How Time Chunking Can Help You Get More Done [Work and Life]

Today's digital workplaces are full of new distractions, time-sucking interruptions, and fragmented work schedules. You need a new mindset for dealing with them — and getting more done in the process. That's where time chunking and Ninety's To-Dos tool can help.

Time chunking does what multitasking can't: It elevates your focus so you can guarantee a value-driven finish on every project you're working on.

Organizing all your projects with Ninety's To-Dos feature is better than using spreadsheets to track your progress. The data integrates with your goals and priorities, so you know you're getting closer to completion without wasting time.

What is Time Chunking?

Time chunking is a way of allocating blocks of time more effectively throughout your workday. Chunking enables you to focus your energy on one project at a time so you can actually finish it and get better results.

People who chunk time:

  • Have more control over how they produce effective outcomes for their work.
  • Focus their time and effort on meaningful or purposeful goals.
  • Stay on task better to get through their to-do lists and beyond.
  • Don't let interruptions stop the flow of work.
  • Avoid switching their attention constantly among different or smaller tasks.
  • Don't have to react to constant distractions.
  • Get smart stuff done without stress or burnout.

Time chunkers organize their lives better, shift their focus to the things that matter the most to them, and are motivated to do what it takes to succeed. They have a clear sense of purpose inspiring their actions, so they feel less stress and anxiety and more fulfillment and joy. Ready to join their bandwagon? 

Why You Should Try Time Chunking

Chunking time banishes the pain and frustration of multitasking, replacing it with energized feelings of accomplishment.

Because you plan your work by dividing time into segments and devoting each segment to specific tasks, you're more likely to complete each one intentionally. You'll avoid reacting to a huge to-do list and constant interruptions all at once. And you will likely do it all better.

By breaking up your time into dedicated chunks, you'll get much more accomplished throughout the day. This even works for less demanding to-dos like responding to emails, making phone calls, or scheduling meetings. Simply batch smaller tasks like these together into their own chunk of dedicated time.

How Chunking Works

Here's a timeline that illustrates how chunking works.

Schedule your entire workday into 30-minute segments, or chunks. During each 30-minute chunk: 

  • Spend 25 minutes working on a specific task or batch of tasks. 
  • After 25 minutes, take a five-minute break.
  • Repeat the 25/5-minute sequence four times. After that, take a 15-minute break.

Tips From Time Chunkers

  • Chunking requires that you have a work period followed by a break period.
  • Twenty-five-minute work chunks are long enough for you to focus on doing one thing and ignoring everything else. It could be a single task or a batch of small, related tasks done one at a time.
  • Five-minute breaks are long enough for you to stop what you're doing and get up, stretch your legs, or get a snack. There's not enough time for you to be distracted from your specific task by social media feeds, videos, or any other activity that can interrupt focused work.
  • Do what works for you. Try 40-minute work periods and 10-minute breaks, if you prefer.
  • The biggest benefit of time chunking is that it can help improve your focus on a specific task. You don't necessarily need to finish the task in one work session. Set a completion deadline and estimate a chunking schedule to meet it.

Why Time Chunking Works

People can get overwhelmed by the sheer number of things that have to get done in a day. This creates stress and anxiety that's difficult to work through effectively.

The paralyzing feeling of having too much to get done can stop you in your tracks. You feel unable to act or simply tackle your to-do list. You may move forward timidly. You can be tempted to multitask or procrastinate. Your focus can fracture. You start to feel less productive and more inefficient and ineffective.

Research consistently shows that people can only focus on a few things at once, regardless of how skilled they are at juggling multiple projects. Time chunkers improve their abilities with the brain's natural tendency to see patterns, which helps them focus better on what needs to get done.

Productivity expert Cal Newport, author of the book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, advocates for time chunking. “Sometimes people ask why I bother with such a detailed level of planning,” he said. “My answer is simple: it generates a massive amount of productivity. A 40-hour time-blocked work week, I estimate, produces the same amount of output as a 60+ hour work week pursued without structure."

Why Chunking Is Better Than Multitasking 

Chunking helps you handle the distractions of a digital world with better results.

Without email, messaging apps, communications tools, and collaboration platforms, it would be almost impossible for you to get your tasks done from somewhere other than the office. That's how technology has enabled more and more people to live a Work from Anywhere life.

No matter where you're working, you may spend too much of your day trying to fit more work into less time. Watercooler chitchat, lunchroom breaks, and office phone calls may have reincarnated into texting, social media scrolling, and Slack messaging. Still, the effect is similar: You're bombarded by distractions and interruptions that take your mind off the tasks at hand.

How do you overcome the constant digital interruptions and get any substantial creative work done? Two of your options are multitasking and chunking.

You may try to flex your hyper-refocusing skills and multitask to get work done, dividing your attention across many to-dos at once and increasing the probability of mistakes.

While it makes your working memory and attention span work harder, multitasking also activates the brain to meet the increased demand. Researchers have discovered that once the brain achieves a higher level of activation, people can use the extra energy of cognitive flexibility in new ways — like boosting creativity.

As a result, the appeal of multitasking endures. That's why people keep doing it.

But productivity experts agree that the benefit of multitasking is a myth. Doing several tasks at once still means extra work for the brain — which could just as likely lead to a foggy, exhausted focus. Some even think multitasking cannot guarantee that you'll be able to complete any of your tasks better.

