Boosting and Chunking

A few months ago I received a request to review a new book.  For the most part, I’ve stopped accepting books to review, but this one was different.  Not only did the author himself email me (as opposed to the typical PR firm), but the topic was actually pretty interesting and something that I haven’t seen covered previously:  assuming you work 8 hours and sleep another 8, the premise of the book is that a large part of your success and happiness come from (or don’t come from) the other 8 hours in the day.  Hence, The Other 8 Hours: Maximize Your Free Time to Create New Wealth and Purpose by Robert Pagliarini.

Let’s get this out of the way first:  I’m not the target market for this book.  I can, however, empathize with the intended audience.  In college or during my short engineering career, I would have been.  This book is for the person who is stuck in a rut – either because they don’t have enough time or money or a satisfying job – and wants to change things.  Pagliarini has a financial services background, which I think puts an interesting twist on the book because he talks with knowledge about traditional financial planning and how it fails.

One of my favorite parts was early on where he lists 24 “lifeleeches” – things that waste time and suck the life out of you (TV, gossip, porn, etc). Then it actually gets pretty in depth on how to start your own part time business…if that’s how you choose to spend your other 8 hours.  Overall the book is a really good supplement/compliment to The Four Hour Workweek.  I’d read both around the same time in life – you’re sure you don’t want to work your current job and that you kind of want to start a business, but don’t know where to get started.

Anyway, for me, the measure of any book is whether or not I learned something.  There are two really interesting concepts that I picked up from this book.

Boosting

I’ve always suggested getting a non career job to fund your first business.  I usually suggested something simple that can be done on off hours, like bartending. However, this book takes it another level and advocates getting a “boost job where you get paid to show up and do absolutely nothing”.  It has to be:

  • Brainless and action-less
  • Accommodate your schedule
  • Flexible hours
  • Pays $8 – $15 per hour
  • Is close to home
  • Has internet access

Sounds great right?  I’m sure you’re thinking what I was thinking:  how many jobs like this actually exist?  More than I suspected:

  • Babysitting
  • Security guard
  • Dispatch operator
  • Computer lab attendant
  • Toll-booth attendant
  • Gym front desk clerk
  • Kiosk worker
  • Hotel front desk clerk
  • If you’re in college, almost all work-study jobs (this one is mine…at least where I went to school all work-study jobs were brainless and paid $10/hr+)

These jobs are perfect because you get paid AND have time to work on starting a business or learning a new skill.

Chunking

Chunking is the correct way to “multitask”.  Multitasking as most people do it (you know, IM + text messaging + email + trying to work or study) doesn’t work because you’re using your brain to try to do several things at once.  You jump back and forth and get far less done than you would with a singular focus.  Chunking is different – you’re doing two things at once but one is using your brain and one is using your body.  For example, my new habit of listening to podcasts while I drive combines my brain (listening) with my body (driving), and it works.  I never really thought of it this way, but this is something that all successful people I know do well. They don’t waste time.

The book recommends making a list of things you do where you feel like you have dead time (taking out the garbage, cooking, jogging, riding the train, etc) and then make a list of all the things you want to do more (learn a new language, talk to your friends, etc).  Then look for opportunities to pair a head activity with a body activity.  A few examples from the book:

  • Learn a language or listen to audio books while exercising
  • Go for walks when talking on the phone
  • Have meetings while going for a hike
  • Keep a book/iPhone/Kindle handy for whenever you have down-time at the doctors office, on public transportation, or while your car is getting serviced.

You get the idea.  The possibilities are limitless.  I just like how Pagliarini made the connection.  There’s really no reason not to chunk your time like this.

I’ve always wondered if I could take it a step further and do my morning email check and day to day tasks while exercising.  I see these people who build laptop trays on their treadmills and bikes.  Imagine starting every day with an hour long brisk walk on a treadmill while you bang out your email.  I certainly couldn’t/wouldn’t program this way, but I think it’s possible to get a good set up where you can read the news and answer email.  It wouldn’t replace any exercise I currently do, but it’d be a great supplement.  I always want to be more active.  It probably won’t happen until I have a more permanent living space, plus can justify the spending on a decent secondary laptop and a nice treadmill.  But it’s kind of always been on my mind and this just re-emphasized how good of an idea that could be for me.

13 comments on Boosting and Chunking

  1. Joshua Holt says:

    Hey Adam:

    The concept of the book seems very appropriate for business books these days. Congratulations to Robert for identifying that niche and writing a good book (based on your review). I love the boosting concept, especially because it makes you value the money that you’re making while you’re trying to get your idea started. Plus, it really de-emphasizes a common theme among college entrepreneurs that they have to do all this stuff *before* they can get started with a business idea.

    However, the chunking concept sounds awful (and that’s not to even mention the name). I believe entrepreneurs fundamentally have to be creative people. I also think creative people need time to dream and conceptualize all the ideas floating in their head. Chunking sounds like a surefire way to kill that creativity. It’s an understandable desire to want to “maximize” time because entrepreneurs are driven people, but a life full of learning a language while exercising or having meetings while going for a hike sounds pretty destructive to your creative ability/potential. I would argue (and hope I have here) that you need to exercise while exercising and hike while hiking! If you don’t, you’ll choke off the very innovative talent that brought you to entrepreneurism in the first place. If anything, just keep a notepad to record your ideas.

