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Be a Chunky Monkey

by MAX JONES / Thursday, 16th June 2016

Chunky Monkey

You’ve all heard of the infamous “to-do” list I’m sure? & don’t worry this isn’t another peppy up-beat “ditch the to-do list & live in the moment” type blog that I’m sure you (& I’ve been guilty of this too) have found yourself reading time & time again over the years.

Instead I wanted to explore what really makes a business owner, heck any type of professional, feel stressed, pressured or anxious in their daily lives. I’m sure if you were to write down the emotions you feel on a constant basis during any given week, verbs like stressed, overwhelmed & the like may appear once or twice – would you be willing to agree with that?

If you’re one of us normal people & you do feel these emotions from time to time - what do you do? Let me give you a personal example, because I don’t know you personally yet, but for me whenever I felt overwhelmed or stressed, I used to make a “to-do” list. But in all honesty, it never worked. Ever.

Can you relate? Seriously, haven’t you ever had the experience of feeling so stressed, so overwhelmed, so “swamped” that you rationalised that by writing down a long list of “to-dos”, under the impression that this would relieve you of that stress? But in actual fact it just magnified how outrageously overwhelmed & “swamped” you were & made you even more stressed?! The sheer size of the task, broken down into 37 meticulously crafted sub-sections with headings, spider diagrams & colour coordinated highlighting actually made it worse than the mammoth task you had before – do you follow?

I guess it’s a bit like when you sit down at one of those all-you-can-eat buffets. There’s always three types of people at one of those events. I’m sure you can relate. You’ve got the “one sitting animal”, this individual will go up to the buffet & load his/her plate up with EVERYTHING they could possible eat, take it back to the table & vow not to leave that table until either the plate is clean or they explode! Then you’ve got the “jack-in-the-box nibbler”, this individual will hop up & down from their chair as if it were your local speed-dating event down at the village centre. They won’t go up once, twice, even three times, oh no no no. Anything less than 37 trips up to the buffet is a FAILURE in their eyes. & then you have the “diplomatic diner”, this individual will have a starter, a main course & a dessert. Yep, that’s it. 3 simple steps. End of. Disgustingly normal isn’t it.

I’m sure we’ve all fallen into all three categories in our all-you-can-eat buffet experiences in the past & I’m going to make the assumption that you’re enjoyment level was a lot higher adopting the “diplomatic diner” façade than any of the former. Why? Because you paced yourself, you chunked up your eating patterns & you left feeling satisfied & triumphant, rather than overwhelmed, uncomfortably hot & with smaller trousers than you came in with (or is that just me?).

But what has a buffet got to do with a “to-do” list Max? Well much like at a buffet, people have different tactics to approaching their daily/weekly/monthly career tasks. For example, you may look at your week & try and tackle everything in one big bite, some might say you’re a “one sitting animal” when it comes to your weekly to-dos! But what’s the problem with this? By taking the whole week in one bite, you’re going to feel continuously overwhelmed. No denying it.

So alternately you may look at the week & make a long, winding list of what you need to do in the week ahead, some might say you’re a “jack-in-the-box entrepreneur”. But what’s the problem with this? Well by cutting the week up into 37 different chunks, you’ll equally feel overwhelmed, “swamped” & continually playing catch up with the week ahead! I’m sure you can relate to that feeling at one stage or another?

So instead, perhaps we should be looking at tackling the week as “diplomatic business owners”. In other words instead of looking at the week & either attacking in in one bite or creating a to-do list longer than War & Peace, we should adopt a method I like to call Chunking. Simply put, chunking is the process of categorising all the things you need to do in a day, week or month into 3-6 categories of focus.

These categories are essentially focus areas you know you need to pay attention to throughout the week –let’s take, for example, my list of “to-dos” (if I had a to-do list that is!) for today & see if we can chunk them into more manageable & effective areas of focus:

  • Go to the gym
  • Meeting with the SSG launch team
  • Touch base with SSG clients in the “launch phase”
  • Call my sister
  • Buy a new running top
  • Pick up some milk
  • Make a call to a supplier
  • Prep my meals
  • Call a candidate
  • Book dinner for Saturday night

So what would some areas of focus be here? Well “go to the gym”, “buy a new running top” & “prep my meals” all relate to my physical body & health so should become one chunk. One “Physical Body” category.

While on the other side; “meeting with the SSG launch team”, “touch base with SSG clients in the launch phase”, “make a call to a supplier” & “call a candidate” on their own may seem slightly daunting. But if we chunked them into a specific category of focus called “continual growth of my career” – perhaps it might sound, not only more appealing but more manageable.

Do you see what I’m trying to get at here? I guess what I’m trying to demonstrate (although briefly here) is that making a slight shift in thinking to a smarter & more effective way of working, you’ll subconsciously become more focused on what it is you want to achieve in each area of your life. Instead of a list of 37 things you MUST do on any given day or in a week, you have 3-6 areas of continual focus that you GET to improve upon each day & each week.