Sunday, 17 March 2013

Microtasking - Turning the achievement of personal GOALS into an integrated part of your life Philosophy.

The last time you went to the newsagent and looked at the magazine shelves, how many magazines did you see that offer advice and help on how you can improve yourself? Amongst the vast multitude of eye catching titles covering celebrity gossip, political scandal and everything in between, you will have noticed a significant percentage covering self-improvement topics. If asked, you could probably recite from memory, a list of the most common titles which seem to recur month after month, switching between different magazines, but retaining more or less the same content every time you look. You've seen them before right? Here are some examples:  ‘Lose 7 inches from your waistline in one month’; ‘5 sure fire tips on stopping smoking in one week ’; ’Eat as much as you want and still have the body of a goddess’. How about ‘Grow a new you’; ‘De-clutter your life instantly’; ‘Transform yourself today’; or ‘How to break a bad habit in eight easy, short steps’? They all sound vaguely familiar right? And that’s just the magazines. In reality, today, the ‘self-help’ message permeates almost every facet of media to which we are exposed, both online and offline. On TV, in books, in advertising and just about everywhere else you look, you will read and see material on how to improve your health, how to be a better parent, how to improve your management or business skills or even how to learn a language and how to do it all so very quickly. 

It seems that the inherent quality of the typical ‘self-help’ message is that the message itself is only valid if there is a suitable timeline associated with it, within which you ‘should’ have achieved the self-help objective. This could be seven days, a week, a month and so on. If you didn't manage to achieve it in time, no problem, you just go out and buy next month’s issue and start again with whatever they’re advising you this time, which you might possibly wish to improve about yourself. And so, it goes on and you keep buying or watching or clicking, because of course, there is so very much that is wrong with you and you have so many flaws, all of which you should really ‘address’ with just a little bit of TLC and how better to love yourself than to ‘indulge’ in a little bit of occasional ‘Self-help‘ right?

Yet, despite this slightly cynical synopsis, this is not so say that any of the information available on self-help is not valid nor useful or well researched. Additionally, it would be unfair not to acknowledge that in most cases, the material is extremely well written or produced and indeed many books on the subject of self-help do indeed make a significant and valuable contribution to our understanding and knowledge of who we are and demonstrate how we can improve many aspects of our modern and highly complex lives. However, the more poignant reality to bear in mind is that although the available media on self-help provides highly interesting and compelling material for us to engage with and to even be inspired by from time to time, to the extent that we may often actually take the advice and run with it for a few days, a few weeks and maybe even a month or so; nevertheless, most of us eventually revert back to our old habits and routines and return to our search of the next fad, the next big thing which we can adopt and follow in another cycle of inspiration followed by eventual self-disappointment rather than achieving any real ‘self-help’.

Certainly, if we applied the principles advocated and were able to incorporate them right into the intrinsic fabric of our lives by somehow adopting them on a more permanent basis, then and only then, could we possibly hope to truly succeed in our goals. The trouble is, there are just a couple of critical missing layers in the operating framework of our daily lives, without which we cannot possibly hope to achieve any of our self-help goals.

The missing layers:

The first missing layer is the knowledge layer, which essentially boils down to whether or not we truly know what our goals actually are. Now, even the smartest of us don’t actually know what our goals are most of the time. We like to think that we do, but we don’t, because unless we very specifically take the time to focus on and carry out the activity of setting our long and short term goals on a regular basis, continually modifying and fine tuning them, we end up simply leaving them to chance. Most people do this without realizing it and some (you know who you are) may drift through life with no clear idea on the shape or form of the life they really want. Bearing this in mind, how can one possibly instigate change if one has taken no time to think about what that change should look like?

