#SoG 144 - Chunking.

Chunking (#SoG144)

You know Asana? No, not the pose in Yoga. But the tool to keep track of your work and things and all that? I swear if not for Asana, I would not be one-hundredth effective as I am.
And yes, I AM effective.
Most days.
There are days I slack (for example, yesterday - I did not send the SoG) but am trying to make them come few and far between.

So, coming to the thing for the day.
Wait. Why did I talk about Asana?
Because while reading something on Asana's blog (which is a trove of information on productivity), I saw this post that described how to prioritise tasks. And deep in the post was a text about "Chunking". And there was a link to a piece where they've described chunking in detail.

The thing for the day is Chunking!
It is a lifehack to get more things done.
It essentially means that you group similar tasks together and get those done.
It also means that you block a chunk of time and get one thing done without interruptions. It is an uninterrupted block of time, typically allocated to just one task.

For example, when I write these letters, I first allocate a chunk of time (1 hour if you are curious) and then follow these steps.

  • a, I make a list of things that I want to cover

  • b, I write the first draft to give shape to things

  • c, I then insert links (and read text on these links when I am inserting these links)

  • d, and then review what I've written.

Out of these 4 steps, 3 (a, b and d) are where I allocate smaller chunks of time (typically undefined because I don't know how long will I take) and just do that thing. All chunks add up to 1 hour.

When I do c, I chunk all reading together. I just read and collect links in a document. I don't switch between the draft and the thousand tabs on the browser. I just collect. It helps me get things done faster. And allows me to move.

Oh, when I write these, my phone is on silent and generally kept out of reach of my hand. If someone like me can do this (I suspect I suffer from ADHD), anyone can!

The other example is how I use Twitter and other SM apps. I take out 15 mins windows (that extends to hours at times) and get done with!

The point of chunking is that you do NOT switch frequently.
You stick to one thing for a pre-determined chunk of time and till you do that, you do NOT move. These could be high-value tasks (brainstorming, thinking, writing) or could be moderate value. Or could be as useless as watching TV!

Also, if science is to be believed, chunking works!
You know how switching tasks tends to put an additional burden on systems (think of juggling balls, starting and stopping a system frequently), frequent task switching uses more brain power. Each time you switch, you need to switch context and bring certain things to your awareness (RAM) from your memory (permanent storage that fades with time).


So yeah! That's for the day. Chunk your tasks. Allocate time-bound chunks. And thank me :)

Tip. Couple chunking with a variation of Pomodoro and you would become productivity God! Don't make all chunks 25-minute long. But get a timer, allocate time and just do one thing.

The one thing that you can do right now? Forward this to a friend who may need this! :)

Thanks for your time,
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Previous letters are archived here and here.

TAGS: Personal productivity, Asana, Chunking, Focus, Pomodoro


1. I actually started to write this yesterday but I could not complete it. And I really really wanted to send this yesterday. Why? Because I wanted to crack a lame joke about 143. Here.

2. I no longer get guilty pangs when I do not send a letter on a specific day. And I just post an update on my twitter feed that no letter is coming. Like I did yesterday.

If you are a fan of Paul Graham's Maker Manager schedules, you'd love this thread on Twitter that talks about Act and React. Act is when you create value. React is when you give feedback. As a worker, you ought which state you are in. And then play that role. Do read the thread. I will probably write about this one of these days. For the time being, please read!