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.