“It puts hair on your chest,” my parents would always say. “Eugh, why do I want hair on my chest?” I would always think. Somehow the incentive to eat the pickled cabbage was always “you’ll be more manly if you do it.” When I was a kid, I hated sauerkraut. I hated the putrid smell. I hated the slimy feel. I hated that it looked like translucent white worms. How could anyone ever eat sauerkraut as fast as adults do?
My mother and sister ate sauerkraut and they didn’t ‘become more manly.’ I could see through my parent’s ruse (I was a very rational kid). Yet my parents still encouraged me to eat it. They wouldn’t let me leave the table until the oozing pile of once green cabbage was gone. “You can eat it now, or whine about it for an hour, and eat it then,” they would say. “It just depends how you want to spend the next hour.”
You can’t reason with your kid, but you can learn from reasoning with them.
Our kids might not understand how rational that is, but we can apply the same logic to our own tasks. We can either spend time dreading a task or just do it.
The One Step Program
The only thing stopping me from eating sauerkraut was myself. All I had to do was pick up my fork, slide the tines through the slime, lift it to my mouth, open, chew and swallow. It was a momentary struggle that had to happen sooner or later. Tasks like these can often seem insurmountable, especially to seven year old me. Often the only thing that’s stopping us from doing these task is our own conceptions of how hard or unbearable they will be.
I want to publish a book, live in New York, become famous, be a thought leader. The list goes on and on, but reaching our goals all starts with one step.
The solution is to break these behemoth aims into something more digestible.
A micro-task is one approach to digestibility. Micro-tasks are the small steps that come together to form our objectives. They are keys to productivity because they change our perceptions and our attitudes. The key is how easy these tasks are.
Take the logo design process for example. It can take a long time to design a logo. We spend hours and hours crafting the perfect identity for our clients. At times it can seem daunting and we can be paralyzed by designing the wrong mark. Yet, if we don’t make something we have nothing to react to. It all starts with putting something on the page. It all starts with micro-tasks. These micro-tasks help us reach our goals, but only if we recognize what they are. If we expect our first mark to be the final mark we may never begin. So our first micro-task is to make something that we can react to, or find out as many ways as we can that shouldn’t represent the brand. 200 wrong logos is not 200 failed ideas, but 200 reasons to choose the right logo.
Our goal may take many years, but it all starts with micro-tasks.
Objects at rest stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force, whereas objects in motion stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. The choice is up to us to get the ball rolling. By using micro-tasks to make the gap between us and our goal that much shorter, we can dramatically increase our chances of attaining it.
Or you could be like me, and have sauerkraut greet you for breakfast, because you didn’t want to eat it the night before. Our goals aren’t going anywhere. What are we going to do about it?