How to Use Anchoring Bias to Write More
Trick yourself into an easier flow of words
If you’re like me, your anxiety inflates what you focus on.
You sit down to write your daily blog post, aiming to produce one high-quality article. Your mind focuses on what you have to do. And almost immediately, your palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy.
The pressure of the task becomes overwhelming. You can’t come up with a topic or a title. You’re stuck and overwhelmed.
Writing is difficult. And there’s a cognitive bias that often makes it even more difficult.
Your mind has many built-in biases. And one of the most common is anchoring bias — which refers to favouring the first piece of information you hear. That first piece of information is “the anchor.”
Most of us have this bias because of the simple fact that we have to start somewhere. We use that first piece of information — no matter how arbitrary it is — to create a context in which to think about the decision we have to make.
The classic example of anchoring bias is told within the context of buying a used car.
“Let’s say you’ve decided to buy a car — but you know nothing about cars. So you head down to your local dealership.
You tell them you’re looking for a new car and they show you their newest model, which will cost you $65,000. That’s way of out of your price range, you tell them.
So the salesperson takes you over to what he calls their “economy car.” At only $29,000 it’s a steal, he says.
It’s still way more money than you’ve ever spent, but it’s certainly cheaper than $65,000, you reason to yourself.
And there’s the bias. $65,000, the first car price you heard, became the anchor by which you judged the second price. And now what’s too expensive for you, looks like a good deal — potentially leading you to make an unwise financial decision.”
Writing and Anchoring Bias
Our minds are always using the first piece of information we receive as an anchor — even when that first piece of information came from us.
As I’ve written in another article, the best way to overcome anchoring bias is to become aware of it and drop your own anchor — a new piece of information that will positively affect your thinking.
This is no more true than when it comes to writing. When you’re sitting at your desk with your sweaty palms, weak knees, and heavy arms, it’s the weight of the anchor you’re feeling.
On its own, writing one article today can feel like a lot, because your default (anchor) is to not write anything. Compared to none, one is a lot. It’s everything and nothing. It’s climbing Everest vs. staying in bed.
Your mind feels this pressure. But you can capitalize on this mental habit and beat anchoring bias at its own game — upgrading your writing output along the way.
Double or Nothing: Capitalizing on Your Bias
Although this bias has traditionally been understood as a mental shortcoming, you can use it to your advantage.
If you know that your goal is to write one article a day, change it to two. Now, instead of your mind seeing one article as hard since it’s compared to zero articles (easy), your mind sees one article as easy since it’s compared to two articles (hard).
What you’re doing is beating anchoring bias at its own game. You’re dropping another anchor to create a more favourable context with which to view your goal: one article.
When you do this, you’ll feel the pressure to write that first article disintegrate. As you look toward writing two articles, that first article comes much easier. It’s writing two that’s difficult, not one.
As a general rule, double your goal. If your goal is 500 words, make it a thousand. And if it’s one article, make it two. Even if you “fail,” you’ll probably still have written one. And some days you’ll actually write two — creating more than you originally planned on creating.
The Final Word
Your mind is full of biases — and one of the most common is anchoring bias — which refers to the way you favour the first piece of information you hear. It’s why the used car salesman starts off at a high price. He shocks you with $65,000, so his final price of $29,000 will look like a steal.
This bias can make writing one article feel overwhelming because our default anchor is to not write anything — that’s always an option!
But you can beat anchoring bias at its own game — and increase your writing output at the same time.
To do this, double your goal. Instead of setting out to write one article today, set out to write two. That new goal of two articles is an anchor that will reframe how your mind views the task of writing one article.
Compared to zero, writing one article was hard — stealing your creative confidence. But compared to two, one article is easy — unlocking your creativity and boosting your confidence.
Anchoring bias is a gift — if you know how to use it. So drop another anchor, double your goal, and watch your writing output increase with ease.