Learning how to compartmentalize areas of your life in a holistic way will show you great benefits and some disadvantages when compartmentalizing is done wrong. 

First, let’s look at what exactly compartmentalizing is. 

What is compartmentalizing?

Compartmentalizing at work is the ability to block out all distractions including other work other than what you are working on. 

In psychology, compartmentalizing is a human defense mechanism which allows a person to block out a traumatic event. The problem is if the traumatic event is not dealt with properly, it can lead to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). PTSD is often seen in many vets who have seen the horrors of war or the survivors of violent crime. 

Remember this, compartmentalizing is not about denial, it is about putting things in the place they belong in order to keep them from getting in the way of the rest of your day or life. 

Using compartmentalizing in positive ways, allows a person to be more productive and more focused on the things that are important to us. It can help us prioritize our health, marriage, learning, and more. 

What are the benefits of compartmentalizing?

The benefits of compartmentalizing are:

  • Focus
  • Productivity
  • Prioritizing
  • Reducing stress and anxiety
  • Working through problems 
  • Moving forward

The disadvantage of compartmentalizing is doing it in the form of denial and not working through the issue which can cause PTSD. 

How do you learn to compartmentalize?

Learning to compartmentalize may take a little time but you can learn to do it successfully. 

Compartmentalizing for work

First, stop multitasking. Many people think they can accomplish more by multitasking but when you multitask none of the things you are doing at the same time receive all your attention. This can cause issues with the work. 

Make your daily tasks list and assign each item a priority. For example, you have seven things on your task list; rank them in order of which is more important. Transfer them to a daily calendar that has time slots on it. Give each one a set amount of time such as two hours. During those two, hours you will focus all your attention to that task. After those two hours is up, start on the next task for a set amount of time. 

At the end of the day, plan tomorrow before leaving work. On the way home, you can think about what you did today, and what you have to do tomorrow but when you are within two miles of home stop thinking about work. 

Compartmentalizing your home life

Just like compartmentalizing your work day, you can do the same for your home life. 

Plan your day with a list of things to do. Give each item a prioritizing number and stop multitasking. Work through the list one at a time and at the end of the day without multitasking you will find that you have accomplished more and done the job better than when you try to multitask everything all day long. You will also find that your day has far less stress than when multitasking. For example, spend the first hour or two of the day dealing with communications, the next two hours spend on the items that have the highest priority one item at a time, during lunch actually take a break and do not think about work until you are back in the office. The rest of the day, concentrate on the rest of the list one thing at a time. At the end of the day, on the way, home you can go over your day and begin to think about tomorrow until you are a few miles from home then switch to thinking about what you will do at home with the family.  

The same principals apply to the rest of your life as well. If you are having an issue that seems to dominate your mind and life all day start with asking yourself if there is anything you can do to change the situation. If the answer is no, then begin compartmentalizing by allowing yourself two hours to think only on that situation. After that, think of other situations going on in your life and act on those. If you find yourself thinking about the previous again remind yourself that you cannot think about that situation right now only situations that you can change. This is not to say it will be easy, and you may need to seek therapy to help you while you learn to compartmentalize. 

Compartmentalizing will reduce stress and help you accomplish more during your workday and home life. Just be sure that you are compartmentalizing and not denying.