why don't we follow instructions

Why don’t we read manuals and follow instructions?

We’ve all been there.

Our brand new kettle, or flat pack cabinet or even dolls house for our child arrives, and with it a big instruction manual.

Some people will crack open that manual and read it all from cover to cover before doing anything else.  Those people are absolutely in the minority though, and possibly have too much time on their hands.

Most of us will have a flick through the manual to get a rough idea of what we need to do and then just dive in.  Possibly dipping back in now and then when things get a bit tricky.

But why is this?  Why don’t we like to read manuals and follow instructions?

Why don't we read manuals and follow instructions_

One of the main reasons we don’t read manuals is that we don’t have time.

Or more likely we don’t want to spend the time it would take to sit down and read a manual properly.  We would rather just get stuck in and see how we get on.

Sometimes this approach works, but so often it doesn’t and we end up wasting more time than if we’d just read the manual in the first place.

A lot of the time we think the manual is going take longer to read than it actually would, because the same instructions are repeated in multiple languages.  If we would just take a minute to open up these multilingual manuals we would realise that the instructions are shorter than we first thought.


Another reason we don’t read manuals is because we think we already know enough to manage by ourselves.

If we’ve had a stereo or microwave before we think we’ll be able to work out how to use a new one without reading the instructions.  A lot of the time with this we’re right, although it does still often end up taking us longer to figure out than if we’d just read the manual.


Our past experiences also make us wary of reading instruction manuals.

So often in the past we’ve tried to make sense of them but they’ve been written so badly that we just give up.  And then the next time we have a new product we decide not to even bother trying with the instructions.

Especially because these days we know we can quite easily find videos online to help us if we get stuck, or we can just call the company’s helpline and let them talk us through it.


What we really need are manuals that are concise and clear, not overly complicated and long-winded.

More and more companies are starting to realise this, and are making quick-read versions of their instructions alongside the full manuals.  This means that we can use those to get started with our new items as quickly as possible, while still having all the detailed information and technical documentation on hand should we need it later.


The thing is we’re all so busy these days, we don’t want to spend valuable time reading an instruction manual.  

But this is one time when it’s worth slowing down a bit and taking the time to at least try to follow instructions properly.  As long as they’re well written, clear and concise then reading them can save us a lot of time and stress down the line.


Do you read manuals and follow the instructions, or do you prefer to just dive in and try to figure it out on your own?


Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post
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