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-Do 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 of your projects with Ninety's To-Dos feature is better than using paper spreadsheets to track your progress. The data integrates with your goals and priorities, so you know you're making meaningful progress without wasted 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 more.
- 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 great work done without stress or burnout.
Time chunkers organize their lives better. They shift their focus to the things that matter the most to them. It motivates them to do what it takes to succeed. They have a clear sense of purpose inspiring their actions, so they feel less stress, more fulfillment, less anxiety, and more joy.
The Reason Why You Should Try Chunking
Chunking 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 of time to specific tasks, you're more likely to complete each one intentionally. You'll avoid reacting to a huge to-do list and constant multiple 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 a batch of tasks.
- After 25 minutes, take a five-minute break.
- Repeat the 25/five-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 to stop what you're doing and get up, stretch your legs, or get a snack. There is not enough time to distract you from your specific task by checking social media feeds, watching a video, 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. Realize you don't necessarily need to finish the task in one work session. Set a completion deadline and estimate a chunking schedule for meeting it.
Why Time Chunking Works
People can get overwhelmed by the sheer number of things that have to get done in a day. This can often create stress and anxiety that's difficult to work through effectively.
The paralyzation 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. Your focus can fracture. You start to feel less productive, 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 and performance expert Tony Robbins advocates for time chunking. "When people don't reach their goals, it's often not because they lack the ability or willpower to accomplish their objectives … By taking all that is coming at you and putting it into ideal-sized groups your mind can more easily handle, chunking positions you to accomplish your goals and achieve further success," Robbins says.
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 Work From Anywhere™.
No matter where you're working, you may spend too much of your day trying to fit more work into less time. Watercooler chit-chat, lunchroom breaks, and office phone calls may have reincarnated into texting, social media feeding, and Slack messaging. Still, the effect is similar: You are bombarded by distractions and interruptions that take your mind off of the tasks at hand.
How do you overcome the constant digital interruptions and get any substantial creative work done? Two options available are multitasking and chunking.
You may have 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:
- When people are overwhelmed with interruptions, message notifications, and other distractions, they can lose 10 IQ points on average. That's equivalent to missing a night's sleep and twice as much lost from smoking cannabis.
- Doing two or more tasks at once can drop performance results in at least one of the tasks.
- Constantly shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40% of your productive time.
- Increased multitasking can disrupt your ability to make decisions.
- Multitasking hinders your natural way of processing information, so switching between complex tasks like writing, coding, designing, and visioning too often decreases efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity.
- Scientists have proven that 25-minute work periods are more effective in enabling people to give full focus to a specific task.
Researchers also give these reasons for why chunking works:
- It allows ample time for the brain to focus without forcing too much.
- The tendency to procrastinate is greatly reduced.
- Distractions from multitasking are decreased.
- It helps people actually complete tasks rather than endlessly working on them.
- Attempts at perfectionism are discouraged.
- 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 the work-life balance, 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 utilize 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 ringer 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 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 of 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.
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.
- Break your working hours into chunks of time for specific purposes, i.e., the things on your 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.
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.
Sticking to the Plan
- Be disciplined.
- Start time chunking with small tasks and amounts of time. Work for 20 to 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.
Reviewing the Results
- Regularly track the number of to-dos you've accomplished through time chunking.
- Access 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-Do 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 on Ninety
Now that you know the benefits of time chunking, it's time to put your knowledge into practice: