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.((Harvard Business Review: Break Through Your Mental Bureaucracy))
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.
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.((Huff Post: The Ten Traits of Perfectly Hidden Depression))
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.
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.
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.
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!