Why Time Chunking Is Effective

Chunking is effective mostly because multitasking isn't. Here's more of what researchers have discovered:

Researchers also give these reasons for why chunking works:

  1. It allows ample time for the brain to focus without forcing too much.
  2. The tendency to procrastinate is greatly reduced.
  3. Distractions from multitasking are decreased.
  4. It helps people actually complete tasks rather than endlessly working on them.
  5. Attempts at perfectionism are discouraged.
  6. People become better at estimating how long it takes to complete tasks successfully.  

How to Use Time Chunking at Work 

Time chunkers can set work boundaries that respect work-life harmony, especially when working remotely, in a hybrid environment, or from anywhere.

  • When people consistently work after hours or over weekends, it can eventually lead to burnout. Productivity can be interrupted because they must focus on getting motivated again.
  • People can have the freedom to take "Do Not Disturb" chunks to focus on complex creative tasks.
  • Leaders can coach team members to understand that not all requests (that are also interruptions) require immediate responses all the time. They will learn to discern between requests that truly need a response in real-time and those that can wait for an answer.
  • People can use a single channel for emergency requests and urgent communications and establish an appropriate timeline for response.

How to Get Started With Chunking at Work

To start chunking, pick a single task you already do. Set aside the time you know it will take to complete it and get to work. Ignore texts. Don't check your email. Turn the alerts off on your phone. Just work on that one task in the time you chunked out.

Do the same with other regular tasks. Focus on one at a time, chunk your days out, and it will start to feel like second nature after some practice. You should notice an improvement in productivity, more free time, more focus, less stress and pressure, and a feeling of achievement.

Once you feel confident with time chunking, relate it to your purpose. This is when chunking gets really powerful.

Relating tasks to your purpose elevates them from things that need to be checked off your to-do list to desired outcomes that lead somewhere. You won't let all the details cause you stress or anxiety — you'll get them done so you can focus on the greater goals, your purposeful priorities. Working on your purpose will inspire the decisive action you need to succeed.

How to Get Started with Chunking in Your Life

If you want to be a time chunker, the first step is to establish good reasons for organizing your time and getting things done. Start by:

  • Writing down your life goals. These are your reasons. Make them unique and meaningful to you.
  • Shifting your mindset to one where you'll be more productive and effective.
  • Creating a sense of accountability for yourself that compels you to act on achieving them. 

Time Chunking Examples in Practice

These five simple examples of chunking are used by experts to:

  • Balance the effort of multiple projects.
  • Avoid trying to do too much.
  • Get more done in less time.
  • Create less stress and pressure during the workday.
  • Enable feelings of achievement.
  • Make more free time.

1. Making a List

  • List everything you need to do, down to the smallest task.
  • Start your list with the important tasks that demand an urgent use of your time and energy.
  • Include strategic goals, relationship-building goals, and operational tasks. Everything.
  • Focus on your long-term goals, which helps keep stress at bay.
  • Use your primary purpose to inspire an effective action plan to achieve even the short-term goals and tasks.
  • Structure your list to give you a quick overview of your priorities.
  • Revisit your list often and update it as soon as you discover more things you need to do.

2. Blocking Time

  • Break your working hours into chunks of time for specific purposes, like the things on your to-do list.
  • Schedule uninterrupted time to get your tasks done.
  • Identify your most productive hours of the day, then use that time to work on your most demanding tasks.
  • Chunk time in your schedule for meetings, collaborating with your colleagues, socializing, and personal time for recharging.

3. Doing One Task at a Time

  • Choose one of your tasks and concentrate on it until it's done.
  • Doing one thing at a time supports the speed and accuracy required to finish effectively and helps you produce a better outcome.
  • Avoid any interruptions when you are working on your one task.
  • If you think of other things you need to do, try not to switch to doing them. Make a note of them so you can allocate time to do them later.

4. Sticking to the Plan

  • Be disciplined.
  • Start time chunking with small tasks and amounts of time. Work for 20–25 minutes throughout your day, then take a five-minute break. As you get used to chunking, gradually increase your work time.
  • Follow whatever schedule you've set for yourself.
  • Avoid procrastination.
  • Set deadlines for each thing you need to do so you can track your progress.

5. Reviewing the Results

  • Regularly track the number of to-dos you've accomplished through time chunking.
  • Assess your progress to determine how time chunking is working for you. Adjust accordingly.

How Ninety Makes Time Chunking Better

Creating personal To-Dos in Ninety helps you choose a single task, allocate a specific time chunk to work on it, and get it done well.

By contrast, multitasking can actually reduce the quality of your work and can even make it take longer to complete a task.

Committing to a professional or personal goal is harder if you don't have a plan to make it a reality. Ninety's To-Dos tool helps you build that plan so you can:

  • Begin your day with a list of everything you have to do.
  • Assign blocks of time to work on each thing with uninterrupted focus.
  • Stick to your agreements.

Using Ninety's integrated tools, you can even connect your to-do list to your goals and priorities, make goal Milestones into To-Dos, and track your progress.

Create Your Time Chunking To-Dos in Ninety

Now that you know the benefits of time chunking, it's time to put your knowledge into practice:

Create your time chunking To-Dos in Ninety now.

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