Break Your Projects Down with Chunking

In Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), there is a concept called chunking. In chunking, a person takes information and either breaks it down into manageable parts (i.e. focusing on the details, or breaking down the information into smaller pieces so that it makes sense in relation to the big picture), or takes a detail and asks questions to fill in the big picture around that detail. Chunking can be a valuable tool to use when you want to understand the different layers of a project. However, chunking can also be used as a method for organizing how you approach a project.

For instance, I use chunking to break my writing projects into manageable projects that don’t leave me feeling overwhelmed, or worse unhappy with my progress. Whether I’m researching for my next book or writing it, or writing a newsletter or article like this one, chunking helps me to not only maintain an awareness of the big picture of my project, but also lets me attend to the details of the project. In chunking, I can measure the actions I’ve taken against both the big picture and the details and know exactly where I am in my project.

I write long newsletters for my life coaching blog and use chunking extensively to help me publish them. I don’t write my newsletters in one sitting, because I’m busy and can only block out so much time to put toward the newsletter in a given day. I set aside an hour a day to newsletter writing. Then I organize which parts of the newsletter I’ll write each day; thus breaking them down into smaller chunks that are ready for me to write when its time to write them.

On day one, I might write the table of contents and set up the outline of the newsletter, while also writing a book review. Usually this takes only an hour of my time. But when that hour ends, I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot. I’ve not only attended to the detail of writing a review, but I’ve also laid out the big picture of the newsletter by putting together an outline that I can fill out as I continue to work on the newsletter. The second day, I might write up the copy for a workshop I’m presenting. And the third day I might write the article for the newsletter. And I continue this method until the whole newsletter gets written.

Breaking down the newsletter into manageable portions of writing each day gives me the ability to finish it up in time for my deadline. It also gives me the feeling that I have time to put toward my other projects. In fact, what I’ve done is not only chunked the information, but also my time, so that I feel that I’ve accomplished something. When I’m done with the work, I can use my left over time to work on other projects, or simply relax.

You can take the concept of chunking and apply it to your own creative projects. First you need a project to work on. That project can be anything you want. A new podcast, a newsletter, a story, or if you’re going to try this at work…pick a project from there.

The next step is to sit down and think about how much time you can devote to this project. If you’re working on a big project and you feel driven to complete it, ask yourself how you can make the project manageable enough to complete over a specific period of time. How much time can you give? Is two weeks enough, or a month, or will just a few days suffice? Is one hour enough, or do you want to spend eight hours working on that one project. Can you split the time up into two hour chunks with a break, or do you need to work the entire eight hours? Remember to keep in mind your own mental and physical limits—you don’t want to burn out.

Once you have an idea of how much time the project will take, you can then start organizing all the available information you have for the project. List all the things that need to go into the project. Then, look at this list. Do you see anything that draws your eye in immediately? Do you know what you want to start working on first? Jot some notes down for each item or organize your thoughts into an outline. You can also set an amount of time for each chunk of information to be completed in. Now, when you’re ready to work on that project, you’ll know what the order is and exactly how much time you have to devote to it.

By keeping track of both the amount of time and what part of the project needs to be completed, you can measure your work against the big picture. This big picture is what the finished project looks like once you’ve completed all the things that compose it. Doing this also helps to recognize your achievements. It’s especially important to recognize those achievements because that recognition helps motivate you to finish the project. It also keeps you grounded in realizing just how much you’ve gotten done, instead of agonizing over how much you feel you ought to have done.

The NLP process of chunking helps you organize any project you work on. Chunk your ideas by breaking them down into small, manageable sizes. Doing so helps you keep an eye on the detail and relate those details back to the big picture. More importantly, using this technique can help you recognize what you’ve accomplished each step of the way.

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