365 Ways To Persuade And Motivate: #3 Small Steps

screenshot of 5k appOne of the best ways to motivate people is to stimulate a desire for mastery. People are naturally curious and this curiosity helps people master their environment. People want to learn, improve, and master skills and knowledge.

One of the things you can do to stimulate this sense of mastery is to break things into small steps. Why is that important? Because it makes it easy for people to see their progress, and seeing progress makes people want to keep going.

If you’ve ever used one of the exercising applications, for example “Couch to 5k” or the “10k runner” you will know what I mean. These are apps that you use on your smartphone. They map out an exercise period. You turn on the app as you start your exercise session and the app tells you what to do along the way. At the beginning a voice says for you to walk for 5 minutes to warm up. After that the voice tells you to start running. Two minutes later the voice prompts you to slow down and walk. During the exercise session your screen shows your progress. (See the picture at the top of this blog post). You can see how much time you have been exercising, how much time you have left in the session, and how much time is left in the particular part of this session (for example, you have 30 seconds left to run before it’s time to walk again).

You also get feedback on where you are in the entire 9 week program, for example, you are on Day 2 in the 3rd week. By breaking the entire 9 weeks, and each particular session into small steps, the app can always be showing progress, and that constant feedback on progress towards the goal is very motivating.

You can apply this principle to anything that you want people to do and/or keep doing. Other examples are having people learn a language, or master the steps to be a barista at a coffee shop. Or keeping your audience’s attention and engagement while you are teaching a seminar.

What do you think? Have you used this technique of breaking things into small pieces and showing progress to keep people motivated?

To learn more check out our 1 day seminar on The Science of Persuasion.

100 Things You Should You Know About People: #82 — People Are Motivated By Progress And Mastery

Why do people donate their time and creative thought process to Wikipedia? Or the open source movement? When you stop and think about it you realize that there are many activities that people engage in, even over a long period of time, that require high expertise, and yet are of no monetary or even career building benefit. People like to feel that they are making progress. They like to feel that they are learning and mastering new knowledge and skills.

Small signs of progress can have a large effect — Because mastery is such a powerful motivator, even small signs of progress can have a large effect in motivating people move forward to the next step in a task. At Linked In, they encourage you to finish filling in information on your profile by showing you how much information you have already answered.

Picture of Linked In

LiveMocha is a website where you can learn languages. They have several forms of mastery and progress built in:

At a glance you can see where you are in the course, where you are in the lesson, and how much progress you have made overall.

They have points that you can earn by completing your training, as well as by helping other people learn a language you already know. The points can be accumulated and redeemed for access to premium learning exercises.

Everytime you sign on to LiveMocha you see a dashboard that shows your progress.

Daniel Pink has a great animated video about motivation and mastery from his book, Drive.

What do you think? Are you motivated by mastery?