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Last Updated on December 4, 2020

How to Compartmentalize for Enhanced Productivity

How to Compartmentalize for Enhanced Productivity

Time does not stop for anyone. This, paired with the fast-paced world we live in today, is affecting the mental health of everyone. That is why you need to learn how to compartmentalize for your own good!

Stress and anxiety are more common than we could have ever managed. All of this is a result of jumbled thoughts.

You may wonder how one small thing can affect you so immensely.

The thing is, when your brain is unable to comprehend what’s going on inside your mind, you not only lose track of your thoughts, but this also wastes a lot of your time.

Compartmentalization is the solution that can put everything in order. From work to relationships to personal health, you can focus on the right things with the help of compartmentalization.

What is Compartmentalization?

Let’s start by looking at the term to understand what it means and does.

Compartmentalization is a psychological defense mechanism.[1]

Basically, your brain is already trained to compartmentalize. It the “fight” mechanism that your brain adopts in case of stress and anxiety.

Whenever two clashing emotions or thoughts come face to face, your brain pushes them away and puts them in two different places. Your mind keeps contradicting thoughts away to keep you at peace.

This is exactly what compartmentalization is.

However, it is suggested to use this mechanism before the clash actually arises.

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It often involves creating mental rooms that act as closed spaces. Individuals can do this regularly to avoid getting to a stage where the brain has to do it in defense.

In these rooms, you put together thoughts that fall under the same category.

For example, all your work-related tasks that need to be finished in the coming week can form one compartment. Your surprise party plans for your loved one should be in another room. Similarly, your fights with the neighbor should be in a separate space.

What this does is that it allows you to enter one room at a time to tackle the thoughts present there without getting distracted by other rooms. Your focus is ideally on one room at a time.

You can also arrange these rooms to your liking. So, the compartment with the negative thoughts that you don’t want to be bothered by is pushed to the furthest corner. The important thoughts or ones that cheer you up can be brought to the front lines.

In one line: compartmentalization refers to the act of organizing your mind.

What Will You Achieve with Compartmentalization?

Compartmentalization brings you a lot of benefits.

You Will Boost Your Mental Health

This method is a great way to boost your mental health and faculty. The nature of the process gets rid of unhealthy and negative vibes inside your mind. Once the mind is clear and peaceful, your life starts to get in order as well.

It is your route to get rid of underlying depression, too.

Basically, depression is one of the most common mental health issues in today’s world. However, it is still hard to identify. A lot of people experience depression without even realizing what they’re going through.[2]

Compartmentalization will help you understand what is really going on inside your mind. Even if you don’t identify depression, you’ll still be able to cope with it. Once the mind gets organized, negativity will automatically start to flow out.

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This peaceful state of mind will rid you of your mental health issues for the most part. However, if your scenario is more intense, do consult a professional.

You Will Be More Productive

Other than the emotional support, compartmentalization also improves your work productivity.

Look at it this way:

Assume that your room is a mess and all your belongings are thrown around recklessly. Your jeans lie in one corner of the room whereas the shirt that you want to wear is under the bed. You don’t even know where your bed is. It will automatically take you much longer to get dressed in such an environment. Moreover, you will also despise getting dressed due to the extra effort you have to put in every day.

On the other hand, if your room and closet are well-organized, you will not only enjoy the process, but it will also be significantly quicker.

With your thoughts in the right place, you can boost your productivity, improve your time-management, and also brainstorm in a better way. Mindfulness and longer focus spans will come your way with compartmentalization.

How to Compartmentalize for More Productivity

Now you’re aware of what compartmentalization is and what you can expect to achieve from it. All that’s left to do is learn how to compartmentalize in the right way.

Before we move on, you should know that this mechanism can be used for emotions, managing workload, tackling relationships, and much more. What you want to achieve is totally up to you.

However, the suggested process and tips are universal. You can alter them as per your aims, but for the most part, they will work in all scenarios.

1. Identify Your Thoughts

The first step to face your thoughts. This isn’t where you deal with them as such, but you only figure out which thoughts belong in which category.

As mentioned in a previous example, your work tasks can be one category.

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It is up to you to decide which thoughts to put together. You can go for a completely different style and compartmentalize based on deadlines instead of the nature of the thoughts.

One great way to create categories is to keep work and emotions separate. Relationships generally fall under emotions, too, but you can always keep them separate.

So, for emotions, you can distinguish negative and positive thoughts. Or, you can categorize them based on their history. Emotions that are attached to your childhood can be separate from emotions that you experience as an adult.

When it comes to compartmentalizing, it is important that you also let go. Do not hoard memories and thoughts. It is generally hard to do in the case of emotions, but you will get the hang of it with experience.

It is easier in the case of practical things. Let’s say you have a long to-do list. Tackle every task one by one and ask yourself three questions each time.

  • Do I love this task?
  • Can I do a great job fulfilling this task?
  • Does this task bring me any good?

