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The 7 Principles of Chunking Time and Scheduling

Chunking your time

Personal productivity isn’t about putting in more hours on the job. It’s about optimizing your work schedule by planning, organizing, and controlling your use of time more effectively. In theory, multitasking sounds like it’s a good way to boost your efficiency, but in reality it’s inefficient. It wastes time, expends energy, and disrupts concentration. 

The human brain processes information in a linear fashion. When people are multitasking, they aren’t really doing two things at once. Instead, they’re task-switching — rapidly shifting back and forth between tasks. And no matter how fast someone shifts, time and concentration are lost between the switches.

The answer to making the most of your time is “chunking.” Chunking is an organizational strategy for making more efficient use of your time schedule. Chunking means arranging your schedule so you have segments of time dedicated to one task or type of activity. 

Chunking time can boost productivity because focusing on one thing at a time saves the time wasted on task-switching. It can also improve your state of mind, allowing you to concentrate on completing a task in full, and increasing satisfaction with a job well done.

Key guidelines for chunking

Chunking needs to be done as you’re creating your work schedule. There are three key guidelines for chunking:

  • group similar tasks and activities together — Each time you shift your attention from one thing to another, you lose focus. And reorienting yourself to the task at hand takes up time. If you group similar tasks or types of activities into the same chunk of time, you’ll minimize this time loss.
  • insert chunks of time into your written schedule — It’s important to include these chunks of time in your written work schedule. Treat them with respect and insert them into your schedule just as you would any other priority item, such as a meeting. When chunks are included in your schedule, they become part of your routine.
  • allow at least an hour of uninterrupted time for each chunk — You should make sure to schedule at least an hour of uninterrupted time for each chunk in your schedule. Minimize interruptions by explaining to colleagues that you’re not available to them during these times. Unless it’s necessary to the task at hand, don’t check your e-mail and don’t answer the phone. You can reply to messages later. If you’re polite and consistent in your approach, people will come to accept this time as part of your work routine.