or an innate sense of inhibition. This can only ever create uncertainty and leave you wondering what might have been, and while risk takers may ultimately succeed or fail they have a clear conscious and the knowledge that they have at least tried to achieve their goals. So when making a decision, it may be worth re-evaluating the process and considering which option you would end up regretting if you failed to take it.

    4. You Can Flip a Coin to make Important Decisions

    For complex decisions that also affect others, such as relocating or changing careers, your thought process is likely to be even more confused and convoluted. In these instances, flipping a coin can be an excellent way of helping you to achieve clarity and choose a finite path. This theory was tested on a website called Freakonomics Experiments, which invited visitors to share their dilemmas and offered to flip a coin on their behalf. While this may seem fanciful, more than 40,000 visitors have taken the plunge and many found that they were more content when the coin encouraged them to follow a particular path. In contrast, others choose to ignore the coin toss as they instinctively believed the call to be wrong for them. It is therefore clear that the result of the coin toss is inconsequential, as the intuitive sense of clarity and insight that it brings enables individuals to make an informed decision.

    5. You can conduct a ‘Premortem’ when considering Options

    There is a fine line between thoughtfulness and over analysis, and it is important to achieve a balance when making decisions. This is something that is considered in detail in Think like a Freak, where the authors reference a theory forwarded by leading psychologist Gary Klein. Using something that he refers to as a “premortem“, it is possible for individuals to give careful consideration to their upcoming decision in a way that creates clarity rather than confusion. More specifically, by thinking ahead into the future and imagining that your decision has produced little but abject failure, you can pinpoint exactly where issues are likely to occur and how easy it will be to avoid them. This will enable you to develop a balanced view of the risks involved, before determining whether or not it is a decision that should be delayed or discarded in favour of an alternative option.

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    6. You can disregard the Majority of Conventional Wisdom

    In Freakonomics, the authors discussed the concept of conventional wisdom at length and concurred that it is generally either wrong or biased towards the views of the writer. The main reason for this, they argue, is that the experts who generate conventional wisdom are inclined to use their knowledge and informational advantage to articulate their own agenda or express an informed opinion. It can also be used to create sensationalism regarding a social or political issue, and Freakonomics uses the example of drug dealers to make its point. While experts present the illicit drug trade as being extremely immoral and driven by individuals who generate huge financial gains, for example, in reality it is little more than a capitalist enterprise where the majority of workers earn less than the minimum wage. This is something to bear in mind when evaluating information and it reinforces the importance of developing knowledge and forming your own, unique opinions.

    7. You can be sure that Correlation does not Always Mean Causation

    As the Freakonomics series has continued, the authors have moved away from their economic basis and focused more predominantly on social science. This is reflected in one of their core principles, which is that correlation does not directly imply causation. It is a common misconception that when two variables change in the same manner at the same time, one is automatically responsible for triggering this evolution. This is not the case, however, and despite this being a fundamental finding of social scientific research it is often ignored. In any case where two or more variables in your life begin to change simultaneously, it is always worth addressing the circumstances on their own individual merit and identifying any other factors that may be responsible.

    8. You can become too Preoccupied with End Results rather than the Process of Achieving them

    The Freakonomics brand is now huge, and includes Dubner’s radio show in addition to a blog, film and additional literature. Dubner references his own radio show in the most recent book, and says that he is often disturbed at how fans evaluate an event or debate and “look at its conclusion rather than the process of getting there“. To illustrate this, he presents the example of a discussion where it was suggested that hitting a pedestrian with a car has surprisingly few consequences in the modern world. This was met with acclaim by pedestrian advocates, despite the fact the same demographic had criticised Dubner for suggesting that “drunk walking” may be a huge factor in the rate of automotive accidents. In short, we have a tendency to celebrate occasions where people reach similar conclusions to ourselves, without considering the discussion in its wider context and the process of arriving at such an assertion.

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    Featured photo credit: Suzi Duke via flickr.com

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    Last Updated on January 2, 2019

    Better Alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions to Reduce Your Stress

    Better Alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions to Reduce Your Stress

    The end of the year is the time when everyone tries to give you advice on how to live healthier, look better, and earn more money.

    It’s understandable if you find yourself lost among all the tips and opinions. Sometimes you no longer know what you truly want to achieve next year – and what’s just imposed by society.

    To help you out, we’ve made this article about the things you should remove from your new year’s resolution list – instead of adding to it – to make your daily life more harmonious and peaceful.

    So just make sure you cross these off your New Year’s to-do list – your body, mind and soul will be thankful.

