Stress Chunking

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By Chris Delaney

womanThe State of Stress

Stress is a state, an emotion which is often brought on by how we perceive the task we have set ourselves or the task others have set for us. As a career coach I will work with professionals to help them reduce their workplace stress. Through this I have modelled successful career professionals to understand how they handle workplace stress and researched stressed employees to appreciate why their stress levels are higher than others, and found a major difference between how these two types of employees internally perceive their daily task.

Why is one motivated while the other, given the same task feels stressed?

Little Chunks

When we have to complete any task, we will internally break this task down into manageable chunks; “if I complete A, B and C I will achieve my goal”. Each time we complete a chunk we feel more motivated as we near to our goal.

The stressed employee does something much different. With their task, they break it down into hundreds of unmanageable chunks, so many that the task now seems frightening, creating the state of stress. Say the task was to write a blog post for the company website. The motivated employee would say “OK I need to first research the article, write a draft, edit it, have the article proof read and then submit it” 5 easy steps.

What happens when you’re stressed is this “damn I can’t do this, first I need to find a free computer, and then turn it on, someone has probably been hot desking here, so I will have to move, find a new computer and turn this one on. I will have to wait because these computers are old, and take an age to turn on. I need to input my password, but what was is it? I had to change it last week. I will have to go to my files to retrieve my new password. Now I need to research the article, first I need to think about which websites to use, and then I will have to check that the source is credible. I can read other articles to give my ideas, so I will have to Google articles, read through each article and make notes. Notes! I will have to grab a paper and pen, by the time I return the internet would have timed out and I will have to log back in again, where did I put that password……” and this is just the research stage.

stressIt is highly motivational to chunk things up into manageable pieces. If you chunk things down into too many pieces your mountain of chunks will seem too big and overwhelming. You will spend too much time thinking about the hundred chunks rather than getting the task started.

The Motivational Chunk

When given a task, break it down into manageable chunks, often 5 is a good number. Breaking down task in this way, creates the impression that task is possible to complete. If you only have one chunk “write a blog post” the task can seem to large, maybe even in possible. Several chunks, will allow you to concentrate on a section of the task before moving on. When you feel your tasks are manageable, you feel highly motivated reducing your stress levels.

– Chris Delaney is a Career Advisor and Life Coach at and the author of The 73 Rules for Influencing the Interview using Psychology, NLP and Hypnotic Persuasion Techniques.