Imagine you are in a meeting and you are met with bad news about a project you are working on.  Something isn’t right, something has happened, someone lied about something – now you are stuck.  You have all sorts of emotions going on.  You are upset, angry, frustrated, hurt, whatever.  However, now it’s time to move to the next meeting with another team on another project.  How do you put your emotions in check and pivot to the next task without lashing out unexpectedly for what seems like no reason? What you are really asking in any of these scenarios is: how do you deal with all the things, and all the emotions, all at once? The answer is, even in business, you need to compartmentalize. 

How do you compartmentalize your thoughts and emotions and keep yourself in check?

Compartmentalization is literally the division of something into sections or categories; psychologically speaking it’s a subconscious defense mechanism used to avoid the mental discomfort and anxiety caused by a person having conflicting values, cognitions, emotions, beliefs, etc. within themselves in any given situation. In business, we’re often faced with a private and professional paradox. We’re overwhelmed by emotions from a certain interaction in the office or we’re handling large personal issues and stressors at home, yet we need to push through and put our focus on whatever the next task at hand is. This can range from the next project that needs your attention to putting together a whole new business strategy so your business doesn’t fail. We are often dealing with unrelated high stress issues, simultaneously.

The first step in compartmentalization is often just to acknowledge and accept the fact that you have several fulltime focuses that require both your emotional and mental energy. Each one is important, but uniquely so. You can only devote your fulltime emotional and mental energy to one of these focuses at a time. Prioritizing is often mentally saying “no” and shutting off focus to another topic while you complete the task that you’ve prioritized for that moment.

This will require you to apply extreme focus to each current task that you’ve decided to spend your time on. If you’ve just had a huge blow up fight with a coworker or a family member, but you have a deadline, you will need to prioritize what takes the focus. When you switch gears and give your focus to that deadline, you have to tune out the rest of the noise and emotion surrounding the earlier blow up. Move forward in incremental steps opening one door at a time.

This doesn’t mean you can’t come back to an issue. It just means that you have to prioritize your focus in real time. Come back to that earlier issue and give resolving it your full focus when it is time for that. This also means saying “no” to things that don’t truly need a compartment or your focus. There are enough personal and professional needs tugging at your attention. It’s your responsibility to cut out the extra noise of the things that don’t matter at all.

As someone with a demanding job or a business to run, you’re going to have to compartmentalize constantly in life. The stress of running a business, potentially running out of money, a project that’s failed to launch, dealing with lawsuits, failed marketing, etc. is going to happen at the same time as being a mother or a father, dealing with family issues, coping with a death in the family, having conflict and strife with coworkers, and more.

You have to learn to open mental space for a specific task, focus on that encounter or project, and then close that compartment to move on to the next one. It may sound cold to turn your emotions and your thoughts on and off in this way, but your ability to compartmentalize, prioritize, and focus enough time on each area in order to keep forward progress towards a conclusion will be what makes or breaks your success (in both your personal and your professional life). Life happens. Life will continue to happen. The good, the bad, and the ugly. The difference in failure and success is what individuals do to push through despite the obstacles put in their way.

Is your team struggling to prioritize projects and tasks that need focus? Is your company culture not running as smoothly as you hoped? We can help. Let’s quickly turn this around for you. Start today: 862.438.5783