Creating powerful micro-experiences

In my last post, I talked about how my little one had discovered a micro-experience within a less desirable macro-experience …. This is part 2 of my “pee-break” post.

Don’t we all end up having to do things we wish we did not have to? Like take care of our little ones when they are whiny and sick. Or working for a boss that we do not really like. Or going on play-dates because your kid loves the other child while you have absolutely no connection with that other parent? Or enduring a relationship even though you really have nothing in common with a person?

And these are real HAVE-TO ‘s – not just situations that we are stuck in because we failed to act, like thinking that we are  stuck in a job without ever trying to find another one. Not HAVE-TOs because we are scared of society. These are HAVE-TOs that we know are really good for US in the long run. These are HAVE-Tos that will enhance our lives in ways that are a LOT bigger than the pain and inconveniences they cause us … I  WANT to take care of my kids, I WANT my child to have a fun playdate and I absolutely WANT to maintain a realtionship with a person I adore and respect even if I perhaps have nothing in common with him/her.

The only way for us to really survive these HAVE-TOs well is by designing powerful micro-experiences that will create joy that will spill-over into your not so fun macro-experience, thereby changing the complete experience without quite deviating from the intended goal of the macro-effort.

A micro experience is different from a reward. A micro-experience is eventually supposed to make the whole macro-experience once that you like and start to love. It is not merely an incentive, it is meant to contribute to the overall journey. In some ways, micro-experiences should slowly get smaller and smaller but eventually getting incorporated into a macro-experience.

In order for micro-experiences to work, try to find one that can nicely be integrated into the flow of your work and makes you more effective. You could loosely follow this process –

  • Think of something you really do not like to but is good for you – this is your macro-experience
  • Think of something that you really love to do that you could incorporate here – this is your micro-experience
  • Now, pair the micro-experience you love with your least favorite activity of your macro-experience.

Now, get on with your business. Focus on the goal while trying to enjoy the macro-experience by using your micro-experience as a vehicle to get you from point A to point B, while giving you a little break from the pain.

When you HAVE to endure a macro-experience that you believe is for your ultimate good, all you have to do is insert just the right number of micro-experiences into your macro-experience.

These micro-experiences will work like magic if chosen right. They will

– take little time relative to the macro-experience (really be micro)

– create spill-over joy and excitement for the macro-experience.

– they lead you towards the goal of your macro-experience or even enhance your micro-experience.

– eventually, the micro-experience seamlessly flow into your macro-experience – either by going away or getting nicely integrated into the flow of your macro-experience.

Micro-experiences can end up causing you to cheat if you are not honest with yourself. Scope creep, distraction, inefficiencies and swaying away from your real goal are all dangers of indulging in micro-experiences. In order for this not to happen I make sure I tell stories to myself and the people involved. Like with my little one … to prevent mentions of pee-breaks during the actual dinner, we take a visit BEFORE we eat and I promise one after we are done with dinner. During dinner, we are allowed to talk about the whole process of the “pee-break” with dad and little sister …this is when my older one explains over and over again the rules of using a public toilet – “don’t touch anything , touch only paper, stand away from the walls and so on and so forth …” It makes for good family conversation – if you watched us you’d be jealous of how great a time we were having together except you had no idea WHAT we were talking about 😉

But my point is, it works. We have a great dinner. We ALL enjoy out time together and fulfill our individual desires. And I’d rather have my little one choose to visit the toilets herself than having to force her into it or stressing that she might interrupt dinner and so on …

But the “pee-breaks” also work so wonderfully because we are talking about the “pee-break” is almost always a part of the process of sitting down for dinner – especially with little ones. It would not be so great however if my little one wanted to take a break every 5 minutes.

So be sure to externalize your final goal and admit to yourself that you are indeed “taking a pee-break while the goal is to have dinner together”. Don’t take half hour coffee breaks every hours and try to tell yourself that you are getting work done.

  • Define the start
  • Define the finish line – What is your goal?
  • Externalize your goals and focus on them.
  • What micro-experiences are you incorporating?
  • What is the cost – in terms of time, effort, $ etc.
  • Define a plan – how do you see the micro-experience seamlessly flow into your macro-experience – either by going away or getting nicely integrated into the flow of your macro-experience.

