How to engage the “I’ll do it later” user

The “Voicemail vs SMS” example

In the middle of a meeting at work, I noticed a missed call from my mother.” You have one new message. Please dial 222 to listen to your message.”

Alright, later, I thought and continued discussing with my colleagues. After the meeting a few of us headed directly to the next meeting.

As I stepped into the room I discovered yet another new message, this time from my dad. I clicked on the message:

”We are standing first in line to buy tickets to that Christmas concert we talked about earlier. The queue here is enormous. Shall we buy tickets to you as well? Mummy tried to call you and left a message earlier about this.”

I texted: “Do that! Thanks dad!” and sent my message.

Later that evening my mother called me.
“How come you only reply to messages that your father sends and not to mine?” she said and sounded both hurt and disappointed.

”The answer is simple”, I said.
“When you leave a message on my voice mail the following happens:
– First I have to click on the message on my phone.
– Then I have to call my voice mail.
– Then I have to listen to that monotone voice telling me I have two new messages, where the first one was obsolete a long time ago.
– Then I have to listen to the date and time of the message.
– Then I have to listen to directions on how to erase the message.
– And then, finally, your message is played.

When daddy sends a text message, his question is stated directly in the message. It might have taken him longer time to prepare his message then it took for you to say yours at my voice mail but his message had no extra steps on the way. That´s why!“

If you want someone, who is engaged in a million other things at the same time, to pay attention to your specific request or product, you need to do the dirty work. You need to make it as simple as possible for the receiver. No extra clicks, no extra information.
Just to the point.

The “Mummy, come and play a game” example

– I know you are going to say no to this question but I’ll ask it anyway, my son said to my one day after school when I had my arms full of dirty laundry on my way to the washing machine.
– Do you want to play Monopoly with me? he asked.

I sighed and starred at the laundry and at the fridge filled with all the food I had to prepare for dinner. And at my phone and that precious time just to sit down and catch up on my internet errands.

– Not right now honey, but maybe later, I answered.
– That means no, he said with a disappointed voice. You always say Later and that always means Never.
– I will play Monopoly with you, I promise, but not today. You know, that game takes hours to play and I don’t have that time right now, honey.

My son grabbed a pile of playing cards and said.

– What if we play one game of Go Fish? That only takes ten minutes.

I looked at the clock on the wall.

– Alright. Let´s do it!

We ended up playing Go Fish for one hour. Afterwards my son said to me:
– Mummy, lets buy more of these easy games that are quick to play.
– Why do you want that, my son?
– Because then you engage in them.

When the barrier to engagement is low, it is more likely that you say yes to something right away instead of putting it on your “do it later debt list”. And as my clever son told me, most often Later turns to Never…

Can you afford that to happen?