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Winning at Working: Chunk It!

By Nan S. Russell

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Gulp, was how I felt as a young manager when my first big project was assigned. Hire and process five hundred people to start three weeks before opening for a new store in a remote city. It sounded challenging and exciting and scary and overwhelming all at once when my boss defined the parameters, budget and timeline, then asked if I could do it.

By the time I reached my office, my brain was running like a NASCAR at Indy. That night I watched brain fireworks, as bits, pieces, how-tos, what-ifs and ideas popped in and out, leaving me unnerved and on edge by morning.

Five months later, it was exciting attending the grand opening having reached the goal and contributed to a larger goal. This was the project where I discovered chunking.

Over the years, I've fine-tuned my chunking skills, learning to divide huge projects, ideas, and dreams into bite-size pieces. Chunking makes a big project or a big dream easier and makes the otherwise difficult, or nearly impossible, possible. You can chunk your way to achieving any size project or goal. And that's a secret people who are winning at working know. No matter how big the goal, project or task, it can be chunked.

Mark Twain puts it this way, "The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one."

People who are winning at working turn big projects into small bites, overwhelmed inaction into controlled action, and unknown paths into confident direction. They do this by chunking, although they may not call it that. And you chunk things all the time without even realizing it.

Think Thanksgiving, where tiny parallel projects come together in your dining room at 4:00 p.m. You shop, clean, and do as much as possible ahead. You might bake pies, make salad, tear stuffing bread, cook giblets, and chop onions, celery and basic ingredients before Thanksgiving Day.

That morning, once the turkey is in the oven, you might peel the potatoes, set the table, make appetizers and move everything along bit by bit, leaving gravy and rolls to finish when the turkey comes out of the oven, done. Voila! That's chunking. It's a few minutes here and there; one bite at a time, over time, doing as much in parallel as possible.

If you can do Thanksgiving dinner for twenty, you can learn to manifest your ideas by chunking them into small actions, turn your work ideas into reality and put your dreams into your life. My dream of living and working from the mountains of Montana was chunked into existence over twenty-five years. And while twenty-five years is a long time, where would I be if I hadn't chunked the future I wanted into existence?

Want to be winning at working? Chunk it into reality. Start by investing fifteen minutes a day to your skill enhancement, something you'd like to improve, learn or develop. A year from now, you'll have invested 5475 minutes in yourself, that's over ninety hours of self-development chunking. You see, building blocks for winning at working (and for life) come in minutes, one little step at a time.

(c) 2006 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved. Receive a copy of 21 Winning Career Tips (a free download) at www.winningcareertips.com. Nan Russell has spent over twenty years in management, most recently with QVC as a Vice President. She has held leadership positions in Human Resource Development, Communication, Marketing and line Management. Nan has a B.A. from Stanford University and M.A. from the University of Michigan. Currently working on her first book, Winning at Working: 10 Lessons Shared, Nan is a columnist, writer and speaker. Visit www.nanrussell.com

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