Proceed at Your Own Risk

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.

Dear Dan,

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

Dan’s response:

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…


102 thoughts on “Proceed at Your Own Risk

  1. Sometimes I think Dan Ariely is way off the mark, but I like this idea. I’m surprised by the 2% figure. I have a folder where I put intriguing posts to read that I don’t have the time for at the moment. If I don’t put them there, then I’ll forget what I was supposed to remember.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. joyroses13’s real name is Carolyn Shelton. Sorry, I didn’t mean to seem doolally. Which, by the way, means mad, insane, deranged, crazy, etc. For some reason, Carolyn calls me doolally a lot.


      2. 😂 seriously, you should create a writing challenge with it. Put it up with the definition and some random challenge that you would think was fun. I dunno, based on the definition, post about a song that you think fits the definition, or come up with as many puns as possible, or write a story in x number of words. The types of challenges are limited only by your imagination. I would LOVE to do that challenge!

        Liked by 2 people

  2. So I should skip reading the post and just hit the like button? WP is full of those people and I refuse to be a member of that herd. Plus, I am horrible about reading warnings. I usually read those at the end.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’ve found an inverse relationship between how good/important I think a post is to how readers react to it. The most egregious example is something I dashed off one morning on vacation without much thought that got picked up by WordPress’ ‘Discover’, It got thousands and thousands of hits and almost a thousand likes. All I could think is “no, no, not that one!” So many better options.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. In view of Jeff’s comment, I think you should be posting in the ‘drop everything’ category a piece that tells us how to get picked up by WP’s ‘Discover.’ Assuming you know, of course, or it will be another for your third option…

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Your posts are always relevant, relatable and engaging to read!! If I emailed you I would definitely keep
    “drop LITERALLY everything and answer me now” category!!🙂🥴
    As a young blogger I must say , you’re the kind we look up too!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I sometimes have nothing to say, but I hit the like button just the same to show that I read and liked the post. I was one of those bosses that send emails in the middle of the night not expecting an immediate reply, but rather expecting people to be able to put things on their to do lists and prioritize their work. I was wrong about that. People usually need to be told. I had to tell them that I am not expecting them to read their work emails after work hours, and at one point I stopped emailing at night because it was clearly a source of anxiety. I don’t think anyone noticed…

    There I did more than like and that brings your post at least one category up!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think many people, myself included, try to respond to email when they get it, just to get it off their to do list. I’ve never thought of it as a source of anxiety.

      and thanks for the comment!


  7. LOL! Your blog is in my top 5, so no you don’t need a dropbox. I know the warnings, but they don’t stop me. I think my IQ has already been damaged by the barrage of puns that I get daily!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. i do my best to reply to email, but life happens and it doesn’t always happen right away. i assume if it’s something urgent, they’ll find a way to contact me. p.s your posts are always worth reading even if our answers are lame at times )

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I like the idea of signally how urgent an email is as a rule of thumb within the company you work.. However, my director gets quite trigger-happy with her exclamation marks and question marks as it is and it bothers me lol… So maybe I’d vote for a different “urgent” marker lol

    maybe an emoji…
    👀 = As in answer me im watching you… Or
    🏃‍♀️ =as in hurry up!

    Liked by 1 person

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