11 Successful Women On How They Compartmentalize

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

When it comes time to focus on one part of your life more than another, compartmentalizing is key. However, it may not always be easy. For instance, you may need to focus on preparing for a big meeting at work, yet you and your significant other had a fight this morning, so it’s harder than usual to ignore your phone and give your full attention to the task at hand. Even without a relationship issue, it may be difficult for you to focus on one thing at a time. But to be your most productive self, it is key. When you master how to compartmentalize, it will change your life.

“I think compartmentalizing is such an important and necessary skill,” Kavita Sahai, leading Coachultant (Coach +Consultant) and Founder of HaveBigPlans.com, tells Bustle. “I used to find myself drowning in to-do lists. My business was growing exponentially, but my health was declining and my kids were always complaining we were not spending enough time together. Whenever I excelled in one part of my life, the other would suffer. I started to implement this habit of compartmentalizing a couple years ago after my third child was born. Once I started to compartmentalize my life and day, I noticed growth in all areas of my life. You will, too.”

Below, you’ll see how several successful women compartmentalize, so if you’re not doing it already, you’ll definitely be motivated to once you see how they do it.

1Redefine How You Think About Compartmentalization

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“Don’t think of it as work/life balance, it’s work/life integration. When you do that, all the pieces will naturally fall into place.” – Shelley Zalis, CEO of The Female Quotient and Founder of The Girls’ Lounge

2Separate Your Work And Leisure Spaces

“Create a work space that is separate from the leisure spaces in your home. If you have a room that can function as an office, even better! This will create physical separation that will, hopefully, create mental separation between your home life and work life. Only work when you’re in your office, and live and rest when you’re in your home.” – Maggie Germano, Founder and CEO, Maggie Germano Financial Coaching

3Set A Timer To Help You Stay Focused On One Compartment At A Time

“In the beginning, I would set a timer on my phone so I was only able to work and focus on a certain compartment at once — family, work, health, community, etc. — for a given time till it became natural. That meant my kids got 30 minutes for focused attention each day, and I did not allow my endless to-do lists to enter my head. It also meant that when I had to work or work out, it was guilt-free, because that was my time to work/work out. Focused effort without all the background noise from the other compartments of my life was so freeing, and helped me to grow in all areas of my life.” – Kavita Sahai, leading Coachultant (Coach + Consultant) and Founder of HaveBigPlans.com

4Use A Time-Tracking App

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“I’m a big believer in time-tracking. I set a target number of hours per week to spend on all the things I care about: my job, side hustles, self-improvement, family/personal,etc. Then, I use the Toggl app religiously, which lets me list out and track hours for all the projects I’m working on. This data allows me to adjust my schedule so that my job doesn’t take over my entire life.” – Michelle Waymire, Financial Advisor/Coach at Young + Scrappy

5Remember, The Biggest Part Of “Compartmentalize” Is “Mental”

“The biggest part of compartmentalize is ‘mental.’ It is truly a case of mind over matter, because staying consistent and disciplined is essential even when it isn’t easy. The first thing I do is prioritize what needs to be done immediately/a week from now/a month from now. The hard part is the not giving in to the temptation to put off something imminent for something longer-term, because the longer-term thing may be easier/more enjoyable. So for example, one of my priorities is to read as much as possible. I would love to spend all my travel time reading, but instead, I have made a mental commitment to dedicate flight time to email clean-up and presentation preparation.” – Chantel Bonneau, a top financial advisor with Northwestern Mutual

6Know The Difference Between Urgent And Important

“I’m lucky that I absolutely love my job. Unfortunately, that means there’s a temptation to always be ‘on’ and let work spill over into my personal life. But there are ways to compartmentalize and not burn out. For instance, remember the difference between urgent and important. I’ve always been a workaholic, but especially now with owning my own business, everything is more personal and, thus, feels more urgent. Just because it feels urgent, however, doesn’t mean it’s all that impactful for the business or should become a top priority. When a fire drill comes up, especially if I should be enjoying personal time, I ask myself what the impact will be if I don’t address it right now. I’m becoming better and better at recognizing that there’s a fire happening in my business someplace, yet still being able to enjoy a sushi dinner with my friends because I’m able to see that, though it feels urgent, the impact it will have on the business as a whole is minimal.” – Nicole Wood, CEO and Co-Founder at Ama La Vida

7Close One Compartment Before Moving On To Another One

“Allot a certain amount of time to complete each task. Stay on track. Adjust time as needed. Complete the task and only then begin with the next task, according to list of priority.” – Timolin Langin, The Money Magnet, Teacher-preneur, and author of Mind Over Money: How to Live like a Millionaire on ANY Budget

8Complete The Most Important Tasks At Your Peak Performance Hours

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“I memorized Stephen Covey’s First Things First framework years ago, and this has been a game-changer for my life. I take stock of my calendar and activities in four quadrants every evening and make adjustments as needed. I typically focus on completing important, not urgent, tasks during my peak performance hours (6 a.m. - 12 p.m.). I now make prioritization decisions using the “first things first” framework and look at everything from that lens.” – Christie Lindor, a 16-year veteran in management consulting and author of the new book The MECE Muse

9Some Compartments Will Overlap, And That’s OK

“As a co-founder and CEO of a startup, people constantly ask me how I achieve a work-life balance. Every time I am asked, I want to laugh. Balance? I’ve been juggling responsibilities since I was young, and I’m still juggling — just with a few more balls in the air. I operate a lot in segments. My day is divided into segments of my life, and it helps me juggle. It’s unrealistic to expect that those parts of my life won’t overlap — of course they will — but compartmentalizing is helpful.” – Michelle Kennedy, the CEO and Co-Founder of Peanut

10Set Rules For Yourself

“Be vigilant with your schedule. Let your teams know when you’re in the office and stick to those times. It sets an example for your teams that it isn’t a crime to leave at a reasonable time to spend time with family or friends.” – Nichole Mustard, Co-Founder and Chief Revenue Officer of Credit Karma

11Don’t Check Your Emails Once You Stop Working

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“I find it fairly hard to compartmentalize, as when something is going on in my personal life or something major is happening in my business, it seems to spill into the other area pretty quickly. One thing that really helps is to keep a set schedule for work and for play. For example, when I log off the computer for the night, it helps if I don’t check my emails or get back on the computer until the next day.” – Laura Sprinkle, brand strategist who helps online entrepreneurs grow their revenue

As you can see, the successful women above utilize successful ways to compartmentalize various facets of their lives. Whatever compartmentalization methods you choose for your life, the key is doing which ones work for you to maximize your time and accomplish the things you want and need to accomplish.