The Art Of “Chunking” To Get Things Done

Have you ever felt like you know what you need to do but can’t find the motivation to get it done? Managing to get the “to-do’s” done on a daily basis but not making enough progress on the big things is a struggle many people face at some point in their lives, whether it be personal or professional. I have a theory that people focus on what is in front of them, not the bigger things because looking at what needs to be done can feel overwhelming and daunting. Many people tell me at my workshops and when I speak that they suffer from this same problem – knowing a big project should be put in place, but never finding the time to make inroads.

I remember when I wanted to write my first book and was running my business full-time – teaching two courses, raising three small kids at home, doing volunteer work and having very little time to myself. It was completely overwhelming.

I learned then, it’s important to look at each and every large initiative and “chunk down” what you need to get done. Identify what it is you need to do and break things down into the smallest, most discreet step possible. Ask yourself “what’s the one thing I can do right now?”

For example, doing a better job of maximizing technology is big and daunting. To chunk it down:

  1. Identify what technology you want to examine – if you are reviewing what’s in place today;
  2. Identify what technology is missing if you want to consider what you can buy;
  3. Consider how things are working today – what obstacles do you have relative to technology;
  4. Interview stakeholders within your firm to find out what’s working and what’s not;
  5. Review a chat within a group on LinkedIn where advisors might be talking about technology to gain ideas;
  6. Interview a couple of technology vendors;
  7. Consult with your custodian and see if they have resources to provide;

There may be more steps, but this serves as an example. Now look at each of these steps and ask how much time will each one take. If you want to examine existing technology, you need to make a list of what to review. How long would it take you to make this list? One hour? 90 minutes? Once you break the steps down, and establish the associated time that goes with it, put that task on your calendar. Look at when you have this window of time that won’t be stolen by another priority. Don’t worry about completing the task now, just worry about identifying it and figuring out the associated time. Capture when you will do it and then forget about it until the time comes!

Do this for each of the steps you have outlined. Make sure you identify realistic timing. If something is likely going to take you 3-4 hours, don’t assume you can get it done in 45 minutes! And if you don’t have a 3-4 hour block, then break the task down even further.

Very importantly, as you break things down, consider to whom you might be able to delegate tasks. When I was writing my first book, I didn’t even realize (at the outset) I would need an editor, proofreader, designer for the cover, internal layout, etc. until I started making my list. I’d only had a traditional publisher co-authoring my first book, so I was unprepared for the many, many steps to self-publish. Once I broke tasks down, and identified what was needed early in the process. I could go find resources and line them up for when I needed them.

This process sounds so simple but it is truly life changing in helping to make progress on the big things. To allow yourself the chance to make it work, take one of the initiatives you have outlined here and begin to take these steps.

Once you make progress on one, you might be able to incorporate a second one but allow yourself the success before you do so.