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NLP Chunking Explained

Do you have a great idea but wonder where to start, or are you submerged in the details of a project? You may benefit from NLP Chunking because you can use this approach in any number of situations to help you move forwards. This post gives you 5 useful and easy pointers to help you get started with NLP chunking.

5 Useful Things To Know About NLP Chunking

1. What is NLP Chunking?

Chunking is about clusters of information. The term is taken from computer terminology. We will all create our chunks of information differently depending upon our patterns of thinking, preferences, associations, life experience, etc.

NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) could be described as the study of successful behaviours. Which means NLP Chunking is about how you chunk information to be happier, healthier and more effective.

nlp chunking cakeNLP Chunks can be practical – foods within a group such as proteins, cars that are similar in some way like hatchbacks, consumers of certain products, and so on. Chunks can also be based on our personal associations – all the people I know who also like cake for example.

These chunks can be a broad cluster and gradually become a more specific group:

  • Cakes as one of many sweet foods (more of the whole picture)
  • Cakes (the whole)
  • Types of cake (the class, e.g. sponge cake)
  • Which cake (the example – Victoria Sandwich cake).

You can use NLP chunking with any area and on any level.

2. Why Use NLP Chunking?

It is a quick and simple way to help you reduce stress and overwhelm. To be more productive and effective. The essence is very simple – how do I need to think about this so that it works better. Do I need to zoom in or out?

3. NLP Chunking Up

Chunking Up is when we zoom out to see the bigger picture. Having an overview or whole of the situation (and possibly beyond). Being able to connect with our goals, what matters to us and what we wish to achieve gives us direction, meaning and motivation.

4. NLP Chunking Down

Chunking Down is where you zoom in. You focus on the detail and get more and more specific.

I Keep six honest serving-men:
(They taught me all I knew)
Their names are What and Where and When
And How and Why and Who.
― Rudyard Kipling

There is also great scope in terms of the level to which one can chunk down (become more specific). Continuing with the cake theme one could have my favourite Victoria Sandwich cakes, cakes with jam, etc.

5. When to Use NLP Chunking

Most projects, challenges or tricky situations can benefit from using NLP Chunking. We will all have our comfort zones in terms of how we think about things – some naturally inhabit the bigger picture whilst others are at home with detail. The trick is to be able to switch between modes so that you can make the most of the strengths of each.

nlp chunking work

If you feel overwhelmed in your work, a task or project, or in a personal situation it can be incredibly helpful to chunk down. As you create smaller chunks you can work out what you need to do and what you can manage to do.

Sometimes the opposite is true, and we are lost in the midst of all detail – not going anywhere. This is when we need to use NLP chunking to chunk up. What is it you are trying to achieve, what is your goal, your vision? Then you can use your excellent skills in analytical thinking to chunk down, maybe update and refine the plan to work out how to get there.

NLP Chunking – Going for Gold

I remember listening to the five times gold medal winner Sir Steve Redgrave giving a talk some years ago. He spoke about how the Olympic Rowing team had approached the task of shaving yet more time off their already outstanding performance. The time required looked impossible to achieve, too great a difference from their current times. They divided that time all the way down into daily nano-second improvements. This was an achievable amount to accomplish in each day’s training. The cumulative effect is now Olympic history and a lovely example of chunking down.

Creating Harmony & Conflict Resolution with NLP

This is also a very useful model to apply in conflict resolution at work or home. Chunk up to the point where all parties agree. Ultimately, we all tend to want the same things – health, love, happiness, and to be fulfilled. In the work arena parties are hopefully all aligned with the mission of the organisation: offering excellent service, generating sales, optimal performance.

Once you reach the point where all are in agreement you can start chunking down through the practicalities of how to achieve this. Then each time there is disagreement chunking back up to where everyone agrees and then chunk down to work with the issues of how to achieve it.

nlp chunking zoom in zoom out


The key to success is flexibility – being able to chunk up and down optimally. Zooming in to the detail and back out to the big picture enables a fluidity of thinking, creativity and communication.


NLP Chunking – More Information

Robert Dilts excellent NLP University Encyclopedia gives clear and helpful information about NLP Chunking and is a wonderful resource for anyone who might be interested in finding out more about NLP.

NLP Chunking offers us an easy method to find more resourceful ways to approach projects and problems. Depending upon your preference you can apply it with big picture simplicity or explore the depths of its detail – either way it is a very useful tool to have to hand.

I hope you have found this to be of interest. If so, I work with people from East and West Sussex as well as nationally and internationally online. If you would like to book a free mini-appointment to see if my approach might suit you, please do contact me.