    1. Stop Buying Meaningless Gifts

    We all know the sense of obligation – when we have to buy a gift for an event or celebration that’s already tomorrow, but we still have no idea of what to give.

    Take these tips close to heart for all upcoming holidays, including birthdays, weddings, graduations, etc.:

    Stop focusing on the material objects

    Instead of focusing on what material object to give, think about the emotion you want to evoke[1] in the gift recipient, and then pick a symbolic gift that can support or represent that emotion. For example, you can gift coziness by presenting a “comfort set” with warm socks, tea, candles, etc. Or give motivation by presenting a beautiful planner or notebook.

    Plan gifts in advance

    We know this is easier said than done. But if you try to plan which gifts you’ll need in the upcoming months (try making a list three or four times a year), ideas will more likely come to mind and you’ll avoid that last-minute shopping. Not to mention, you’ll be able to keep an eye on sales to get the best prices.

    Suggest a better way

    If you’re tired of exchanging gifts for birthdays and holidays, initiate a different approach. For example, draw names among family members and agree that each one only buys a present to that one person they got. Alternatively, you can agree not to share gifts among adults, and only give presents to kids of the family. Or, ask friends to donate to charity instead of buying a gift for you.

    Go for common experiences instead of exchanging gifts

    You can agree (with your partner or the extended family) to go on a common trip, dinner or another activity, instead of spending money on gifts.

    Sometimes you’ll have to be the one who initiates breaking the rules that have been accepted in the family for years. But if you suspect that you’re not the only one in the group who’s tired of gift-hunting, you’ll surely find support for your suggestions.

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    2. Don’t Exaggerate with Diets and Fitness Resolutions

    It’s no secret that TV shows, article headlines, and ads (not to mention our healthy diet-obsessed friends) make us feel like we need to look better, slimmer and younger than we actually are. But going on yet another diet or starting a fitness plan with the wrong motivation rarely leads to great results.

    If you are like many people, you have probably signed up for an annual gym membership at least once in your life – only to drop it one month later.

    How do you balance a good resolution for a healthier life without pushing yourself into commitments that won’t last?

    Here’s what you can do:

    Set a healthier pattern

    For example, do meat-free Mondays or reduce meat consumption to three days per week (less saturated fat for you and better for the environment). Or choose to eat only healthy food at least three days a week or only on weekdays (e.g. make sure your meals contain vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy products, and protein). This way you’ll already have a healthier diet while still being able to treat yourself with a snack on weekends or parties.

    Get a fitness watch

    Fitness watches like Fitbit or MiBand are tiny accessories that will count your steps, calories burnt and will serve as an excellent motivator to move – or to take the stairs instead of the elevator.

    Find a physical activity that you enjoy

    Even if you are not that fond of doing sports, you can definitely find an activity that you’d do with pleasure. Think about what you’d like – from taking up Nordic walking to pilates or even exercising at home.

    Try intermittent fasting

    This is an alternating cycles of fasting and eating. For example, stop eating at 8 pm and restart not sooner than 12 hours later. This approach has been proven to have numerous health benefits, in addition to weight loss.

    Skip cabs or driving to work and opt for cycling or walking instead

    You’ll burn calories, breathe some fresh air, and save money – win-win!

    3. Put a Cap on Your Daily To-Do List

    In today’s busy world, planning your day in a stress-free way is actually an art in itself. It’s natural to want to be a loving parent, a diligent employee, an active member of the local community and probably several other individual roles.

    But playing all these roles requires energy and meticulous planning. How not to lose yourself amidst all the appointments and responsibilities? And – most importantly – how to still find time for relaxing and recharging yourself?

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    These daily planning tips will help you have more stress-free days:

    Leave bigger intervals between meetings

    If you schedule too many appointments or chores in a day, you’ll probably end up late at some point, and as a result – more stressed. There are many different reasons why people are late, but poor planning is a major factor too.

    Plan time to relax

    As weird as it may sound, you should try and schedule your resting time. For example, if you only have one free evening this week, and a friend tries to squeeze in a meeting, feel free to say no. Don’t feel obliged to specify the reason for your refusal, just say that you are busy.

    Try to be a little pessimistic

    We’re often packed with plans or running late for errands because we tend to be overly optimistic – about the traffic, the time it takes to do things, etc. Instead, try an opposite tactic — assume you’ll hit traffic or the meeting will take longer.

    Try waking up earlier

    Sometimes even waking up 30 minutes earlier can give you the much-needed head start for several errands of the day. But remember to get enough sleep every night, even if it means going to bed earlier.