    -Joshua

    • Adam McFarland says:

      I personally think that by listening to podcasts while I drive it helps me be more creative. It gets my mind thinking about other businesses and what they do well and how that could be tied back to ours.

      To your point though, I do think there are limits. I don’t listen to podcasts while I’m in the shower. When I’m at the gym I just zone out and listen to music. I also have quiet time at night when I read and tend to zone out and just let my mind wander then. But that still doesn’t completely de-value the idea of chunking to me. I think it can be helpful to a lot of people that are looking for more time.

      The example of having a meeting while going for a hike sounds like a pretty cool idea to me – on a day where we might normally be couped up in the warehouse having a meeting, we could be out getting some exercise while we discuss business. That said, doesn’t mean that every time I go for a hike I want to have a meeting. It’s just a neat way to get some extra time outdoors moving around, and the change of scenery might inspire some different and unique ideas.

      • Joshua Holt says:

        Yeah, you’ll note I didn’t say anything about podcast/driving and emailing/exercising, both two ideas I happen to like. But the broader point is that people can multitask (or chunk) themselves into a frenzy such that they will miss the forest for the trees. I think there’s a dearth of people out there arguing that it’s okay to be bored and it’s okay to daydream! Founders at Work (I’m guessing you’ve read it since you seem to have read all the same things I’ve read!) is full of great ideas that often developed when people were goofing around.

        The more I think about your post (and reply), the more I realize our slightly different takes are probably a matter of perspective. I bet you and your co-founders are already pretty creative. Chunking allows you get more done with the time you have. On the other hand, I work with lawyers. They’re already great at maximizing their time, so much so that they overcommit themselves both mentally and physically. For success, they need to do the exact opposite of chunking. Call it “being less productive so that you can be more productive.” Have you ever seen this phenomenon before?

        • Adam McFarland says:

          Oh definitely Joshua. I think there are a lot of variables at play that make it a good idea or a bad idea, including your personality type and what you’re trying to accomplish.

          It can work both ways – you can feel stressed because you don’t have the time to read, in which case carrying an ipod with some books on it would help.

          Or you could try to cram so much into life that you don’t have a chance to relax and decompress.

  2. Rob says:

    I find it interesting that you’ve said “There’s really no reason not to chunk your time like this.” in the article yet in the comments say that it could be overwhelming.

    Certainly I it’s good to use time efficiently but the idea of multitasking every second of my life would is hellish.

    Personally, I find it helps to get completely away from things for periods – whether that’s going for a walk without a phone, ipod or anything else just to clear your head or going on retreat.

    When it’s a task that needs doing anyway and there’s a way to free up other time by combining a “body” task and a “mind” task then that’s great, but it’s obviously a personal decision what that “free time” will be used for – while sometimes it might be great to use the time to do extra things, soon those extra things can become other commitments and to-do items so one should be careful about taking on more projects that may require long term effort (like learning a language!)

    • Adam McFarland says:

      I didn’t say “There’s really no reason not to chunk your time like this all the time in every circumstance so you have absolutely no time to yourself.” Like anything else, used in moderation where it makes sense in your life to help you achieve your goals.

  3. Ryan B. says:

    Great post, I think you made a good choice in choosing to review this book even though you ignore most others. FYI, I found you through Ramit and truly enjoy your content!

  4. Oke says:

    Great review. I think of this stuff constantly. I always try to maximize my time. If I got a couple of podcast to listen to I would either do it while looking at some mindless monkey shit at work, while walking (sometimes, I like to just be free of electronics), in the car or while making dinner or editing and looking through my photos.

    I would really say that the typical person has really 6 hours a day for 5 days. But even with 6 hours, there are tons of things that can get done. At my new house I will try to wire the place up for surround sound to the point that I can put on a podcast and listen to it while I’m taking a shower and whatever else I feel I can do.

    • Adam McFarland says:

      Definitely Oke. Realistically, we all spend time eating, sleeping, showering, going to the bathroom, etc etc, plus most jobs aren’t strictly 8 hours anymore. Then again, “the other 5 hours” isn’t as good of a book title 🙂

  5. Rob says:

    That makes much more sense – not really sure what I was thinking interpreting it the other way, that’s silly – sorry!

    Never crossed my mind about body tasks and head tasks before – it’s so obvious really! I just knew that envelope stuffing + watching a movie = slightly less tedious but accounting + watching a movie = impossible!

    • Adam McFarland says:

      No worries Rob 🙂 Multitasking is really an interesting topic because if you try to do accounting while watching TV, it’s a total waste – the accounting will take longer and you’re more prone to mistakes. But if you try to stuff envelopes, it’s seemingly a smart move. There’s a level of “mindlessness” in one or both of the tasks. Otherwise I feel like you’re better off just focusing on one thing.

  6. […] Not bad. I can listen to them while cleaning or cooking, a la the “chunking” theory of productivity, where I combine an activity that needs attention with one that needs a lot less […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Commenting Rules

I'm honored that you found this post interesting enough to leave a comment. Before posting, I have a few ground rules:

  • Please keep your comments as relevant to the post as possible.
  • No personal attacks or any other nastiness.
  • Your first comment is subject to my approval.

Thanks!