As a dating coach, I get this question a lot: How much time should I devote to online dating every week?

Just like I could never tell anyone how much time to spend at the gym, in the shower, or sleeping, I could also never predict the “right” amount of time for anyone to devote to online dating per week.  The one thing I can tell you, though, is that you have to devote some amount of time greater than zero.

Let’s say it’s January 1st and you sign up for the gym, as so many people do.  Yes, you’re paying for it every month.  And yes, you went to Lululemon and bought the $98 pair of yoga pants that you had to have.  But are you losing any weight?  Not if you don’t set foot in the gym other than to see just how crowded it is and to work your finger muscles at the water fountain.  In this case, it’s unreasonable to say, “The gym doesn’t work.”  The gym does work, but you just didn’t use it.

Why, then, do so many people think that online dating works any differently from the gym?  No, the goal here is not to fit into a size 6 by Chanukah.  The goal is even greater—to find a partner, often for the rest of your life.

The evening might go like this:

  • Friends having a glass of wine together.
  • Friend #1 encourages Friend #2 to create a JDate profile.
  • Friend #2 has had just enough wine to oblige.
  • The friends then craft a very generic profile consisting of one of the 10 phrases you should delete from your JDate profile.
  • A week later, Friend #2 proclaims, “Online dating doesn’t work!!!!!” When pressed, we find out that not only has she not fixed up her profile, but she used her most recent Facebook photos which are less than flattering, and she didn’t reach out to a single person in that week. Not to mention that a week is no time at all! You wouldn’t expect to achieve your fitness goal in a week, so why should you find a potential life partner in that short timeframe? Again, while I can’t tell you exactly how many hours to spend on JDate a week or how many emails to send, here’s what I would recommend as a start:

Do 15 minutes a day, at night when you’re relaxed.  On one night, find the people you’d like to email, and on the next, email them.  It’s much smoother and less stressful that way if you’re not both searching and writing at the same time.  In terms of how many emails to send, as a baseline, my Package 2 clients send five a week.  I would recommend five to 10.

Just like some people prefer to work out in the morning and some prefer the evening (I’ve even been known to do a midnight workout on occasion), my recommendations are just a starting point.  The real takeaway is that in order to get the results, you have to put in the time.

Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge and author of acclaimed Love at First Site. Her work has been seen on NPR, Talk Philly, The Washington Post, and more. To join her mailing list for tips and events, please join here.
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