This takes us into very dangerous territory because it makes us susceptible to suggestion by external sources, in particular, the media, which in the absence of our own clear perception of what our goals should be, provides us with a very convenient source in helping us to decide. Ultimately, we take the media suggestions of what our goals should be and adopt them as our own. Succumbing to suggestion in this way is, for sure, a highly risky practice in any sphere of life. As any successful businessperson will tell you. If you don’t have a unique proposition of your own and you follow suggestion or are led by others, you are doomed to failure from the outset, for you will never achieve anything new or innovative. Not to mention the fact that the media has its own agenda when setting your goals for you, which to put it quite simply, is to sell more media to you, the consuming public. The media, as much as we love it for its entertainment value and its endless stream of information, some of which is aimed at improving and making a transformed and better you, does not have your interests at heart. The only way to replace its somewhat toxic influence in your life with something of real value to you personally is to expand the depth of your knowledge layer and to deeper understand who you are and what you want out of your life. Creating that person is a different matter, but it can be done if you really want that person to materialize. (See additional articles on visualization, motivation, procrastination, uncertainty and risk etc). 

The Second and probably even more important missing layer in our daily operational framework is the execution layer. The execution layer is the one that keeps us going and enables us to actually reach our goals by consistently keeping us on track. It does this by embedding itself right into the fabric of one’s everyday life. Without this layer, we would and most often do, run out of emotional steam by losing the will to persevere, long before we reach any of our personal goals. It is this execution layer, its methodology and how to create and integrate it into your life, that forms the key subject matter of this article.

Now, one self-help message that I most certainly subscribe to is the notion that throughout one’s lifetime, one should always be learning. Many of us will have heard this message extolled by great leaders, scholars and those who have attained greatness in their lives both personally and in the public domain; essentially those who have looked deeply and understood the true needs of the human psyche; to develop as an individual, to be fulfilled in one’s work, to be acknowledged by one’s peers and loved ones as someone who makes an important contribution to their lives and to attain deep self-confidence through inner contentment and understanding of oneself and of others. Only knowledge is the unifying factor which fulfills all these needs, for it is only through knowledge that we understand our reality, our boundless possibilities, our world, our universe and most importantly, ourselves. Only once we know ourselves can we truly know others and this is the most beautiful and bountiful use to which we can put our learning and therefore, our knowledge.

Furthermore, the definition of learning extends far beyond what we may traditionally conceive as learning. Learning is not just about assimilating, retaining and using information. If that was all that learning entails, we would be nothing more than automatons, computers; slaves to a machine. We would certainly not be the creators, lateral thinkers and artists that we are. No, learning, my friend, is far richer and infinitely more colorful than that. Learning is just about everything we do, from first thing in the morning to last thing at night and even during our dreams (subject of a different article). Not only do we teach our minds, we also teach our bodies. For example, when we exercise, is one’s body not learning, albeit not on a mental or neurological level, but learning nevertheless? Our muscles ‘learn’ through their development which is generated by exercise, our lungs ‘learn’ to work more efficiently, our skin ‘learns’ how to control body temperature better and our minds learn how to fine tune our exercise technique for optimal results. And what about the autonomous functions in our bodies or indeed our reflexes? How about our immune systems? Are all these hidden, yet essential systems not always in a constant state of learning and development?  For example, our immune system is constantly ‘learning’ through the development of antibodies to connect - in a multitude of possible permutations - with antigens on the surfaces of pathogens and foreign bodies which may infiltrate our blood stream.

In fact, is nature itself not is always in a constant state of flux, continually reshaping and improving itself and therefore learning and re-expressing itself through the process of evolution? Learning and it’s outcome, knowledge, is the universal truth, the only truth which reveals all that is hidden and which unlocks the infinite beauty of the universe all around us, our universe and therefore our own creation propagated through our mental perception. Here, we may even digress into pondering how nature stores the huge amount of information that it ‘learns’ about itself, for there is no database or ‘cloud’ server on which it can store all the data it has assimilated about its own evolutionary self. Nature’s database exists in nature itself. In the leaves of plants, in the DNA of every living organism, in the trees, in the wind, in the sea, in the motion of the planets, in fact all of creation itself is a huge database which stores archived information about itself. The most perfect database in fact, because it has been able to store data about itself, completely and perfectly, right from the beginning of time and is able to retrieve that data instantly to create the change with which it improves itself. What a beautiful notion this is: To understand nature itself and how it is able to create itself. This is the power of true knowledge, the knowledge of the Universe and therefore the knowledge and nature of pure learning itself. No magazine or TV programme or website can show you this, you have to seek and find this truth yourself.

Now that we have defined the wider scope of what learning is, let us go back to our important missing layer, which we should look to weave into the fabric of our everyday lives. I call this the ‘execution layer’.

