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How to Compartmentalize for Enhanced Productivity

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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 January 5, 2022

The 5 Fundamental Rules Of Working From Home

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The 5 Fundamental Rules Of Working From Home

Suppose you finally took the plunge: resigned your corporate job, decided to follow the passion of your life and (by lack of a new office space, of course), you started to work from home. Welcome to the club! Been there for a few years now and, guess what, it turned out that working from home is not as simple as I thought it would be.

It certainly has a tons of advantages, but those advantages won’t come in a sugary, care free, or all pinky and happy-go-lucky package. On the contrary. When you work from home, maintaining a constant productivity flow may be a real challenge. And there are many reasons for that.

For instance, you may still unconsciously assimilate your home with your relaxation space, hence a little nap on the couch, in the middle of the day, with still a ton of unfinished tasks, may seem like a viable option. Well, not! Or, because you’re working from home now, you think you can endlessly postpone some of your projects for ever, since nobody is on your back anymore. You’re your own boss and decided to be a gentle one. Fatal mistake. Or…

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OK, let’s stop with the reasons right here and move on to the practical part. So, what can you do to squeeze each and every inch of usefulness and productivity from your new working space and schedule (namely, your home)? What follows is a short list of what I found to be fundamentally necessary when you walk on this path.

1. Set Up A Specific Workplace

And stay there. That specific workspace may be a specific room (your home office), or a part of a room. Whatever it is, it must be clearly designed as a work area, with as little interference from your home space as possible. The coexistence of your home and work space is just a happy accident. But just because of that, those two spaces don’t necessarily have to blend together.

If you move your work space constantly around various parts of your house, instead of a single “anchor space”, something awkward will happen. Your home won’t feel like home anymore. That’s one of the most popular reasons for quitting working form home: “My home didn’t feel like home anymore”. Of course it didn’t if you mixed all its parts with your work space.

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2. Split Work Into Edible Chunks

Don’t aim too high. Don’t expect to do big chunks of work in a single step. That was one of the most surprising situations I encountered when I first started to work from home. Instead of a steady, constant flow of sustained activity, all I could do were short, compact sessions on various projects. It took a while to understand why.

When you work in a populated workspace, you behave differently. There is a subtle field of energy created by humans when they’re in their own proximity, and that field alone can be enough of an incentive to do much more than you normally do. Well, when you’re at home, alone, this ain’t gonna happen. That’s why you should use whatever productivity technique you’re comfortable with to split your work in small, edible chunks: GTD, pomodoro.

3. Work Outside Home

In coffee shops or other places, like shared offices. It may sound a little bit counterintuitive, to work outside your home when you’re working from home. But only in the beginning. You’ll soon realize that working from home doesn’t mean you have to stay there all the time. It basically means your home is also your office and you’re free to go outside if you want to.

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I know this may not apply to all of the “work from home” situations, but for those related to information processing, when all you need is a laptop an internet connection, that usually works beautifully. It adds a very necessary element of diversity and freshness. It can also be the source of some very interesting social interactions, especially when you have to solve all sort of digital nomad situations.

4. Go Out!

Working from home may be socially alienating. After almost 3 years of doing it, I finally accepted this as a fact. So, apart from balancing your home time with consistent sessions of working outside of your home, you should definitely go out more often. Our normal work routine, the one that is performed in an office, that is, makes for an important slice of our social interaction needs. Once you’re working from home, that slice won’t be there anymore. But your need for social contacts will remain constant.

So, my solution to this was to grow my social interaction significantly over what I was having when I was working in my own office. Going out to movies, running in the park, meeting for drinks or just chat, whatever it takes to get me out of my home/working space. On a one to ten scale, my social life before was around 3 and now is at a steady 7.

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5. Thoroughly Log Each And Every Day

It goes hand in hand with keeping a personal journal, but this time it’s about work, not personal feelings and experiences. Keep a detailed log of each project and be always ready to pick up from where you left one day or one week ago in just a matter of minutes. It’s not only a productivity enhancer, although it will help you be more productive, but it’s more on the accountability area.

When you work from home you’re your own boss. And, for any of you who are (or have been) bosses, this is not an easy position. You gotta keep track of all the information about your team and of every advancement in your projects. That’s what a boss is supposed to do, after all. When you work from home you have to perform this bossy role too, otherwise you will be lost in your own unfinished ideas and endless project stubs faster than you think.

Featured photo credit: Ian Harber via unsplash.com

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