Working Smarter: Chunking


I noticed yesterday, as I sat staring at my four page to-do list at 4 p.m., that I needed to come up with a plan to work smarter. 

Note that I said smarter and not harder. I’m not against working hard, I think working hard is imperative for long-term success. But I already know I work hard, the question is do I work smart? 

In an attempt to work smarter and encourage my team to work smarter, I have decided to incorporate a process labeled “chunking” into my workday routine.

(Yes, I actually wrote down the definition of chunking on the whiteboard so everyone at Old Town Media has to stare at it while in the office).

So, what is chunking?

Chunking is a sorting process that helps efficiency and, in a literal sense, helps with crossing things off your to-do list faster.

According to an article in the New Zealand Herald, there are three styles of chunking:

1. Chunk up to identify the bigger elements of a task, looking for the bigger picture.

2. Chunk down by breaking large blocks of information into smaller snippets.

3. Sideways, or lateral chunking – clump like things together.

Which chunking style am I going to use?

While I think all three styles of chunking have their benefits, the style I am going to focus on is #2, downward chunking.

How does Downward Chunking work?

Downward chunking is a relatively simple concept. At the beginning of each day, take your full to-do list and write down the tasks that you want to complete that day. Then, prioritize that smaller list by number, breaking down very large tasks into smaller, bite-sized pieces of achievable activity.

By turning a very large task into two, three, even four, smaller tasks, you have a more focused goal – one that is less stressful and more achievable.

The challenge of chunking?

Staying focused. Even as I wrote this blog, I responded to seven Google Chat messages, two emails and I actually completed another task (because it popped into my head). That’s not chunking, that is the opposite of what I was supposed to be doing.

To sum it up:

If you’ve been working hard and still feel like your productivity levels could be improved, I highly recommend giving different time management strategies a try. Chunking is just one of many different sorting, goal setting, prioritizing styles that are aimed at improving efficiency.

AND… an infographic for good measure.