June 04, 2010

Make Promises

I am bad at answering emails. After all, it is so easy to procrastinate. "In a few hours" becomes "I'll get to it tonight," which turns into "tomorrow morning."

I really liked this line on a contact form I saw on the website of a freelance developer:

I'll get back to you within 24 hours.

That simple sentence guarantees two things:

  1. The developer won't procrastinate when answering emails, since a few hours will make a difference.
  2. People are more comfortable emailing him, since he has made email slightly less asynchronous.

By making a public promise with absolute numbers, you are forcing yourself to adhere to it. Using a relative time frame such as "as soon as possible" affords endless procrastination— "24 hours" does not. This technique is not limited to just email, either. You can use it for workouts ("three miles a day" rather than "exercising often"), blog posts ("new blog post every day" rather than "regular posts"), or making plans ("by the end of the week" rather than "soon")- basically, anything that involves some sort of self control.

Does it work? I'm not sure, I would have to ask him. I'll know by this time tomorrow.

About Gregory Koberger

I'm a freelance developer and designer, formerly of Mozilla. I talk a lot about web development, technology and user experience — sometimes on my blog but mostly on Twitter.

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