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When Helping Gets Difficult

My friend Cory is one of the most helpful people I know. Anyone who knows him and has experienced his generosity and patience will no doubt agree.

In fact, his approach to people brought him to a lead role in helping members of an online community. It’s a good fit, but there was one problem…

Cory loves to really help people and take care of their individual needs, but what happens when 20 people need help at the same time?

It’s almost too much for one person to think about, but Cory isn’t one to give up.

Responses on Repeat

If you’re asked the same question every day:

How do I start the coffee maker?

You start to get a little fatigued. No matter how helpful you are, this repetitive questioning gets old really fast.

The problem is that Jennifer, Tom, and Jose need to know this information. They will have a really bad experience if they don’t.

So you start writing scripts.

Whether we mean to or not, the response becomes the same for everyone:

Remove the lid in the back, pour water in, change the filter, add coffee, and turn it on.

You know these kind of responses. They’re so memorized that you can say them almost without thinking.

But what if you took it a step further?

What if you wrote it down?

Automating the System

Maybe you print out a piece of paper with instructions on it, maybe you write a blog post about it, or maybe you add it to a wiki somewhere.

However you approach it, most repeat responses can be automated in some way.

This is what Cory started to do.

For his team, he made videos explaining common processes and issues. For community members, he wrote standard snippets of text that contain important step-by-step instructions and detailed responses.

With pre-written responses, 2,000 words of typing can become four characters of typing a short snippet.

This isn’t lazy, it’s practical. With automation in place, here are the potential benefits for those 20 people asking the same question at the same time:

  • Response time is faster – typing four characters to trigger a Text Expander snippet is a lot faster than typing 2,000 words to each person.
  • Responses aren’t sloppy – If you don’t have to type a detailed response to 20 people in a matter of hours, it can be proof read and clear.
  • There’s time to focus on specifics – What if two out of 20 have the same question with circumstantial differences? With some automation ready for the bulk of the message, there’s more time to focus on specifics.

When It’s Too Big to Automate

A few years ago, I started asking people who signed up to my newsletter list: “What do you struggle with most when it comes to designing icons?”

There have been a lot of responses, but one of the most repeated is:

How do I choose great colors?

As much as I really wanted to help every person asking this question, the answer is really long and complicated.

So long in fact, that even automating it would be ridiculous.

Trying to solve this, I started writing a guide. I thought that maybe I could fit everything I know into a small pdf and share it with everyone asking. That would solve it, right?

But there were two issues I didn’t take into account:

  • A pdf can’t solve for circumstances. What if you’re more advanced? What if you need more than the basics?
  • The file was growing bigger by the day. Too big…

At some point a light bulb came on. I needed to make a big collection of information easy to use and navigate.

More importantly, I needed the information to actually help people.

A Course is the Perfect Solution

Videos, written information, resources, interviews, and a community to help anyone struggling. I would say that could help a lot of people.

I decided to call it Choosing Great Colors.

Choosing Great Colors exists because the community I’ve built through my newsletter has willed it into existence.

It was born from a desire to help everyone struggling to make color choices and, like Cory, I want to deliver the best solution or none at all. Nobody left behind and nothing left out.

If you’re struggling with color choices, I hope you’ll check out Choosing Great Colors, my response to years of hearing struggles from people just like you.