The thrill is gone
Ohhh, online dating. The endless swiping. The small-talk messaging. The search for a first date spot where you won’t run into anyone you know.
Having infinite dates at your fingertips feels exciting at first — but quickly starts to feel like a marathon that maybe doesn’t have a finish line. (Wait, why did I sign up for this? What are we all doing here?)
But listen: there’s hope. Online dating can be less draining, more efficient, and more fun. Here’s how.
Agile, meet online dating
Agile is a big buzzword in the business world. It originally came from the Agile Manifesto, created in 2001 by a group of guys at a ski resort in Utah who wanted to create a better way to deliver software.
At its core, agile is about delivering in short periods of time (e.g., a couple of weeks), prioritizing people over plans and processes, learning as you go, and continually improving. It’s about spending more time doing the work and testing how it goes, and less time planning how you’re going to do it. The result: more productivity and fun.
What started as a manifesto for delivering software has turned into a way of doing practically anything — from running your household, to planning your friend’s birthday, to yes, even online dating.
Follow these agile tips to make your online dating experience feel less like an endless marathon and more like a walk around the block.
1. Find your sustainable pace
When people start online dating, they’re eager to get rolling, so they set up as many dates as possible. I remember going on four dates during my first week on Bumble, which was fun — until I realized it was insane.
The Agile Manifesto says to keep a constant, predictable pace of work. Agile teams come up with a “sustainable velocity” — the amount of work they know they can complete consistently every week or two. They come to an agreement on the number, and everyone is responsible for sticking to it and not committing to more work. Having a set velocity “lifts morale, lowers stress, and improves quality,” says Jeff Brinkerhoff, an agile coach for Slalom.
Online dating is a numbers game. The more you do it, the better your chances of meeting someone. But if you’re burnt out and dreading another date while in a Lyft on the way to meet Bumble Date Number 62, you’re not going to have fun. Or be fun. Find your sustainable dating velocity.
Right now, mine is one date per week, three or four conversations at a time, and swiping every few days, not every day. If I go over that, I start to feel like online dating is taking over my life.
Have “retrospectives” (another agile practice — more on that later) with yourself to see how your pace is feeling. Are you confusing Matt from Amazon with Ben from Amazon? Are you out of clean date outfits? Did you just mumble “Everyone sucks” while opening the Hinge app? Then you might be above your sustainable velocity.
Find a pace that keeps you in the online dating game (and energized for your dates) without burning you out.
2. Learn by doing
Agile teams spend more time learning by doing, and less time guessing how something will go. They also work in short feedback loops and make small decisions frequently.
With online dating, that means asking someone out sooner rather than later.
Messaging on dating apps can be surface-level, boring, and ineffective at revealing if you’ll actually click. So if you’ve messaged with someone about a few topics, know you have some common interests, and haven’t seen any red flags (listen to your gut about red flags!), ask to meet up. Don’t let the conversation go back and forth for three weeks before having a real human interaction.
Are you confusing Matt from Amazon with Ben from Amazon? Are you out of clean date outfits? Did you just mumble “Everyone sucks” while opening the Hinge app? Then you might be above your sustainable velocity.
When you meet in person, you’ll quickly learn if you feel some chemistry, or if the only thing you actually have in common is your deep love of Big Mouth.
I always pick a spot or low-commitment event that I’ve been wanting to check out anyway. That way, even if the date is a little painful, I can still enjoy a Painkiller cocktail from that new tiki bar down the street.
3. Inspect and adapt
Now, I’m not usually a supporter of ghosting (i.e., cutting off communication with someone without an explanation or warning). I believe that if you’ve gone on several dates with a decent person but you’re not feeling it, you should tell them, in a kind and clear way.
But…when it comes to messaging on dating apps before you’ve even met the person, I’ve become a ghosting supporter.
Just as agile teams constantly inspect and adapt — which keeps them light on their toes and able to move quickly — the same goes for online dating. You have to inspect (learn about someone) and adapt (ask them out or ghost).
If you try to explain to someone why you won’t be responding to their messages going forward, or if you keep a conversation going that you feel blah about, you’re wasting your energy and theirs. There are too many people on the apps and not enough time in the day for that.
Feel free to ghost the guy who follows-up his message with “yoohoo 😃.” And try not to get too attached to the fly-fishing cutie, because she might ghost you, too. Don’t dwell. Don’t feel guilty for deleting the conversation. It’s not mean or rude or cold — it’s valuing your time and theirs.
4. Take time to reflect
Agile teams often have retrospective meetings at the end of a delivery period to chat about what worked well, what didn’t, and ways to improve. Take time to reflect on the qualities you liked or didn’t like about someone you dated. It’ll help you know what specific qualities to look for going forward.
If you got an unsettled feeling after one date with someone but can’t pinpoint why, don’t just brush it off and schedule your next date with someone else before taking a minute to reflect. What about them gave you that feeling, and why?
Chemistry is important and hard to pinpoint. But we’re often attracted to, or turned off by, certain qualities that we’re not even aware of. Keep checking in with yourself to discover what those are — so you know what to look for.
Get your mind right
Having an agile mindset means knowing you won’t have all the answers right away, but trusting in the process of trying, testing, learning, and improving. If you see online dating the same way, it’ll make it feel less all-consuming and more fun. And, it might get you closer to meeting someone you have that worth-the-wait connection with. Bonus points if they hate running marathons as much as you do.
The Slowdown is brought to you by Slalom, a modern consulting firm focused on strategy, technology, and business transformation.