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What is chunking?

Making more time for what really matters to you

How much free time do you have lately? Did that question just make you laugh out loud?

These days, we are pulled in so many directions and we have so many demands placed on our personal and professional lives that the idea of free time usually stays just that ­– an idea. But what if there was a way to bring a higher level of efficiency to our lives?

There is – and it’s called chunking.

What is chunking?

Chunking is the grouping together of information into ideally sized pieces so they can be used effectively to produce the outcome you want without stress or shutdown. The chunking method is used by Tony Robbins to manage his schedule and hundreds of thousands of people all over the world have also discovered the benefits of chunking when it comes to focus and freeing up more time to spend on activities they have a passion for.

Chunking is a core component of the Rapid Planning Method (RPM). RPM is more than a time management system – it’s a way of thinking that can help you to better organize your life. How does the Rapid Planning Method work? By helping you to focus your attention. Where focus goes, energy flows, and when you focus on the key results that are most important in your life, you can maximize your desired outcomes as well as your sense of fulfillment and joy. The reasoning behind the chunking method is that when you have a clear sense of purpose driving your actions, you’ll be more driven to do whatever it takes to succeed.

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How does chunking work?

A major source of stress in our lives comes from the feeling that we have an impossible number of things to do and no time to do them. It’s difficult to manage stress when we feel there are far too many tasks to get done in the course of a day. When we start feeling overwhelmed by what we need to get done, we do things like create to-do lists to feel more organized, but then become frustrated by the sheer number of things on the list before we even start tackling tasks. This often leads to the attempt to multitask, which fractures our attention even more.

We’ll often take an objective and pull it apart into a million pieces or tie it all together into one abstract whole. For example, if you take on a project and do the whole thing all at once, you’re going to be overwhelmed. Similarly, if you take a task and break it into too many small steps, it’s equally overwhelming, daunting and frustrating.

No matter how skilled you are at handling multiple details, most people can only focus on a limited number of things at one time. When most people are learning, they tend to remember things that are grouped into threes. Anything above three “chunks” becomes too much for us to remember. Chunking takes advantage of our brains’ natural tendency to see patterns and to organize and group information.

When people don’t reach their goals, it’s often not because they lack the ability or will power to accomplish their objectives. It’s because of the way they’re focusing on the number of items, or rather, the way they are chunking things is inhibiting their success. 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.

How to use the chunking method

Let’s break down the question “What is chunking?” into a few basic components: capturing, finding commonalities and unlocking your purpose so that you can realize your ultimate outcome.

1. Start by capturing

To begin the chunking process, you must get the ideas out of your head and onto paper (or into your computer or mobile device – anywhere you can record your thoughts). We call this process capturing.

Keeping everything locked up in your mind is just another way to add stress to your life. You need to adopt a routine or habit of always documenting the things you want or need to accomplish. Remember, human beings are able to focus on a limited number of things or tasks at once and choosing your focus is a necessity if you want to accomplish anything. Usually, anywhere from five to nine items can be handled at a time before we lose focus.

Document the ideas, meetings and communications you need to handle and the required results for each section. Capture the things that are a must for you to accomplish, whether they are the things you really want – like getting a promotion at work – or situations that demand your attention, like doing laundry or picking up your kids from soccer practice. Consider this stage of chunking as a dumping ground for your thoughts. Your list may look something like this:

  1. Buy cat food and litter
  2. Buy band outfit for son
  3. Wash and dry dishes and put them away
  4. Develop initial budget for team to review at weekly meeting
  5. Drop off son at band practice
  6. Drop off daughter at choir practice
  7. Gather invoices to review where budget went over last quarter
  8. Create training plan for running group
  9. Pick up son from band practice
  10. Pick up daughter from choir practice
  11. Run five miles
  12. Wipe down kitchen counters and cupboards

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2. Look for commonalities

Now that you’ve captured the things that are a must for you to accomplish, the next step in the chunking method is to begin looking for commonalities. What items relate to finances, relationships or your career, etc.? What items can you group together?

Chunk those items on your capture list that correspond to the most common areas of life mastery: health, meaning and emotions, relationships, time, work/career/mission, finances and even spirituality.

For example, you might want to work on connecting more with a romantic partner. Or perhaps you neglected to get in touch with a friend you’ve been thinking about. Or maybe you have an upcoming family function to get ready for, among a litany of other things “to do.” These items could fall under the general area of “Relationships” and be grouped together with the chunking method.

For the list we created, we can group tasks together that fall into the same category. Picking up and dropping off kids can all be grouped into one category, while developing the budget and gathering invoices can be grouped into another. Finally, developing a training plan and running five miles can be chunked and chores, like washing dishes and wiping down the kitchen, can go together. Now, the 12 tasks that were overwhelming have been chunked into four easy-to-manage groups.

3. Relate it to your purpose

Relating your list to your ultimate purpose in life is essential. Now that you’ve used the chunking method to group items together, it is easier to see what the result you desire is – to sustain and nourish your relationships. In the example we gave above, the clear result is to create more time and decrease stress levels. You can take this a step further and say that decreased stress will help you enjoy your time with your running group and your children. When you’re driven by your purpose, instead of the need to check items off a to-do list, you’ll feel more productive and less stressed. When you feel less stressed, you find more reasons to act instead of making excuses.

When you start thinking of your to-do’s as clusters of desired outcomes, you’ll keep stress at bay and learn to focus on your greater goals, rather than getting overwhelmed with the minute details. Why? Because you will start to feel inspired, rather than forced to follow through. And when you feel so inspired by a purpose, you’ll come up with a more effective action plan to get there.

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4. Take action

Tony says, “Rewards come in action, not in discussion.” Top business leaders, athletes and entrepreneurs know that making lists and chunking tasks can only get you so far. To see real results, you must take decisive action.

Now that you’ve turned your “shoulds” into “musts” by relating your list back to your purpose, you’ll unlock a laser-focus on your goals. Eliminate distractions like your phone, social media and email. Delegate tasks that don’t get you closer to your goals. Focus is the ultimate power that can change the way we think, the way we feel and what we do in any moment. When we change our focus, we change our life.

Your new focus applies to all of your time. Don’t let “downtime” turn into laziness. Read an inspiring book over the weekend. Listen to a podcast on your commute. Use your lunch break at work to journal, brainstorm a new idea or exercise. Successful people use every minute of the day to work toward their goals, and that’s why they see the ultimate results from chunking.

So what is chunking? It’s a method to cut back on details and make your life more manageable. It helps you stop being reactive and start being proactive by deciding in advance which things you’re going to focus on. Start chunking today, and shift your mindset to focus on a brighter future.

Team Tony

Team Tony cultivates, curates and shares Tony Robbins’ stories and core principles, to help others achieve an extraordinary life.

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