How to Turn More into Less: The Power of “Chunking”

To-do list photo illustrationA major source of stress in our lives comes from the feeling that we have an impossible number of things to do.
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 try to do the whole thing all at once (i.e., eat the whole whale in one bite), 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.

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 three’s. In fact, how do most people count? One, two, three…many! Anything above three things becomes too much for us to remember. In other words, most people tend to get overwhelmed after three difference pieces—or chunks—of information.

The number-one skill that will allow you to succeed at anything (while minimizing stress) is the ability to take a variety of action items and group them together, orienting them toward a common intention and result. This is called “chunking.” Simply put, chunking is the process of turning more into less!

Chunking: Grouping together information into ideally sized pieces, so they can be used effectively to produce the outcome you want without stress or shutdown.

For example, suppose this is your list of to-dos for your day:

  • Go running
  • Pick up dry cleaning
  • Prep for board meeting
  • Take dog to vet
  • Buy running shoes
  • Call my wife
  • Lift weights
  • Call my daughter
  • Meet with marketing director

Three of these action items (go running, buy running shoes and lift weights) relate to physical health or activity. Group them together, and now you’ve “chunked” them into one clear result you desire: to improve your health.

When you start thinking of your to-dos as clusters of desired outcomes, you’ll keep stress at bay and learn to focus on your greater goals—rather than getting overwhelmed by the minutiae. And for that huge, amorphous target, simply put the process in reverse: Write down your actionable steps, assembling them in doable chunks.

This shift in thinking will make you work smarter and more effectively, and achieve success through skyhigh productivity. You’ll start to feel inspired—rather than forced—to follow through!

“No matter how successful you are, no matter how many great things are going on in your life, there’s always something that you can improve upon in your life. Tony Robbins can help you do that. He gives you the tools you need.”
—Brett Ratner, Action Film Director, X-Men, Rush Hour

9 Comments

  1. I have to say that since I’ve picked up “The Ultimate Edge” program noticeable changes have occurred in my life. The tools that are provided in “Unlimited Power,” and “Awaken the Giant Within,” along side the audio program I would highly recommend to the world at large! Thanks Tony!

    Kristopher on November 8th 2013
  2. :) I just had a breakthrough! … in experiencing the benefit of chunking!

    I planned out something I don’t usually plan out and it feels really good. It happened because of putting the things I want to do in perspective, without making the small things the most important thing.

    Thank you! … this is really cool! :)

    Becky West on September 10th 2013
  3. This is an area I continue to have difficulty with. I have good intentions in the morning and by the end of the day. I have a lot of difficulty with “shiny ball syndrome” Wow just caught myself. I have great focus and will start writing out my list in the morning and reduce stress and accomplish my goals for the day. Thanks Tony it is always a work in progress

    Wendy on March 30th 2013
  4. What I find most interesting is that writing actionable steps (Chuncking) assembles them into doable chuncks. Moreover, you’ll have the idea in front of you, nevertheless more chuncks create clusters. These amorphous targets so to speak will be seen visibly at all times if you hold a planner that illustrates these photo-chuncks. Additionally when you zero in on the specific chunck you’ll have your actionable steps that seem so easy and you’ll feel so inspired. This will eventually create the habit to focus on greater goals and keep stress at bay. The powerful tools have given me a shift in thinking to do more with less stress. I have more energy to focus on what’s most important like relationships. Any habit can be unlearned (to-do lists) and any habit can be learned (Power of chuncking) if you discipline yourself enough with repitition. This one skill can give you the ability to start seeing the big picture (the rudder of the sailboat), or vis versa the details (the sails of a sailboat).

    PATRICK LIBUDA on March 22nd 2013
  5. I like the idea of chunking things into more manageable parts. I also work with my clients to chunk their time based on their values. How can they do two things of value a the same time? For instance, if they value their family, and they value their health, what can they do to overlap those two values into one action.

    Theresa on March 15th 2013
  6. Funny how the “to-do” list can easily be re-organized. Just because we write it down in pieces, doesn’t mean it can’t be reprioritized into a more productive and less stressful manner. Good thoughts!

    Kim Hawkins on March 14th 2013
  7. That’s a really useful method to reduce stress and do more things effectively. Also I’ve learned it is ok no to take care of everything and only do the ones that are urgent or very important. That’s one of the lesson my incredible coach from Tony’s company taught me… :)

    Sherry on March 14th 2013
  8. Thank you Mr. Robbins. Thanks to you, I have been at the gym every day to “change my physiology” for the past two months. I will follow your guideline in regard to the chunking. I am sure it will greatly improve my life. I am an M.D. transitioning into a new career of film producing.

    Sepehr Nick Samadani on March 13th 2013
  9. Another way of thinking, for a quick positive result that cannot be overlook. Thanks

    R. Amaechi Abel on March 13th 2013

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