Almost halfway through the 100 Day Writing Challenge, I am reviewing past lessons and my associated journal entries, learning how to better use the tools that have been provided. One of the tools Angela teaches is “chunking” – breaking down activities into simple tasks that can be tackled in 10, 20 or 30 minutes. I’d been a devotee of lists most of my life, but until I signed up for the Challenge, I didn’t know how to maximize the full value of this easy approach to work.
The key to chunking is making sure each item on the list has been broken down to its most essential form. Larger, more time-consuming items are not tasks; they are projects, and when these comprise most of the items on my task list (as they generally did prior to my participation in the Challenge), chances are good that many things go undone. When I feel overwhelmed at the end of the day, or feel as if I haven’t accomplished anything even though I’ve been busy for eight non-stop hours, I know it’s time to chunk down the list.
As managing editor of a Chicago niche publication, webmaster for its online presence, and marketing director for both venues, I perform certain functions every month at a specific point in the publishing cycle. Prior to Angela’s instruction on chunking, my daily lists included broad activities: update the website, for example, or work on next month’s articles. These lists did, of course, keep me on track. But they did little to help me manage my time and become more productive. Worse, I frequently overbooked my time, which stole a great deal of pleasure from the work.
Chunking gave me more control over my workday. As part of my 100 Day Writing Challenge assignments, I broke each activity into the individual tasks required to complete it. “Work on next month’s articles,” for example, was chunked down to accepting or securing articles from other writers, researching the pieces that I am providing, completing the writing itself, editing, logging, typesetting for the print edition, and sending proofs to the publisher. Seeing these specific tasks listed gave me a better idea of how much time to allocate to accomplish the work. It also put an end to unexpectedly long days and the subsequent stress of having scheduled too much to do in too little time.
Chunking has another benefit. When I find myself with an extra 20 minutes, while waiting for a phone call, for example, or when other work has been completed ahead of schedule, it’s easy to make good use of the time by working ahead on tasks scheduled for later in the day or week. In the past, that extra time would have been wasted, because I wouldn’t have started something that I thought would require more time than I had available to complete it.
Periodically reviewing past lessons and my corresponding journal entries as per Angela’s instructions is helping me refine what I’ve learned and increase the benefits of this training. The Challenge has brought me a number of valuable tools so far, the greatest of which is producing better quality products – in less time, and with far more satisfaction in the process.
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