As aforementioned, we know how important learning and knowledge is to absolutely all aspects of our lives. We also know how important it is to clearly define what we want out of our lives and how crucial it is to set our own goals and not to follow the goals set for us by others. Your goals should be your goals first and only then, should they be supported by external sources and not vice versa. So now, the only question remains is how to integrate the achievement of those goals into the fabric of our everyday lives, so that such goal achievement becomes a habit, something we do naturally without even thinking, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute and even second by second, so that whenever one chooses to do so, each moment of one’s life counts for something and has meaning beyond the ordinary. How to achieve this, forms the idea behind ‘Microtasking’ and successful attainment of one’s goals is the singular aim of ‘Microtasking’.

Microtasking to learn a language:

Let’s say one of your goals is to learn a new language. You take language classes and learn a lot during these. However, it seems that you’ve been taking the classes for some time and still you are not quite using it to the level you want and you feel that you are not fully absorbing everything you learn to a level where your spoken word or your written material in that language is as accurate or articulate as you would want it to be. You feel that you simply cannot cross that barrier between being a basic speaker to a level where you are truly using the language to communicate and express fully everything that is on your mind.  So what do you do? How do you take it to the next level?

By applying a number of simple Microtasking techniques, you can achieve this goal without drastically changing your life or taking away the pleasure out of learning the language altogether. To tackle this task, quite simply set yourself a very small task (or Microtask) to learn just two words per day. You could make it two words or two grammatical formations or indeed anything you wish, relating to what you wish to learn. If you wish, you could even make it just one word or one grammatical formation; it doesn’t affect the effectiveness of the Microtask. For now, let’s say you have set yourself just one word per day as your target. To learn this word completely and in all contexts, you would need to know its meaning in your own language, how it is written and how it is spoken. Additionally you may decide to construct a few sentences to understand how and in which context the word is used. You then focus for just a few minutes during the day to learning that word. If possible, use the word in your conversation if indeed you are using the language on a day to day basis or living / working in the country where the language is spoken. Repeatedly and whenever you have a moment, just write the word down if it is a complicated word which needs to be written down a few times. Take the tiny ‘Micro’ moments of your day, just when you may have thirty seconds or a few minutes and use them to think about and learn that word. For example, you may be waiting for somebody and you may wish to practice the word then or you may have a moment whilst you are performing a mundane task like washing or cleaning. Whenever, you do it, do commit yourself to learning that one word before the day is up. If you really consider the options, for example, when you are washing or waiting for someone, you could either just think about nothing in particular as we normally do when we are carrying out such activities or you could consciously decide to focus your mind just for those few moments towards more productive or gainful thoughts.
Most of the time, when we are in ‘automatic’ mode, we think about all sorts of things that are not necessarily so important; so when you have those fleeting moments of time during the day when your mind is not really occupied in any specific activity, then why not put it to better use? It is simply a matter of making a conscious decision to do so and being better aware of the times when a ‘Microtask’ can be applied.  

Furthermore, isn’t it far more useful to your personal development if you had already planned for those moments and had decided to actually use them for something like learning? By the end of the day, using just a few tiny micro moments you will know one full word, how it is spoken, written and the sentences in which it appears. Now this may not seem like a huge achievement. However, try repeating with a new word every day for a whole year. If you do nothing else, not even go to language classes, you will still know a full 365 words or grammatical formations of a new language by the end of the year. How about if you were learning two words per day? That’s 730 new words or grammatical formations in a year. Did you change your lifestyle? Did you take out any special time to learn? The answer is no! Yet you taught yourself or significantly improved upon a new language in a year. Many expats living overseas still do not speak the language after two or three years living in the country. Yet if you apply the principles of Microtasking, you can get there in less than a year. Now let’s consider other possibilities. Let’s say you drive to work. Why not play a language CD in the car whilst you are on the road. It’s idle time anyway right? How about picking up the newspaper in the foreign language and just reading it? Don’t worry if you don’t understand it, just try to read it. You will be amazed at your own capabilities to absorb, retain and process information that seemingly makes no sense, yet still somehow takes shape and form within the processes of your mind. (See additional article on speed learning and the ability of the brain to organize disparate non-connected information + video on the relational data model of the human mind. Plus article on learning for the fast developing minds of children). 