    Plan your day the day before

    Chances are your day will be much better organized if you pack a lunch and lay out an outfit before going to bed.

    Designate a time for checking emails and social messages

    If you start checking your messages between appointments, you risk getting lost in a sea of messages that need replies. Designate a time for this activity or do it in case you arrived early to a meeting.

    4. Let Go of Unhealthy and Time-Consuming Habits

    If there’s one thing we should get rid of in the new year, it’s the habits that steal our time, provide instant gratification but don’t offer any value in the long term. Or even worse, leave a negative impact on our health.

    Here are some common (and pointless) habits along with tips on how to get rid of them:

    Binge-watching TV series

    Even if most online television platforms offer you lists of “Best TV Shows to Binge Watch”, being addicted to series is a major time-waster.

    You can manage this addiction in several ways, for example, watch one episode per day (or a few per week) as a reward, only after you’ve finished an assignment or done a house chore. Or try replacing this habit with exercise or reading a book – this will be hard at first but should stick after a few weeks. You can also try to track how much time you spend on TV or movies – seeing how much of your life you are wasting might urge you to do something about it.

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    Running on coffee

    Being a coffee addict is kind of a stylish addiction nowadays, but it’s not that innocent as it may initially seem. Besides addiction being a problem in itself, drinking too much coffee (more than 500-600 mg of caffeine a day) may lead to nervousness, insomnia, an upset stomach, a fast heartbeat, and even muscle tremors.[2]

    As a solution, try switching to tea or edible coffee – a more sustainable, healthy, and productivity-enhancing alternative. For example, Coffee Pixels are solid coffee bars that generate a more even energy kick throughout the day without the coffee-induced abstinence and dehydration.

    Procrastination

    Fighting procrastination requires some serious willpower. If it is a problem in your daily life or work, try ”eating the frog” in the morning – get over your biggest or hardest tasks first, then tackle everything else.

    Alternatively, use time tracking software to monitor exactly how much time you waste on unproductive actions, websites or apps. Once you know exactly how much time you’re spending unproductively, try to limit your time on social media, for example to just 20 minutes per day.

    If nothing else works, try bribing yourself — promise yourself to do something fun or pleasant when you finish your assignment.

    Whichever habit you want to give up, consider using some habits building tools to make a contract with yourself and reward yourself for milestones achieved.

    5. Stop over-consuming

    We live in the age of consumerism – huge manufacturers with their promise of a comfortable life on the one hand, and growing environmental threats – that are the direct result of our modern lifestyle – on the other hand. There’s only one solution – try to consume less whenever and wherever you can.

    Before making additional purchases, ask yourself these questions:

    • Do I really need it? Did I need it yesterday?
    • Can’t I buy it used or borrow it from friends?
    • Can I rent it?
    • Can I make it myself?
    • Am I buying the most sustainable version of this product?

    For example, check if the brand you chose is conscious about the environment, for example, are the products they manufacture energy efficient? Do they try to use less packaging?

    Also, if you often find yourself buying too many groceries, promise to buy only the amount that fits in one shopping bag (that you bring along). If you often forget to take your shopping bag with you, get yourself a 2-in-1 wallet with a built-in shopping bag for more eco-friendly shopping.

    6. Learn to Unplug from Your Phone

    Today’s world is crammed with information, and many people struggle to keep focus on what’s truly important. There’s just too much going on in the world – too much to read, to watch, to know, too many conversations to participate in.

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    But how to refuse the temptation to check the phone and start using social media in a controlled, not a compulsive way?

    Some tips for managing your phone-dependency:

    Spend only a limited amount of battery per day

    For example, start your day with 50% battery life, and manage your phone usage so that you’ll make it till the evening.

    Block distracting apps and notifications on your phone and computer

    Choose one-hour, two-hour or longer blocking sessions and enjoy the positive impact this will have on your mood and productivity.[3]

    Set your phone on flight mode

    When you start doing an important task that requires full focus, set your phone on flight mode so that nobody can disturb you.

    Leave your phone at home or in the office when you go for lunch

    You’ll see that the feeling of being unreachable for a moment is actually very liberating.

    The Bottom Line

    As a new year begins, we’re all excitedly looking forward to what adventures await ahead of us.

    But this year, promise yourself this:

    Instead of having a never-ending list of tasks and commitments, focus on the truly meaningful ones. And cross-out all the rest without feeling guilty.

    Less is more. Make this year count. We’re all rooting for you.

    Featured photo credit: Brooke Lark via unsplash.com

    Reference

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