Deadlines: Friend or foe?
What's going on?
We came across an old post by Kristen Berman from the Common Cents Lab where she discussed how, in situations where people struggle to complete an application process, adding a deadline can actually increase the number of people who complete the process.
In real world experiment for kiva.org, adding a deadline to the application process once people had kicked it off increased the number of completed applications by 24%.
They didn’t stop there though. They then offered applicants with a deadline an early completion bonus (an incentive), which further increased the number of completed applications by 26%!
What does this mean?
Well, for one thing it points to the fact that sometimes to help people (or even yourself) you may have to restrict or limit their choices - in this case by limiting the time in which they can complete a process. This is particularly the case where procrastination and prioritisation can get in the way of their success.
Humans have a habit of reducing the importance of that which they have plenty of time for - often to our detriment.
This ties in nicely to one of the key principles of applied behavioural science - reducing or removing behavioural obstacles that may be preventing people from doing what they need to do. Once the obstacles have been reduced or removed, only then is it worth pouring rocket fuel onto the fire in the form of incentives.
What aspects of behaviour are being triggered?
How can you use it?
This concept has many applications - personal and professional. If you have personal goals you would like to accomplish, consider how adding a deadline can help you achieve them. Do you want to learn how to make sushi rolls? Book in a sushi dinner party with people you want to impress next month.
If you have an email about deadlines to write, consider booking in a presentation about deadlines to your colleagues so that you HAVE to get it done.
Would you like to improve the sign-up to active user rate for your customers? Have you considered setting a deadline by which new users must have completed certain activities otherwise their account will be deactivated?
It may seem counterintuitive, but if your goal is real users not vanity users, then why not?
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