Using Micro-goals to Tackle Huge Projects​

What is the best way for students to tackle huge projects or essays? To break the tasks into their smallest pieces and tackle those pieces one by one.


I first came across the the idea of micro-progress in this recent New York Times article. What is so great about the idea of micro-goals is that it parses the pieces of a project into the smallest possible parts so that momentum builds when a student gets started on a task.


The article's author, Tim Herrera, says "once you shift your thinking into this frame — I’ve started being productive, so I’m going to keep being productive — you achieve those micro-goals at what feels like an exponentially increasing rate without even realizing it."


And stuff gets done.


How would this look with a typical assignment?


Let's say your child has to write an essay on The Stranger and existentialism. Here are what the first few steps might look like:


1. Open a Google Doc.


2. Name the Google Doc.


3. Write down one idea for how The Stranger demonstrates existentialism.


4. Write down another idea for how The Stranger demonstrates existentialism.


And so on.


Rather than having a more global task like "brainstorm ideas for essay," students break that down into the actual minute steps. Herrera says this works because it uses Newton's first law of motion: an object in motion stays in motion. Once you get started, you often get on a roll. The momentum builds and the essay gets written. And tackling each small task becomes much easier than staring down an entire essay.


Students would only need to practice listing out the micro-goals a few times before they got the hang of it...and having someone there with them to figure out those micro-goals would be a huge help to them.​