Don’t you wish you knew exactly how to compartmentalize—your thoughts, emotions, even your stuff? Well, putting your stuff in shelves is for another discussion, for I’ll be talking about compartmentalizing what we think of in our everyday life.
It sure can be difficult, can’t it? Imagine going through a difficult challenge in your life right now—job-hunting, breaking up with your lover or going through a natural calamity—and yet you must still be able to handle your daily routine as if none of those is happening.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you should suppress your emotions. I’ll never do that myself. But I know there’s a time to reflect and think about things. Learning how to compartmentalize means knowing how to manage yourself such that you still get to do what needs to get done. Not knowing how to compartmentalize may mean serious trouble for you in the long run—you might daydream, find yourself worrying too much over something small or get anxious over your bills which are due in two weeks—all throughout the day (and almost every day).
Below are tips you could use on how to compartmentalize. I find these the simplest but the most effective. They can help you change the way you respond to different situations. As a famous geologist had put it, the one who survives is the one most adaptable to change. Life has never been faster down the fast lane.
1. Acknowledge how you were raised.
Acknowledging isn’t blaming. The goal of compartmentalizing is for you to be able to function as normal as possible despite other issues you may be facing.
A study notes that parental influences are a factor that affects our way of reacting to stressful situations. While we need to be aware how we respond to different situations, the study encourages us to address our feelings before making decisions.
As a kid, you may have been taught by your parents, or the people who raised you up, to ask yourself what specific issues bothered you. That’s the best first step to responding to them, before taking action. Recognizing issues makes you more aware, thus it would lead you further to making necessary plans to overcome them.
On the other hand, you may have been taught to look for solutions right away, without recognizing how you felt about your struggles. There may have been urgency every time. In that case, it’s very important to acknowledge that this kind of upbringing may be affecting how you make your decisions now. It can be quite dangerous on your part, as you may have thought all along that suppressing your feelings was totally fine, but have failed to understand that it could affect how you currently manage your life in general.
By acknowledging the way you were raised up, you could confront it with what you now believe is the right way of taking care of things, at least that which will work for you.
2. Use a calendar.
There is nothing worse than going through your day without knowing exactly what to do. Of course, you have a general idea what they are, but you have to have a plan—with the date and time as deadline for each task.
A good strategy to follow is setting different tasks on different days of the week. Try not to set a task on consecutive days if you can. For example, set your paperwork on Mondays, brainstorming on Tuesdays, then back to paperwork again on Wednesdays.
Of course, you have your own combination of work, every week. But the idea is simple. Set your activities on different days of the week. It will serve as a good prioritization exercise for you.
Don’t underestimate the power of the calendar. Your thoughts and ideas can come at any time they can only overwhelm you. Jot them down, insert them into your calendar and follow them. Once you can pull that commitment off, you can manage your life many times more than the usual.
3. Stay focused.
Learn how to improve your mental focus. This is the whole point of compartmentalizing—focusing on the things you compartmentalize! Now that you’ve set your plans, focus only on the task you have set at a particular time frame.
You’d be amazed by the volume and quality of work you’ll be able to finish only by staying focused. Moreover, you avoid thinking about anything that may merely stress you; they’re not only unneeded, they can lower your energy and drive to continue, which can waste the rest of the day away.
Stop multitasking. It does exist, but total focus on many things at once does not. Not multitasking increases your confidence that you’ll be doing your best on a specific work, and will remind you that avoiding multitasking, in reality, does help. You don’t want to waste your time. It’s as precious as gold. Not staying focused on one thing at a time is like throwing that gold out the window. Yes, you may not realize the importance of time until you regret not maximizing its use.
Declutter. Your desk, your room, your life. Avoid triggers that would only distract you. Working on your willpower alone won’t pay off. Make your willpower a reality—by taking action. If you are easily distracted, show no mercy to those triggers—hide them away, or cover your ears. If it means getting rid of everything but the things you only need, then why not?
Remember, you can compartmentalize—whether through your mind or with a calendar. The most important thing to do is to stay focused once you get yourself going.
4. Mind the way you respond to similar settings.
Imagine this: Some big problem just occurred in your workplace. Now, try telling that to three people—your subordinate, someone on the same level as yours, and your boss. If you want a more complicated scenario, tell it to someone at home, a friend, then your boss.
Would your frustration or worry show when you tell it to your boss? Or would it simply show, without reservations, to your spouse?
Be mindful of how you would react to such situations. This is more about knowing yourself. You know you want to manage your thoughts every time, even in the face of adversities. But you may discover your quirks that you wouldn’t normally notice only when you’re already in front of such adversities. If you can keep your calm whenever you talk to a superior, take note of the things that could make you remember the important points later. Remember how you’d set your feelings or emotions aside for the purpose of getting focused and creative. Find a parallelism when it’s time to talk about some pressing matters with your family or friends. If you can handle your emotions in places where you must, then there’s no reason why you can’t in laxer places.
Know yourself and be one with yourself. It will help you compartmentalize—regardless of the situation.
Think About It
What is it that makes this whole compartmentalization difficult for you? I won’t deny that the main thing that does it for me is the intensity of any problem that comes my way. I can be very organized, I can commit to rituals to make my every day productive—but I’m only human. Times can get rough. And totally unexpected. But I learned there could be a better way, while I could take care of myself at the same time—it’s knowing how to compartmentalize.
Don’t take things too personally. This is easier said than done, sure. But if some heartache keeps you from moving forward for a long, long time, then you know it’s not already being helpful as you thought it should be. Learn how to compartmentalize. Take it slow. We all start from somewhere, we all start slow. Once you realize its importance, you can ramp things up by training yourself to become faster. You could do that with your thoughts and feelings too. You’re faced with everyday challenges, and identifying what are important isn’t enough—you have to work on them by taking action. You’ll never make the most out of what’s already in front of you if you don’t know how to compartmentalize.
So, have you gotten the message I want to impart to you? Sit back right there, perhaps think about it for a sweet five minutes, then carry on with the rest of your day—efficiently!