This blog is a micro-experience in my macro-experience of life, kids and work. (I break life by weeks – hence my one post/week format :))I love this blog to death for it grounds me, gets me to look inwards and reminds me to connect with myself and the hearts and souls around me. I spend a lot of time thinking about and writing my posts – doodling, taking notes and applying my own little discoveries and frameworks. It really makes me feel energized to get on with my other work and my life in general. But there are times when I don’t post for a while – and these are the times when writing the blog would take me away from the goals of my life – of being there for my kids and getting my work done. This blog has become my own “pee-break”, truly “relieving” me and leaving me energized enough to last at the “dinner table”.

Be sure your micro-experiences energize you BIG,  take SMALL chunks of time and always lead you towards your final GOAL.

Do you know who Gary Vaynerchuck is? He is a crazy wine guy who started to video blog because he did not like to write on his blog. And today he is a phenomenon! Selling wine, writing books, taking people on a wine cruise …but most of all, having fun! What started off as a fun “micro-experience” soon morphed into the complete experience for Gary. So like Gary, as long as you focus on the goal and go with your passions, you will do just fine.

What are your micro and macro experiences? Do “micro-experiences” work for you? Have you ever designed one consciously?

Creative Commons License photo credit: °__betti__°

  • Beautiful write up and I like your illustrations.It echoes how I chunk up projects.  While I wish every project was an epic adventure, I try to make the most of the micro-journeys along the macro-journey way.It’s similar to software too.  I try to find the micro architecture spikes among the overall macro architecture.  Thin slices can mean a lot.

  • Maya, this is a beautiful concept. I have already started wondering where and how can I implement this in my day to day life. It also brought back memories of some dreary office days where the only motivation to continue working was for the next tea break when we could catch up with friends and share a few jokes (the micro experiences). Ditto while studying.

  • Hi Maya: I like your microexperiences approach.  It’s closely related to the idea of making sure that you schedule fun and pleasurable activities into your day, which is one of the ways to be happy.  In addition, it’s a good way to tackle procrastination because you’re making unpleasant tasks smaller and more manageable and rewarding yourself with positive experiences.

  • I’ve never designed micro experiences. I love the idea, and I love your dinner example. I will give it some more thought and see if I can use it in my own life. Also wanted to tell you that I LOVE this sentence:”This blog is a micro-experience in my macro-experience of life, kids and work”I think I feel the same about my own blog.

  • Hi JD –
    I love the term “thin slices” and LOVE the software analogy. So true about incorporating micro-journeys/architectures in software. I love the feedback I get when I do this and really, it makes for a better outcome and a more robust system in the end, doesn’t it?

    Hi Avani,
    Yes, you remind me of myself in some ways although I loved my work way too much – but I also looked forward to taking a break and catching up with friends at work. I am a very serious – work when I work kind of a person, so taking that break really helped add that human/interaction aspect into my work!

    Hi Mare –
    It is funny how you liken micro-experiences to a lot of what you say in your posts – because I thought of a bunch of your posts when I was writing this. Micro-experiences are indeed hacks to deal with procrastination, get more effective and creative too.

    Hi Vered,
    Isn’t it great that we enjoy our blogs so much? I love my space – thank you for stopping by here. Yes,  I think micro-experiences can be powerful – you could probably use some of them to slow you down some without making it seem like you are trying too hard – the right hacks might really help your pace without affecting your work and/or quality :)

  • I like the idea of creating game-like exercises to make the situation better. My son has been home with flu like symptoms all week. It has been hard watching him be so sick. The micro-experiences I have found include the calm moments we have shared, watching him sleep, and laughing together when he had the energy. All these little things made the week much more manageable. It’s great to be back reading your content!

  • hey ma’am,i think that is precisely what drives the world … when you love your micro-experiences and continue pursuing those small things , you will become better and better at what you’re doing ..eventually, you will reach a stage where you will be able to transform that micro-exp into a macro-exp … i know of so many people who are trying to do just that… at the same time, you ought to have the “intellectual courage” to pursue your interests passionately and not give in to the persistent demands of society/job/other external disturbances…….. slowly, but surely you will realise that it is your HOBBY that can give you much more in terms of everything including money… it will give you a meaningful life !!

  • Maya,Nicely put. The ability to enjoy the journey makes reaching at the destination more fulfilling indeed.

  •  I just typed my responses and lost them!Stacey – thank you – it is so hard isn’t it? Taking care of kids is one of the hardest things ever and I do think microexperiences can be really powerful here.Ankur – perseverence is a big deal. I have never been just really good at anything – so I understand your perspective very well!

  • Great post, Maya. I can see so many applications for this in my life…personal and professional.

  • Very nice analysis on micro experiences I love doing good moment by moment.

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