Book Review – The Time Chunking Method by Damon Zahariades

Time chunkingThe Time Chunking Method by Damon Zahariades, discusses how we can use the time chunking method to improve our productivity. In 10 sections Damon describes how we can become adept at using the time chunking method to improve our productivity. He tells us what it is and how to get the best from it. Though this is not a big book, it is full of practical tips that work and are easy to implement.

Following is a top-level review of each section.

STEP 1 – LIST THE WAYS CHUNKING WILL IMPROVE YOUR LIFE


How will chunking improve your life? Why do you want use it? Those are the questions you have to answer in this first section. So what things do you want to achieve that chunking can help you with. Make sure you are clear about them. As Damon says, reason drives action. So here you are encouraged to list ways that chunking can help to improve your life.

STEP 2 – FAMILIARISE YOURSELF WITH THE MECHANICS OF THE CHUNKING METHOD

This section focuses on describing how the chunking method works. The chunking method improves scheduling your tasks into chunks of time throughout your work day. A typical schedule will look like this:

  • Work for 25 minutes
  • Have a 5 minute break
  • Work for 25 minutes
  • Have a 5 minute break
  • Work for 25 minutes
  • Have a 5 minute break
  • Work for 25 minutes
  • Have a 15 minute break

You can’t maintain this schedule throughout the day hence a longer break has been scheduled at the end of the fourth chunk because you will need longer periods of rest. By the way, you don’t have to follow this particular schedule, you can set a schedule that works for you. What is crucial is that you have a work period and break period. For instance you can schedule 40 minute work periods and 10 minute breaks.

This strategy of chunking has some benefits. It can increase focus and also help you to complete tasks. You should use each chunk to focus on a single task and assign more chunks to the task till you’ve completed it or you are satisfied with where you’ve got to on the task.

SECTION 3 – ADJUST THE TIME CHUNKING METHOD TO SUIT YOUR LIFESTYLE

I mentioned this in the previous section, adapt the time chunking method to suit your own lifestyle. How to do that is what Damon discusses here.

SECTION 4 – PLAN FOR THE CHALLENGES YOU WILL FACE WHILE CREATING THE TIME CHUNKING METHOD

Following are some of the challenges that you may face as highlighted by Damon:

  • Interruptions from friends, family and work colleagues. What you do about it? Switch off your phone and email, discourage people from interrupting, tell people you will return their calls at the end of the the day and if someone drops by your house, don’t answer the door.
  • Lack of motivation to maintain a high level of productivity. What can you do about it? Revisit your original reason for wanting to complete the task by using the chunking method. You may need to amend the reason to make it motivating enough to stick to the chunking method.
  • Distractions from the task you are working such as checking social media and browsing unnecessary websites. What can you do about it? Switch off your phone, install extensions to block websites and in all honesty be disciplined.

There are more challenges discussed here coupled with solutions but the message is clear, using the chunking method won’t be easy. You will need to deal with all the potential challenges that can derail your progress.

SECTION 5 – DISTINGUISH BETWEEN THE TIME BOXING AND TIME CHUNKING METHOD

The time boxing method focuses of getting things completed. You set a deadline for completing a task and at the end of the deadline you evaluate whether you’ve done enough on the task or it’s completed. If not, then you estimate the amount of extra time required and set another deadline. Time chunking is a method of time boxing. But the advantage of time chunking is that it can help you increase your focus on a specific task.

SECTION 6 – MAKE CHOICES THAT MAXIMISE YOUR USE OF THE TIME CHUNKING METHOD

The effectiveness of using the time chunking method will also depend on some personal choices you make. For instance you will not be able to focus clearly if you are tired because you are not sleeping well. Here are some choices that can make your use of time chunking more effective:

  • Having healthy habits such as sleeping well, eating well and exercising. These will increase your energy levels and improve your ability to focus.
  • Writing daily, weekly and monthly goals for your chunks.
  • Track your progress while using chunks.

There is a lot more detail about each of the points listed above and they are very practical and easy to apply.

STEP 7 – TAKE PREVENTATIVE METHODS TO AVOID BURNOUT

Burnout will affect our productivity and this section discusses ways to deal with potential burnout. It starts out by comparing stress with burnout which according to Damon are not the same. Then measures we can take such as adopting healthy lifestyles, taking breaks, limiting the amount of time we work, setting aside time for vacation, setting realistic goals, unplugging from technology, making time for family and friends and learning to say ‘no’ are discussed.

STEP 8 – CREATE A LIST OF THINGS TO DO DURING BREAKS

What should you do during your time chunking breaks? You know, when you’ve worked through a chunk of 40 minutes and you have a 10 minute break, what should you do during that break? Damon suggests we create a list of things to do and they must not be things that are mentally tasking. Here are some of his suggestions:

  • Take your dog for a walk
  • Make a pot of coffee for yourself
  • Start some laundry
  • Stretch your legs and grab a cup of water
  • Do quick exercise for example some push ups
  • Declutter your desk

There are a lot more suggestions but you need to decide on yours. He discussed things not to do during your breaks such as:

  • Don’t check email
  • Don’t go on social media, it’s easy to get engrossed in it
  • Avoid interactions that require deep intense thinking

STEP 9 – EXPAND YOUR TOOLSET TO OPTIMIZE YOUR USE OF THE TIME CHUNKING METHOD

This chapter focuses on tools we can use to enhance our use of time chunking. The tools suggested are mostly productivity apps such as:

  • Google Timer
  • Remember the milk
  • Stay focused
  • Toodledo
  • Evernote

There are loads more discussed. You may need to try a couple to identify what works for you.

SECTION 10 – STOP READING AND START TAKING CONTROL OF YOUR TIME

Damon describes this as the most important step and I agree. If you read the book, please act on some of what you read. After all reading does not change anything, taking action does.

Overall this is a good book that will give you some simple productivity ideas. Personally I like the time chunking method and I have been using a flexible version of it for a while. For instance everyday I try to set a chunk of 30 minutes for me to read. Ideally I would want two thirty minutes chunks but having at least one chunk guarantees that I wll read every day. I suggest you read the books and try some of the discussed ideas.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s