Another possibility, how about using an online translator every day to just learn one sentence per day? What about watching a movie that you know and enjoy, but switching to foreign language sub-titles? The possibilities are limitless. Your mind simply cannot help but learn the language, without you even trying or making any conscious effort to do so. I taught myself how to speak German in three months simply by printing sheets with essential words and grammatical formations and taking them into the sauna with me during my daily visit to the gym. Whilst I sweated it out, I used those few moments to teach myself German. Sure, I occasionally got a few inquisitive looks from others, but who cares? I knew what I wanted to achieve and set out to achieve it in the few 'Micro-moments' during my day when I really have nothing else to do or occupy my mind, so I really don’t give a monkeys ass about what anyone else thinks. This is the essence of Microtasking, knowing what you want and being just a little brave in going out to get it, without significantly disturbing the regular pattern of your life.

All of this may make logical sense and seems like the obvious, but how many people adopt such a method towards their development? I haven’t seen or heard of many. Yet it is so very effective.

Microtasking to Improve health:

Let’s take another example. Let’s say your goal is to get fitter and reduce a little weight. So with the Microtasking approach, what would you do? Firstly, and most simply, when in buildings with more than one floor, you could just decide to always take the stairs instead of the lift. Even one flight of 20 stairs multiplied by 365 days equates to 7300 steps climbed in one year. That’s five times to the top of the Eiffel Tower or one seventh of the climb to the top of Mount Everest.  How about every time you go for the bus? Even if you are well in time, why not run to the bus stop instead of walking? What about walking to the local store to pick up a few items instead of taking the car every time? On their own, such activities seem insignificant, however, combine them and repeat them on a regular basis and suddenly the Microtasks all add up to macro level activities which add significant value to your personal development. There are hundreds of such Microtasks that you could apply during your day which will contribute towards your fitness and health without you really making any more significant effort than you did before. This does not mean that we should all cancel our gym memberships and resort to running up and down stairs in tall buildings instead. No, the main point is that you can incorporate Microtasking right into the fabric of your life without changing your lifestyle significantly, to achieve amazing results. In fact, even at the gym, Microtasking can be applied in various ways. For example, many people go to the gym and work mediocrely hard at some exercises, not because they really enjoy them, but more because they feel they have to, in order to get fit. However, how much more could you achieve if you were to switch your activities to doing only those which you actually enjoy? Some people like to run, some to lift weights and others still, might like the more structured approach of spinning classes or aerobics or weight lifting. However, many people will do one type of activity over another, not necessarily because they like it, but because they feel it will make them fitter and may therefore ’feel‘ it’s the right thing to do. But that’s counterproductive, for you can never truly excel in something, if you are doing it for the wrong reasons.

Given that one always performs better when doing something one likes, why not switch to doing what you like to do? Chances are that you will enjoy the experience more and as a result work harder at it, enabling you to thus become fitter in a shorter space of time.

Microtasking to lose weight:

For the weight loss part, let’s say you take one sugar in your tea or coffee. So during an average day in which you consume maybe two or three cups of tea or coffee, why not drop the spoon of sugar from just one of them? You’re not stopping all the sugar you consume in one day, just one single ‘micro’ spoon of sugar less per day. It is an amount small enough not to cause you to want to compensate by binge eating or cause you to have sugar cravings, yet it is enough to make a significant difference in the long term. One spoon less per day equates to several 1kg bags of sugar less circulating your bloodstream every year and it does not matter how you look at it, you cannot deny that there must be at least some health benefits associated with such an insignificant, yet essential reduction in sugar consumption.

