The text below is an excerpt from the original article by Giovanna Mingarelli, published March 12, 2013 on The Huffington Post.
Many would agree that Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was a successful man. After all, in his life he did everything from discover that lightning is electricity to draft the American Declaration of Independence. He even invented bifocals.
What contributed to his great success in life?
In part, a fierce desire to achieve personal excellence tied together neatly in a practical, daily task-management system.
Beginning in his late twenties, Franklin created a step-by-step system to break down his main objective (in this case, excellence) into bite-size goals, or rather, microtasks. He then arranged each goal (mastering different virtues) by level of priority. He proceeded to focus on mastering each virtue one at a time, where he measured and reviewed his progress routinely, always aspiring to better himself.
Later on, an engineer and the father of modern day management consulting, F. W. Taylor (1856-1915), would revisit microtasking. This time, however, he would use it to create a system to scientifically manage the way people worked. He did this by breaking every action, job, or task into small and simple segments, which could be analyzed and taught.
To scientifically determine the best way to perform a job, Taylor performed what he called “time and motion studies.” Using a stopwatch, he would time a worker’s sequence of motions with the goal of determining the best way to perform a job. Taylor would then template the best sequences and have them reproduced for optimal results later on.
In both Franklin and Taylor’s cases, processes were broken down into microtasks which could be tracked and analyzed. With Franklin, this led to great personal success and with Taylor to critical improvements to economic and labour productivity.
The process of microtasking continues to this day, but its functions are much more diverse. Given the websites and applications that are emerging, microtasks can now form the foundation to incite millions of people to engage in a wide range of activities.