It’s well documented that the digital workplace is full of distractions and fragmented schedules. As we can accomplish a wider variety of tasks from our computers, we get more and more little tasks to complete, making it difficult to get into the zone. That’s where time chunking can make a difference, helping you to focus on your tasks and boost your productivity.
It’s likely that every worker has experienced interruptions to their workflow. You’re trying to work your way through one task, but then your email inbox pings – do you ignore it and keep working, or pause your task to respond? Either option has its pitfalls. Breaking your focus makes it difficult to accomplish either task because, unless you can hyperfocus, the switch tends to reset your focus as you reorient yourself to the new task. On the other hand, ignoring the email and working on the task at hand could mean that your inbox piles up as more and more emails come through. With time chunking, the second option is the way to go – and here’s why.
Time chunking essentially boils down to picking a single task and allocating a specific period of time to devote to that task. The strategy sits directly opposite multitasking on the workflow spectrum: as multi-tasking actually reduces the quality of our work and can even make things take longer, time chunking has you forgetting about every other task to get just one done well. For instance, if you need to write a report, you might dedicate a block of two hours out of your day to finish it without any distractions. Turning off your phone, silencing your emails, putting on headphones – however getting in the zone works for you, that’s how you’re going to get the report done in two hours.
This also helps you stick to your to-do list, because you’ve already plotted out when you’re going to do each item. A great way to begin your day is to make a list of everything you have to do, assign blocks of time for each, and then get stuck into it. If you have several small tasks to do that are all similar, such as replying to emails and returning phone calls, these can be chunked together into one block of time. It’s not really multitasking because these tasks take the same kind and amount of focus to complete, meaning you don’t have to switch modes midway through a task! This lets you complete a set of similar tasks or one bigger task with uninterrupted focus, making your day much more productive.
If you want to learn more about time chunking or find some tools to help you plan your day, here are some resources to dive into:
This article goes into time chunking in more detail, while this article is a peer-reviewed exploration of how digital work affects focus and time management. Here’s a list of apps that can help you organise your day!
If you liked this article, check out our feature on the Eisenhower matrix, a great way to set out your goals.
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