If the answer to any one of the questions is yes, you have to deal with the task. If all answers are no, let it go.

2. Stick to Your Goals

Everybody has an aim in life. You either want to be more successful, more famous, richer, more peaceful, or something along those lines.

Whatever your goals are, stick to them. Any thoughts that stray you from your route should be let go of.

Thoughts that go hand in hand with your goals should be compartmentalized accordingly. So, ones that will help you the most in reaching your goal the quickest should be the easiest to reach in your brain.

3. Confront All Compartments One by One

Things that you do not want to deal with should not be a part of your mental thoughts. However, if you cannot let them go based on the two points mentioned above, you must deal with them.

No matter how far away you bury the compartments of these thoughts, you will have to enter and sort these rooms out eventually.

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Do not force yourself to do so. Build your courage, gain some strength, and then enter these rooms. Do not leave them behind unless you’ve achieved peace with these thoughts.

These can be haunting emotions from the past or work tasks that you absolutely hate to do. Either way, confronting them is the only healthy solution.

4. Focus on One Compartment at a Time

While it is important to deal with all compartments, it is also important to maintain mindfulness.

Only focus on one compartment at one time. Put your complete attention on this one room so that you can do the best job dealing with the thoughts inside.

One of the major goals of compartmentalization is to keep thoughts organized. If you’re not going to practice focus, your mind will still feel as jumbled as it did before.

5. Prioritize Logic, Not Emotions

All the 4 steps mentioned above are only useful if you prioritize logic over your emotions.

If you look at things emotionally, you will never find the true answers. You will let go of important things just because you disliked them. Similarly, you may hold onto thoughts that you like but aren’t useful for your goal in the long term.

Therefore, take a practical approach for beneficial results.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, there is no hard and fast rule on how to compartmentalize. Take guidance from this post and put it to use how you deem best for yourself. Get the most out of compartmentalization to live a better life for yourself and for those around you!

More Tips on How to Compartmentalize

Featured photo credit: Gabrielle Henderson via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on March 4, 2021

7 Ways to Concentrate Better in a Toxic Work Environment

7 Ways to Concentrate Better in a Toxic Work Environment

Many of us have had the misfortune of working in a toxic work environment, where the atmosphere in the workplace is filled with negativity and politics. It’s unpleasant and can lead to stress, anxiety, and a more negative outlook on life.

Many years ago, I found myself working in a small country house hotel and restaurant with a team of great front-of-house people who worked well together, but with a newly installed kitchen team that saw front-of-house employees as the enemy. They wanted to create conflict where there previously was none.

The kitchen team was led by a highly respected head chef who was a minor celebrity TV chef, and when he joined our hotel, he insisted on bringing in his own team. This meant the existing kitchen team was fired, almost without notice, and overnight we were dealing with a team of strangers.

At first managing this negative work culture was easy; we just stayed out of the kitchen as much as possible. But then one day, the general manager of the hotel left, and he was replaced by the head chef. From then on, it felt like open warfare.

In less than a week, a workplace that was a pleasure to go to turned into a nightmare. I remember driving to work with a feeling of dread, bordering on fear. I wasn’t sleeping well, I smoked a lot more, and I had this constant, horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach, even on days when I was not working.

I remember one evening after we had finished a shift, and all the customers and kitchen team had gone home, sitting down with a colleague to talk about the situation. I was fortunate as my colleague was a little older and wiser than I, and he had a forward-looking, philosophical attitude to life. He taught me that no matter the environment you are working in, if you focus on doing your best work every day, and avoid getting caught up in the politics, you can rise above it.

Looking back now, I am glad I experienced this culture. I learned a lot about how to deal with negativity in a toxic work environment, and the lessons I learned then still help me today.

What Causes a Toxic Work Environment?

A toxic work environment can come about in many ways, but poor communication is often at the root of it. This may include a lack of communication between the boss and the employees regarding roles and expectations, or a lack of communication between coworkers that leads to misunderstandings and resentment.

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Poor leadership is another common culprit. If a workplace lacks a good leader, it can lead to a chaotic workplace or one where everyone looks out for only themselves instead of working together. In my case, the head chef favored one set of employees, making it difficult for the other set to enjoy their work.

If a workplace has little opportunity for growth or learning, it can also turn toxic. When workers feel stagnant, they can experience the effects of burnout and boredom, which can cause other coworkers to feel less motivated to do their work well.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to manage your mindset in a toxic work environment.

How to Concentrate in a Toxic Work Environment

Here are seven lessons I learned from experiencing two years of working in a highly toxic work environment.

1. Don’t Get Sucked in

We are faced with a choice in a toxic work environment. You can react to the negativity and become part of the problem, or you can rise above it. Rising above it involves not being provoked. Allow the negativity to pass over you.

Instead, focus on doing the best work you can. When you arrive at work, start your day.