It is a little known scientific fact that there is a time delay between the consumption of food (especially fat) and the sending of the message to your mental receptors that you have consumed enough and that you are now ‘full up’. This time delay is typically between 15 to 20 minutes. It is also not so well known that it really does not take much food to fill up an average stomach and that anything in excess of this is simply stored around the organs and under the skin as subcutaneous fat. So how can we deploy a tricky little Microtask to turn these facts to our advantage? Now, the truth is, that when you feel hungry, you feel that you could eat a lot. It is not that your capacity for food has increased, nor that you are a greedy person. Quite simply, it is a case that your brain is overcompensating for your hunger by demanding a lot of food. This goes back to our primitive nature, dating back to when food was scarce. Thus in times when food was available, our evolving minds were programmed to consume as much as possible in order to conserve energy within the body to overcome periods of food scarcity. However, as aforementioned, there is a trigger mechanism in the brain that tells our bodies to stop eating once we have reached a certain capacity. This trigger has a time delay built into it to allow us to over-consume for the aforementioned reasons. The trouble with this is that although this mechanism served our ancestors very well, today, we no longer need to conserve energy as food is in plentiful supply, in fact, most would agree, too plentiful. Nevertheless, we can ‘trick’ this mechanism in order to eat less with the help of a simple ‘Microtask’. Next time you are really hungry, don’t worry, go ahead and cook or order as much as you like. But this time, also make sure you cook or order a big starter dish, even if you don’t do so normally. Now go ahead and enjoy that starter. Once this is done, you’ll most likely still feel hungry as your mind is attuned to expect more (as it was only a starter right?) and your primitive self demands more because it thinks it’s going hunting later on in sub-zero temperatures with nothing more than an animal skin to keep it warm. So it thinks it’s going to need the extra energy anyway. Now here’s the ‘Micro-trick’: Before you start on the main course, just give yourself 15 to 20 minutes. Don’t worry even if the food is ready and hot and calling out to you. Just wait for that short period of time. After this waiting time, it is an almost guaranteed fact that miraculously, you will not feel hungry anymore. At the very least, you will feel significantly less hungry and therefore less able to eat the full main course. There you go, you have just ‘Microtasked’ your way out of consuming more calories than you need, simply by giving your stomach the time to send the message to your mental receptors that you are now ‘full-up’. Try it, it really works! Sure, on this occasion, you may end up wasting some food, but as this little ‘Microtask’ becomes a habit, not only will you confer health benefits upon yourself by reducing your tendency to overeat, you will also most likely save yourself some money by reducing your restaurant or shopping bills.

Microtasking to improve your finances:

As we’re on the subject, let’s now move onto the application of ‘Microtasking’ to personal finance. As much as we all like to believe the notion that someday, we will all become rich (and how do we define ‘rich’ anyway? See article on winning the race of life) most of us come to the realization at some point, that the only way we are going to accrue the required financial resources to secure our future, is going to have to be through slogging it out in our careers and saving as much as possible over a long period of time. Trouble is, that many of us realize this really late in our lives (probably as a result of the increasing burden of responsibility that comes with time). So how do we ‘Microtask’ our long term savings and the growth of our financial safety net?

Firstly, never treat a loan like a loan! Invest part of it back! If you must take a loan for whatever reason, then why not apply a ‘Microtask’ to it? If possible, when you take the loan try to take a ‘Micro-amount’ more than you need. This could be any small percentage such as 1% to 5% of the original amount that you had decided you needed. It is this ‘Micro-amount’ that is the most value to you out of the whole loan, because it is precisely this ‘Micro-amount’ that you should use to invest either in a safe saving plan or maybe a safe trading option on the stock market which you might assess with the help of a reputable stock trading agency or professional (if you are not comfortable with it yourself). Or you may simply put it away into your savings account for a rainy day. The beauty of this is that the Micro extra amount you borrowed (which forms part of the much larger amount that you were going to borrow anyway), instead of becoming a burden, will actually work the opposite way to ultimately reduce a little bit of your burden in the long term. Furthermore, the Micro amount extra that you will have borrowed, will not significantly increase the payments that you were going to make anyway to repay the full loan, so on one hand you will have the loan and on the other, you will be using at least a small part of the same loan towards savings and, as we all know, small amounts eventually add up to big amounts!

Whilst, I accept that such a proposal may be unrealistic and untenable for many people as they may already be borrowing to their limit, nevertheless, the example gives you an idea of how the principles of ‘Microtasking’ can be applied across many and varied aspects of your life. It also gets you thinking about creative ‘Microtasking’ solutions to a wide spectrum of life’s challenges and this is the more important point to consider here. Personal finance is a sensitive issue for many people and this article does not purport to advise anyone on what to do or not to do, nevertheless, the example simply illustrates one possibility amongst many which you can find simply by switching your focus a little towards a different approach to getting the best out of every situation.

