Why People Don’t Do Things: Part 3

Why People Don’t Do Things: Part 3

This email features the third installment on why people don’t do things. If you missed the first two, then you can read them here and here.

They tried to, but it got too difficult

These are situations when we’ve made all the right steps to motivate people to do something, overcoming status quo bias and all, but then presented our audience with a cumbersome process for following through on their desired action.

Most commonly, this takes the form of either:

Choice overload: When too many choices are available to consumers, they may stick with their default choice or make no choice.


Hassle factors: Seemingly minor inconveniences that prevent one from completing a task or taking action.

I’ve previously covered the topic of choice overload in this article, so today I will focus on hassle factors.

For that reason, I’m out

Too often, we call bullshit on hassle factors being a real reason why people don’t follow through on their actions.

We default to an assumption that if someone is truly motivated, then they will jump through hoops to get it done.

But this contradicts what we looked at in the first reason why people don’t do things: because it’s easier not to!

This reason still applies even once someone feels motivated and compelled to do something.

Think about the moments when you’ve been jazzed about something but bailed at the last minute because it got too difficult:

» That one item you were going to buy at the store but then ditched it because the check-out line was too long and moving too slowly.

» The membership group you were going to sign-up for online but it asked for too much information and you decided it wasn’t worth the effort (especially the need to create another password!)

» That time you were going to attend a community event but there was no parking available, so you drove on.

» The charity you were going to donate to on Giving Tuesday but the website was too clunky, required too many steps to give, and wasn’t mobile friendly.

These may seem like small, minor, insignificant obstacles.

But the reality is that any difficulty – any resistance – one feels when trying to accomplish something can very quickly lead to them abandoning the mission.

And hassle factors become an even bigger reality when someone is attempting to do something completely new and out of their comfort zone.

Recognizing the finish line

This reason for why people don’t do things is probably the one that upsets me the most. Part 4 of this series (coming up next) is the one I spend most of my time helping organizations overcome, but this one gets me the most worked up.

Because these issues are on us.

It happens when we believe that getting our audience to the website, to the sign-up page, to the event is the end game. The finish line. Job done.

Just getting people to those places does take a herculean effort. It can be exhausting. But it’s actually just the starting line.

Once they show up – interested, enthused and motivated – we have to deliver a seamless, efficient, welcoming, and reinforcing experience that allows them to easily follow through.

We simply can’t afford to turn them away.

Doing better

The key to doing better with reducing hassle factors is to consider the user experience. To continuously ask:

» How can I make this process simpler?

» How can I make this experience more welcoming and intuitive?

» How can I make them feel good about taking this action?

This may mean reducing the amount of information required to give a donation, or volunteer, or become a member (do we really need their phone number and mailing address?)

It may mean spending a bit more to have a PayPal button so donors can give with 1-click.

It could involve providing instructions and directions early and frequently to prepare your attendees on what to expect, whether it’s volunteers showing up to an activity, community members showing up to a town hall or workshop, or guests attending an event.

It could include having greeters – if it works for Wal-Mart then it’ll work for us!

All of this comes down to efficiently and smoothly converting “showing up” into “getting it done”.

Next up

Part 4 of this series (the last one!) is here. Hint: it’s the one I spend most of my time trying to solve!

If you want to dig deeper into this topic, plus learn how to use communication & outreach techniques to motivate action, then join my online course on creating conservation movements.