The Art of Chunking

Recently I went on a winter hike with my husband. Ten minutes into the hike I wondered if I could make it to the top. The wind was howling, the grade was very steep and within a matter of minutes I went from feeling underdressed to overdressed. Not wanting to give up and ruin the hike for my husband, I strategized on how to make it to the top. I decided to stop thinking about how far we had left to go but instead to stay focused on the ground right in front of me. I kept looking at the ground in front of me while I counted out a hundred steps and then I looked up to see if the top of the mountain was in view. I continued this approach, over and over again, until finally I looked up and saw the top of the mountain. Once our endpoint was in view, I knew I would make it. 

This experience reminded me of the number of times during my career when it was helpful to chunk, or break down, work into manageable pieces. Whenever I faced a really challenging problem or became overwhelmed with a complex situation I broke down the work by focusing on the very next thing I could do to move towards a solution or move the initiative forward. Sometimes it would be just a small task, such as identifying people I had to speak to for more information. No matter how stuck I felt I reminded myself that there is always another move.

The art of chunking is a useful tool, especially in large and complex organizations, where it is easy to feel overwhelmed and stuck. You want to be known as someone who can get things done and the art of chunking is one approach towards that goal. 

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About Mary C. Finlay Coaching and Mentoring

Mary Finlay is a Professor of Practice at the Simmons School of Management where she teaches courses on Strategic Thinking and Analytical Decision Making, Healthcare IT Management, and Project Management. She is also program faculty for the Harvard School of Public Health’s programs on Project Management and Strategic Leadership of IT. She does selective consulting engagements in the areas of individual and organizational effectiveness. Previously, she was the Deputy Chief Information officer of Partners HealthCare System, Inc. and Chief Information Officer of Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Ms. Finlay is the former Chair of the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council, an association of 500 members. She currently serves on the board of YearUp and the Boston Chapter of SIM (Society of Information Management). She has been recognized with leadership awards from the Simmons School of Management, CIO, the New England Business and Technology Association, and Babson College. She received her BA from Allegheny College and her MBA from the Simmons School of Management.
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One Response to The Art of Chunking

  1. Janette Raab says:

    What a helpful strategy. I’m going to apply this approach to one particular initiative I’m struggling with this very moment. I’ll let you know how it works out. Thank you.

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