Microtasking to curb undesirable habits:

Let us now move onto habitual behavior. Let’s say you are a smoker. Now as a smoker, there a number of additional habits surrounding your smoking habit, which you will have acquired over time and which serve to reinforce your smoking habit. Also as a smoker, you will know what these are, such always smoking after a meal or always smoking with your cup of tea or coffee in the mornings. Put all of these factors together and you realize that you have created justifying sub-habits or ‘Micro-habits’ that support and influence your main smoking habit and as a result, you find that you just can’t quit. That’s OK, don’t quit if you don’t want to. However, you can at the very least, ‘Microtask’ your way to smoking less.

Let’s say that in a given 24 hours you spend 8 hours sleeping and about one hour occupied in other activities, like getting ready for work in the morning etc. This leaves 15 hours during which you may potentially smoke. As a long term smoker and based on this timing, you may have settled down to a steady 15 cigarettes per day, which is approximately one cigarette per hour. In some of these hours, you may smoke more and in others, maybe less, but on average, it’s about 15 per day. Now, do you think it may just be possible, at the very least, to reduce this to 14 (instead of 15) cigarettes per day with the application of a Microtask? The way to achieve this it is to do just one ‘Micro-activity’ differently during your day with the application of a tiny ‘Micro-change’ in the habits that support your smoking habit. Maybe you could skip the tea or coffee in the morning, after which you always smoke, or maybe have one cigarette less on your journey home from work, opting instead to occupy your mind in an alternative activity just for the few moments when you have the craving to smoke?  If you travel by train, maybe occupy your mind by reading a short snippet from the newspaper whilst you wait for the train (when you might normally smoke a cigarette) or if you drive and smoke, maybe switch to a different radio station and occupy yourself for a few moments in finding the best one? These are just examples, in reality, there are lots of options open to you. If you try this, you will be amazed at how quickly your mind can be diverted and how you find that before long, you have broken your habitual cycle, even if it was just for one hour and even if it resulted in you smoking just one less cigarette per day. Nothing significant will have changed in your life; however, you will find that by making ‘Micro-changes’ to the supporting ‘Micro-habits’, results in a multitude of knock-on changes in your actions towards your 'bigger' undesirable habits.

Let’s consider the benefits of this. If you were to overcome just one of those cravings during the day by applying a ‘Microtask’ and put off smoking for just one hour (based on an average of one cigarette per hour, it could also be half an hour if, for example, you are smoking 30 per day), then that one less cigarette smoked per day equates to 365 cigarettes smoked less per year. That’s almost two duty free packs of 200 cigarettes that you will have smoked less of per year. What if were to reduce by two a day, and so on? The enormous benefits very quickly start to add up and it’s not possible to conceive, by any stretch of the imagination, that this could not be a good thing! If nothing else, you will have saved a significant amount of money and that’s got to be beneficial!

When it comes to any undesirable habit which may harm you or those around you, whether financially or otherwise, it becomes a very difficult task to reconcile the harm you do, with the overpowering compulsion of the habit itself. Most times, the habit wins. Thus, you ultimately admit defeat and surrender to the habit, realizing in the process, that you can’t conceivably beat it or overcome it. With ‘Microtasking’, you’re not dealing with the big habit any more. Instead, you are dealing with the ‘Micro-habits’ which surround the addictive or undesirable habit. These ‘Micro-habits’ are not addictive and therefore, far more manageable. Consider then, how one might apply ‘Microtasking’ to helping overcome habitual gambling? The possibilities are limitless!

