Hacking Chinese

A better way of learning Mandarin

Goals and motivation for learning Chinese, part 4 – Micro goals

This post is about micro goals. To see the introductory article about goals and motivation in general, please follow this link.

Micro goals

Just like long-term and short-term goals, micro goals have already been introduced, but let’s start from the beginning, shall we? To start with, I think the importance of micro goals is very dependent on personality, even though it should be an important tool for most learners. A micro goal is what it sounds like, a very, very short-term goal, perhaps only an hour or two.

Here is a number of examples:

  • Learn the words for the basic colours
  • Enter words from a chapter in your textbook to your computer
  • Read one chapter in a book
  • Write one diary entry
  • Post a contact add on a forum
  • Review your long-term goals

As you can see, many of these coincide with the short-term goals. For instance, you might have the short-term goal of writing ten diary entries this month, so writing one of them is considered a micro goal because you can probably do it within an hour.

Use micro goals whenever you sit down to study

You can set micro goals whenever you plan to study. Before you start, you simply think through what you want to do and then set about completing the task. If they relate to you short-term goals, you can make notes on that sheet of paper to see how you progress towards those goals. Again, this gives you a feeling of movement, you’re actually learning something.

Another important aspect of micro goals is that they limit your studying. If you just sit down to study characters in general, you might lose focus and feel pretty bored. That might happen if you have a micro goal as well, but the good thing is that you have already said how much you’re going to learn. If you know that you’re going to learn 10 radicals and one sample character for each, when you’ve done that, you’re done! If you want to continue, set up another micro goal.

Micro goals are flexible

For me personally, I seldom write these goals down, but I do try to be conscious about them at all times. If I plan to review vocabulary and have a huge workload (let’s say it would take two hours to review everything I should), I simply say that I will review intensely for 15 minutes and then take a break. This kind of time limited goal is usually called time boxing (please refer to Timeboxing Chinese). If I don’t feel tired, I set a new goal. I never sit down and just review without knowing what I want to achieve, however. If you feel that writing micro goals down, by all means, do so! This is a tool, just like the other goals, use it intelligently.

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  1. Jim Syler says:

    Several typos in this article.

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Good to know, but it would be even better if you pointed them out so I can fix them!

      1. Fabiola says:

        “wand” (want)

        1. Olle Linge says:

          I fixed the typo! Thank you for pointing it out, much appreciated!

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