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Work Less, Accomplish More: How To Time Chunk
Author: Marla Tabaka
Monday, April 2, 2018

There’s a place for everything, they say. Springtime inspires us to find a home for the everyday things that clutter up our space, whether it’s a decorative bin—or the trash bin. With everything in its place it’s easier to concentrate and, for most people, there is an uptick in productivity. Studies show that physical clutter competes for your attention, resulting in decreased performance and increased stress.

Likewise, when your brain is burdened with sorting out everything you have to do it becomes cluttered and inefficient. When you have to-do items free-floating in your head your brain isn’t given a chance to focus on any one task. This impacts productivity significantly, right along with creativity and focus. When your brain has too much going on, it splits up its resources and goes in many directions. Therefore, your ability to filter information, switch quickly and effectively between tasks, and keep a strong working memory diminishes greatly.

“But I have so much to do; I can’t just stop thinking about it all,” you may argue. Not to worry, there is a solution. It’s a technique called “chunking”.

By grouping your tasks and projects into categories and assigning a specific length of time to perform these tasks, you will increase your productivity and focus exponentially. You will get more done in less time, how much better can it get?

Chunking is known to decrease stress as well, since you get more done when your brain is allowed to focus, rather than skip from topic to stressful topic. By keeping a to-do list and pre-assigning time to get it all done, you are unburdening your brain, so it can do its job well.

While there are many versions of time chunking processes out there, this is what I find works best for me and my clients.

Begin in the capturing stage.

You must get your ideas and to-do lists out of your head. Write everything down in a list. You’ll have things like, product production, shipping, marketing and sales, email and phone calls, research, administrative work and bookkeeping.

Chunk it out by creating categories.

Once you capture most of what you do with your time, separate it all into categories, like those listed above. Now you will have many lists: one for each primary category. You may even want to have a miscellaneous category but be careful not to spill too much into it.

Assign each category to a timeslot or day on your calendar.

Don’t try to contact me on a Friday morning, because my phone, email and social media accounts are all turned off. Friday morning is my writing and research time, and nothing trumps that. Monday is my admin and marketing day, and from 11:30am to 12:00pm on most days you’ll find me responding to emails. There’s more, but you get the picture. Assign days and times for your categories (not each individual project). Some people like to color code their calendar, use whatever strategies work best for you.

Leverage two-hour chunks.

When you have projects that take a deep amount of concentration, carve out a two-hour chunk for it. So, for instance, if you write weekly blogs the task falls under your marketing category. If you are most creative in the morning, isolate a two-hour chunk of time every week for marketing and dedicate it to blogging. You can carve out other times on your calendar dedicated to other types of marketing tasks. Why two-hours? Because studies show that’s how long your brain can remain in deep concentration before needing a break. If you require more than two-hours, that’s fine, but remember to take a five-minute break every two-hours—more often if you need it.

Do Not Disturb.

This is the single, most important part of chunking. During your two-hour chunks of time you may not allow any interruptions. That’s right, no email, phone calls, or employees and children knocking at your door. If you have children at home think about the tasks for which you need absolute quiet and arrange for a sitter during those chunks. Or use nap time and after bedtime for these tasks. Work-from-home parents have a special challenge, but the more organized you are with your time the more successful you will become, both in business and parenting.

Don’t over-schedule yourself.

Let’s get realistic—stuff happens. If you schedule four two-hour chunks every day you’re not going to succeed in sticking with the plan. With the exception of Fridays, where I spend all morning and some of the afternoon writing, I aim for two two-hour chunks and a couple smaller ones each day. Don’t stress about missed phone calls and emails. You’ll schedule time for those as well. Being available at any time to clients, vendors, family and friends is a poor practice as well as unsustainable.   

Leave time for the unexpected and to tie up loose ends. This is especially important for creatives since we like our freedom and creativity can’t be forced. If you have six to eight chunks per week, you will get more done than you’ve ever imagined.

If this process feels unrealistic or overwhelming to you, begin small. Schedule one or two chunks this week and see how it goes. Make it your own by redesigning the chunking theory so it works best for you.





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