The law of diminishing intent in business

The law of diminishing intent says

The longer we delay doing something, the less likely it is that we’ll do it.

According to John Maxwell, who popularised the law of diminishing intent, if we don’t make some move towards doing something within 48 hours, we’re very unlikely to do it at all.

Law of diminishing intent

A few years ago, I got my partner a paragliding lesson as a birthday present. I made a special card, found out where to get the lessons, and I was all ready to do it too.

But I made the mistake of not actually booking and paying for the lesson. And guess what? We’ve never been paragliding. If I’d paid for it, that would have meant that we had to do it, and we might have great memories of the day we went paragliding. Or we might have caught the bug, and now be sailing over the Sussex hills every weekend.

Applying this law to business

There are a couple of lessons that you can apply to your business. The first is clear, don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today. Decide to do something and then follow through, because if you leave it much longer, you probably won’t get round to it.

Interestingly, when I researched the law of diminishing intent a bit more, several articles recommended checking out your idea with a business coach first. This means you’ll be clear on your good idea. And, you’ll get some accountability to make sure you do indeed act.

It’s all too easy to have an idea and not then act on it.

If you tell someone that you’re going to take a certain action, and you have a deadline, then you’re more likely to get it done. Plus, if you know you’ll have to explain to someone at the end of the month why you’ve not done what you said (and they’ll be asking you difficult questions about why you haven’t), then this will probably move you into action.

How the law of diminishing intent might be losing you sales

If people are interested in what you sell but aren’t buying yet, it might be the law of diminishing intent that’s stopping them from buying from you. They mean to do it, but the longer you let them delay, the less likely it is that they will commit.

Think about what you can do in your business to encourage potential customers to start the path of buying from you, so they’ve acted on it now. And you can follow up with the full whammy later.

Get customers to make a small commitment

There’s also another lesson here that you can take from my experience of not going paragliding. What if you can get your potential customers to make a little commitment to buying from you? A commitment where they express some intent?

Maybe you can do a discovery session with them, so they invest some time (and maybe a small amount of money) to moving along the path of working with you?  Or get them to do a questionnaire first, which is a very low risk for them, but psychologically builds up their intent to buy.


If I were the paragliding company, I’d get my customers to invest in gift vouchers or a deposit. Taking some money from them now, even though they might not be ready to book a confirmed date yet, to make sure they do book a session in the future.

Want more interesting business tips to help you get into action?

This article was originally written as one of the business stories I send out by email every week. They’re little snippets of interesting business ideas, tips and thoughts, usually in the form of a story or something I’ve learnt and want to share. Here’s how to try them out…


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