Chunking - the key to success

February 11, 2019 3 min read 3 Comments

There are so many projects and ideas running around in my head, that I am often overwhelmed and paralyzed, and nothing gets done.  I've been struggling with a way to get my arms around it all, and in my search, I stumbled across yet another system for planning and managing my life.  They're basically all the same, but for some reason, I like this guy.  He was a a military logistics officer which means that he knows how to take care of the big stuff and the small stuff without letting anything fall through the cracks.  He has an intuitive sense of how to herd cats, which is another way of saying, he can help people like me learn to focus, stay on track, and actually get stuff done.  Sounds perfect. It's stuff I did in my work life a million years ago, but my skills are rusty, so I'm working through the program, and the methodology is totally sound.  I love it.  He talks about the process from big picture to tiny details:  Visualization, Goal-Setting, Prioritization, Chunking, and Task Sequencing.  It makes everything so much more manageable and is helping me sort through all the big ideas floating around in my brain and make them a reality.  One piece that's particularly useful is Chunking - breaking big goals down into smaller chunks that you can accomplish in 2 hours or less.

This.  This is why I'm such a fan of classically constructed sweaters.  Yes, I'm a fan of seams for the stability they offer and blah blah blah, but I think it's more a head game than anything else.  As Charlie says, Chunking mentally alters the size of a project, and classically constructed sweaters (those that are worked in separate pieces and seamed together) are already chunked.  Those smaller, intermediate steps are familiar to me as a means of setting goals, measuring progress, and achieving small triumphs along the way.  Cast on the back and work the ribbing.  That's a 2-hour or less chunk.  Work to the first shaping.  2-hours or less.  Complete armhole shaping.  2 hours or less.  And so forth.  Even the finishing can be broken down into smaller tasks.  Block the back and front.  Seam the shoulders. Block the sleeves. Set in one sleeve, and so forth.  Isn't that a much more manageable way to approach that pile of crumpled fabric that's just emerged from your needles! 

Certainly top-down/in-the-round sweaters can be chunked, but each round is much larger since you're working the whole sweater at once, but you can totally do it.  You just have to do it.  Either way, it helps to write it down.  Write down each interim goal, and then schedule them into your day. 

If you have lots of experience knitting but have never knit a sweater, consider this:  each piece of a sweater is probably no larger than the scarf or shawl you just finished, and possibly less complicated.  If you can knit and purl, then a sweater is totally within your reach.  If it's the sweater-knitting language that you struggle with, try one of our sweater knitalongs.  They're terrific even if you're a sweater pro because the camaraderie is so much fun.  The knitalong leader can help you chunk the project down into sections that you can accomplish, and the group will celebrate your accomplishments with you. 

We have several fun new sweater knitalongs coming up.  I'm going to be leading Triton, a gorgeous modern design by Shellie Andersonworked in a nice fast gauge of 14 stitches to 4 inches.  It'll be perfect in a several different yarns that I'll be posting about in the next week or so. 

Gina is starting a new knitalong for a fabulous Noro lace-trimmed pullover.  This is a fun garment for spring with the happy Kureyon brights.  The lace trim is a simple stitch pattern that makes a nice little wave in the colors.  We have it in the window if you want to stop in and have a look.

So, whether you're knitting on your own or in a knitalong, remember to look at your project one chunk at a time and set aside space in your day or week to work on it and meet your goal. 

I look forward to seeing you in the shop and around the table.  You are always welcome here.



Back to 12 February 2019 newsletter

3 Responses

Jess @ Team PF
Jess @ Team PF

March 08, 2019

Hi Ellen,

I’m so glad chunking your projects has been so helpful for you!

You guys can check out the post by Charlie Gilkey (founder of Productive Flourishing) over on our website:

Feel free to poke around the website… I think you’ll like what you see :)


Jess @ Team PF

Dee Browder
Dee Browder

February 15, 2019

Great article! Name of book and author please? Tks

Elizabeth McLean
Elizabeth McLean

February 12, 2019

Hi Ellen! This is such a needed post for me right now – the managing and planning in chunks for big and small ideas….did I miss the author’s full name or book title?

Chunking is also a very powerful way that the brain learns from a neuroscience perspective.

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