This post from Dan Ariely hit close to home. It’s an issue I think of every time I hit the Publish button and I wonder how people are going to react when they are trying to decide whether they should read my blog post or not.
My boss is a night owl, and I often wake up to a barrage of emails. But I don’t like starting off my day feeling like I’m behind and having the urge to check work email before I even get out of bed. How can people working at different hours respect each other’s time? —Yohann
When we receive an email, we tend to assume that the content is top of the sender’s mind and requires an urgent response. This assumption is often misguided.
I tested this bias on myself by asking people who emailed me via my website to tell me how urgently they needed my response. I gave them a pulldown menu with options that ranged from “drop everything and answer me now” to “by the end of the day” to “by the end of the week,” to “by the end of the month,” and I also added an option I was most curious about, which was “no response necessary.” It was surprising to me how many emails were in the “no response necessary” category (about 20%) and more surprising how few emails were in the “drop everything and answer me now” category (about 2%).
With this in mind, maybe ask everyone in your company to add something to urgent emails (say, !!!) and to ones where no response is necessary (maybe ***). This way the senders can mitigate confusion by being explicit about their expectations, which should make the urgency bias go away.
After reading this, I thought it may be helpful for me to add a similar type menu at the top of each of my posts, so readers would have a sense of whether it was worth their time to read the post. The choices would be something along the lines of the following, and I would check off the most appropriate choice to serve as a guide for what a reader should do when they encounter one of my posts:
- drop everything and read this post now; it will be life-changing
- if you are absolutely bored out of your mind, and can’t think of anything to do for the next two minutes, then you may want to consider reading this post
- close your browser now; there is nothing of value in this post. Your IQ will be lowered if you start to read just the first sentence; proceed at your own risk.
I went through my last 100 posts to categorize them into one of these three buckets, and it probably comes as no surprise that 100% of my posts fell into the third category.
So I guess there’s really no need for me to offer the three choices, it looks like I just need to add the last statement as a warning at the top of each of my posts.
All I ask in exchange for saving you all that time and those IQ points is for you to hit the like button…