If you are in sales, focus on being the best sales person. If you are in administration, focus on making sure you do your work accurately and in a timely way. If you are a bar manager (as I was), make sure your bar is clean, stocked, and open for business when the first customer comes in.

Don’t give the negative influences and passive aggressive coworkers an excuse to attack you. When you see negative energy coming your way, pause, identify the emotions that are surfacing, and let them pass.

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This, of course, can be easier said than done. For a little extra help, check out Lifehack’s free guide: End Distraction And Find Your Focus.

2. Become a Beacon of Positivity

Often a toxic work environment is caused by workplace bullying. When you see this happening, become a rock of support for the person or people experiencing these attacks to help them feel safe and heard. Be nice, attentive, and understanding. If you see your colleague make a mistake, quietly fix the mistake or gently point it out.

Never attack or be negative. Instead, be a good listener, offer support, and take your attacked colleague out for lunch and give them the space to talk things through.

If there are signs of a toxic workplace, having a non-judgmental colleague who offers support, an ear to listen, and kindness applies an antidote to the stress, upset, and fear[1].

Surviving a toxic work environment

    3. Have a Plan

    The best way to stay away from the negativity is to have a plan for the day. How will you start the day? What tasks will you accomplish by the end of the day?

    Having a plan for the day takes your focus away from the toxicity around you and puts your focus on doing your work.

    For me, I made sure the first task I did when I arrived at work was to clean my bar and make sure my fridges were stocked. I did not want to give an excuse to the unpleasant members of the team to attack me. My purpose every morning was to set an example, to be ready for when the diners came in. And when the diners did come in, I gave them my full, undivided attention.

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    This focus on my plan for the day kept me away from the politics. It gave me a positive purpose and enabled me to stay above what was going on around me.

    If you’ve lost your motivation while working in a toxic environment, you can check out this Lifehack Fast-Track Class to get back on track: Activate Your Motivation

    4. Stay Away From the Toxic People

    This is often easier said than done. Sometimes, the toxic people in your organization are your bosses and are unavoidable. However, in most workplaces today, there are quiet corners where you can get on with your work when you see the red flags of a hostile workplace.

    Working in an open-plan office can leave us at the mercy of disruptive colleagues and bosses, but if you can find yourself a quiet corner where you can get your head down and do you work, you will, for the most part, stay away from the negative forces working around you.

    When you “hang out” with the toxic people, they will drag you into their toxicity. Quietly and calmly explaining you have a lot of work to get on with and moving to a different place leaves you less vulnerable to their negative influence.

    5. Talk to Your HR Department

    This is one where you need to be careful. You do not want to make accusations or get involved in a blame game when you’re in a toxic work environment. Instead, you want to explain to your HR department that you find it difficult working with a particular person or team[2], and that it’s beginning to negatively affect your personal life.

    Where possible, make it out that this is your fault, not theirs—you do not want to make things worse for yourself. Explain that for you to do your work, you need to be moved somewhere else so you can concentrate and be more focused.

    In a toxic work environment, you will find your HR team is likely fully aware of the problem and will understand your request and do whatever they can to accommodate you.

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    The worst thing you can do is ignore the problem. If the situation is preventing you from doing your work, you need to have that conversation with HR, or if you do not have an HR department, your boss.

    You can learn more about when to go to HR or your boss here.

    6. Listen to Music

    Buy yourself some headphones, not earphones. This is a trick I use on airplanes. Sometimes I want to be left alone to think, read, or just be left with my thoughts. Having my headphones on stops my fellow passengers from interrupting me with questions about what I do, where I’m from, and where I’m going.

    In a toxic work environment, wearing headphones achieves the same result. When we see someone with a pair of headphones on, we automatically leave them alone unless we urgently need to ask them something.

    Whether you actually listen to music or not is less important. The wearing of headphones prevents interruptions and allows you to quietly get on with your work.

    7. Work From Home

    With the current global pandemic, the ability to work from home is more accessible than ever before. Being able to stay outside your toxic work environment will allow you to focus on your work and not on what is going on around you.

    If you do have the option to work from home, then do so for your mental and physical health. One thing I learned is that the people causing the toxic environment do not last long in a company, and the turnover rate is quite high. They either move on by their own accord or are fired or moved to another position where they can cause less harm.

    Final Thoughts

    I have intentionally not suggested that you leave your job, but if you do find yourself feeling stressed and fearful, then the best advice would be to find another company. Nobody should work in a toxic work environment, and if you have taken all the necessary steps to resolve the issue with your company and nothing changes, then you should take steps to leave.

    I understand this can be very difficult, particularly with a complicated job environment and toxic employees around you, but the harm to your health and wellbeing is not worth it. If you need the income, then start looking for a new job and work life. The good news is most companies do not have toxic work cultures, and with a little effort, you should be able to find a new job.

    More on Dealing With a Negative Workplace

    Featured photo credit: Siavash Ghanbari via unsplash.com

    Reference

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