In fact, the boundless applications of Microtasking can be applied to learning, self-development, self-improvement, personal relationships and many other areas of one’s life. On a very simplistic level, the principle underlying the idea of Microtasking is that you treat your life’s goals as a series of ‘goal’ buckets. Each bucket represents a goal which you have decided for yourself, that you wish to fulfill. Now imagine drops of water filling up those buckets over a period of time. These drops are your ‘Microtasks’. Just like regular buckets, eventually they will fill up and overflow with water. It’s the same with your ‘goal’ buckets. Keep filling them with ‘Microtasks’ and before you know it, you will start reaching your goals because one by one, your ‘goal’ buckets will fill up too. Thus, you succeed in your goals ‘Micro-drop’ by ‘Micro-drop’.  As one bucket is filled, you switch to another, which could be a new goal. What’s more, you can even combine Microtasks to magnify their effect. For example, the earlier mentioned reduction in sugar could be combined with the reduction in smoking by simply dropping one cup of coffee or tea completely from your day, assuming that you have sugar in your drink and that you are also a smoker.  All this, by simply going about your daily activities, much the same as you have always done, except that now, you’re filling those tiny time and activity gaps, that were there anyway in your life, with gainful, focused activity. Over time, you become a habitual ‘Microtasker’ and therefore, more efficient and successful at achieving your goals.

With ‘Microtasking’, no matter how large the tasks in hand, taken in small manageable amounts, your goals suddenly become easy and possible to achieve. Furthermore, with Microtasking, you formalize the individual processes in reaching a goal and allow them to become integrated directly into your life in a highly focused way. This is very empowering and allows you to take control of events that lead to success. I even applied Microtasking to the writing of this article after a long period of postponement. Now, I feel in control again and confident that I will be able to manage and actually complete all my writing projects much better through Microtasking. 

Conversely, if you perceive all your goals and tasks as one huge task which must be achieved all at once, it seems like an impossible mountain to climb and you are defeated by your own pre-conceptions, fears and inhibitions before you even make a start.

In this way, Microtasking is a philosophy you adopt within your life which empowers you to achieve your goals. It enables your subconscious decisions to become conscious, manageable and executable actions with tangible results. In particular, the decisions about how you use Micro amounts of your time start to have a deeper significance and add greater value to your life when you Microtask. Even if you have the determination and resources to succeed, but you lack the life philosophy which integrates your life fully with the achievement of your goals, your attempts at achieving your goals become an increasing challenge and burden which eventually you cannot bear. Thus, you return to your old self, which is what you don't want. The more you Microtask, the better you become at recognizing and achieving your personal goals!

Suddenly, you find that your Microtasks have become Macrotasks with Macro level results. The only stipulation or 'rule' that should be applied for successful Microtasking is that you should be consistent. Whatever you decide you want to apply Microtasking to, you should ensure that you Microtask on that goal or subject regularly and consistently. Only then do you see the BIG result of all the Micortasks accumulated together. Clearly, just carrying out individual Microtasks once in a while, will bear no real tangible results. This is why, in particular, Microtasking is best applied to activities that are already regularly present in your life and have reached a steady state whereby they are quite constant and unchanging. Examples as mentioned above are, languages, where you've reached a certain level to communicate enough to get by, but you can't really jump to the next level; or eating habits, whereby you are settled in your eating behavior but you want to make a change for the better; or smoking, whereby you have reached a steady state of cigarettes that you smoke per day and want to instigate a reduction in how much you smoke, and so on. It is a little like a train heading on one track towards the wrong station. The train is going one way and the only way to make a change in its direction will be to very slightly move the tracks, so that over the long journey, the train eventually arrives at the right station. You cannot change the momentum of the train, nor can you just switch it to a completely different track or direction all of a sudden. It will crash if you do this. So you gently steer it in the right direction and over time, it follows the correct path with little change in speed or momentum. 

Also you should only apply Microtasks to the number of 'Goals' that you can manage. There is no point in 'Microtasking' everything. If you do this, all the Microtasks become one big 'Macrotask' and are thus rendered ineffective. Plus, you need time for yourself and to live your life freely. Microtasking is simply filling gaps that you can afford to fill and not meant as a complete take-over of your life. This should nevertheless, not be a 'get-out clause'. Decide to 'Microtask' a limited number of aspects of your life, but do stick with the plan you made for yourself once you have started!       


I like to develop and ‘help’ myself every day, but so far, I have been fortunate with being able dispense with the need to turn to magazines, morning TV shows or online articles to tell me how to do so. I just Microtask based on the goals I’ve set for myself, which I (and only I) have decided are important to me and make each moment of my life count as much as I possibly can.

Be Extraordinary, it’s bloody boring being Ordinary! 

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