The Power of Defaults
In my economics class this quarter, my professor has often stressed to us the power of defaults. The basic idea is similar to inertia: set people on a path, and they will continue on it. This has far-reaching consequences in various realms such as financial policies, legal decisions, and business plans, which you can read more about here. However, you can also use it to improve your social life.
At the start of the year I decided I wanted to invest more in a few relationships with friends at school that, despite being highly valued, just don't get enough attention. I knew I wanted to meet up with these close friends at least every couple weeks, but staying organized and planning something with even five people is often more than I want to add to my already full list of tasks.
So, without knowing about the research behind the idea, I decided to use defaults. I reached out and asked each friend if there was one meal a week for which they could commit to meeting at the same time and place every week of the quarter. Of course, either of us could cancel, and we can-and certainly do-change up the restaurant or dining hall, but the underlying default is always there for us to fall back on. This has worked out extremely well for the past seven weeks.
Sure, some weeks get too busy and we have to cancel, or we decide to try out a new restaurant, but it is a comforting feeling to know that with absolutely zero effort on either of our parts, we will be able to catch up every week.
Although planning a meal together might seem like it requires such a small amount of effort that it is not worth automating, by creating defaults you are far more likely to live the way you'd like to, building it right into your schedule. The point of defaults is not to avoid change, it's to create an environment for you to operate in, in which it is easiest to succeed at whatever your goals might be. Whatever your goals may be, maybe defaults can help you reach them more expediently.
Photo is of the hammock in my host family's Schrebergarten (city garden plot) in Hamburg this past summer. I figured we could all use a sunny picture and some blooming flowers to get through the winter.