What can you do to get people to implement your articles?

Today I got an email from Benjamin P. Hardy asking:

I think a lot about how I can make my writing more actionable. What can I do to get people to implement?

In the email Benjamin writes about his friend who struggled to apply his articles, particularly taking cold showers, and didn’t even try until Benjamin challenged him.

I’ve been taking contrast and cold showers for more than 4 years now. All this time I tried to convince my friends to start doing it, but I couldn’t persuade a single one.

But then I changed tactics and it worked: several friends did try contrast showers and are still taking them today. Now I’m trying to implement the same strategy in my blog posts (I’m just starting).

Make sure key ideas are memorable.

We almost immediately forget about 80% of what we read. After a few days your readers will most likely retain only a vague idea of the article.

Another problem is that recalling is much like imagining, so reader’s remembrance of the post might contain wrong details.

Even if they try to apply the article, they might do it in the wrong way and not get expected results.

I would therefore think of only a few key ideas crucial to the post and find a way to clearly deliver them to readers. There are a lot of ways to strengthen perception of the key elements: using stories and images, adding a list of the ideas at the end of the post, and providing questions and answers on the subject.

Another way is to remind readers about previous articles in the current email with a key quote. It’s just like a spaced repetition that helps readers to acquire new knowledge for the long term.

Make actions more doable.

Of course, to make articles actionable, you should include action steps. It’s important for readers to know exactly what, when and in what order they should do things. But that’s not enough.

We usually don’t like making any changes until we are in real trouble.

And excitement from the article can vanish when faced by the effort it requires putting in.

The solution is to make the action plan so easy that readers would have no reason not to try it.

My friends would admire me for taking contrast showers, but they wouldn’t try it because it was scary just imagining pouring ice-cold water on themselves.

So instead of pushing, I said: start with just a slight difference between hot and cold portions of the shower, just make a sensible contrast. It’s enough to enjoy the contrast and love it. It’s also enough to have immediate results like feeling energized.

More importantly, it’s very doable and quickly becomes a habit. And with time you’ll learn that the colder the water, the more pleasure you get.

Show them how to start

After you have made the actions doable, tell your readers what the first step they need to take is and the right time to do so. Just like the whole plan, this starter step should be ridiculously easy so they won’t have any excuses.

It’s ideal if they can take the step instantly, while reading the post. If not, it’s better to schedule it after something readers will definitely do soon, as there is a chance they will remember it at just the right time.

For contrast showers, I tell friends to add a little comfortable contrast the next time they take a shower.

Key ideas of how to make your articles more actionable

1. What are the 3 main reasons readers do not apply articles they’d like to?

  1. Readers remember only a vague and often wrong impression of the articles.
  2. Applying articles requires putting in a lot of effort or overcoming fears.
  3. Readers forget or don’t know how to start.

2. How can you make sure readers will remember the key ideas correctly?

Figure out 3–7 crucial points and deliver them as clearly as you can.

3. There is no way to avoid putting in effort or overcoming fears, is there?

There is: make the first steps ridiculously easy and fearless. After a reader gets a taste of the practice, they will naturally increase its duration and complexity.

4. How can I increase the chances that the readers won’t forget to start?

Trigger the first step after something they will definitely do soon.

How to start?

After you get to outlining or editing an article, write down 3 questions:

  1. What exactly should a reader after reading my article?
  2. How can I make the first steps ridiculously easy, so that anyone could take them?
  3. What is absolutely necessary to keep in mind to take action?

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