The Big Idea
The perfect antonym to productivity is notifications
Questions I Answer
- How can I find balance?
- What is the best strategy for setting good boundaries for work and home?
- What do I need to do to compartmentalize my life?
- How can I limit distractions so I can be more productive?
Key Topics in the Show
How one compartment of your life affects the rest.
The mistakes you might be making when compartmentalizing.
Real strategies to apply focus in different areas of your life.
The key to compartmentalizing effectively.
Resources and Links
- Tips on How to Set Better Boundaries for Work and Home:
- Create separate work and personal email accounts.
- Put your phone and email on do not disturb.
- Ex: When you’re at home set your work email to do not disturb.
- Use Google Voice: free service to set up a separate phone number just for work while still using one phone.
- Set hours of availability vs. hours of business:
- Hours of availability are the hours that you publish and people know you’re available to respond to calls and emails only during this time.
- Hours of business are the times used to focus on work. Don’t use this time for communication, responses, etc.
- Set expectations for when you’ll be in each compartment of your life.
- If you’re writing emails during your business/work hours, you can save them as a draft and send them during your hours of availability. There are also apps you can use to schedule when your email sends.
- Reminder: Hours don’t have to be 9-5, and they don’t have to be consecutive. Set your hours depending on when you work best.
Hello, hello, everyone. Welcome to Productivity Paradox. I’m your host Tanya Dalton and this is episode 15. We are continuing to talk about streamlining which if you listened in last week you know that is the focus of our season. For the next 13 episodes, we’re going to be talking about different methods for streamlining your life. Today we’re going to be talking about compartmentalizing your life. What does that mean? Essentially it means separating your life into categories in order to help you be more productive. Obviously the more productive you are, the more time you’re going to have to focus in on the things that are truly important to you. Compartmentalizing helps us gage the importance and urgency of different tasks.
It allows us to figure out how to address them. Most people have three big categories in their lives, work, home and personal. Let’s talk about each one of those. Work for most people is income producing tasks, maybe you’re prospecting or networking. You might work for a business or maybe you’re an entrepreneur. It might even be that you are a volunteer who spends a large amount of time volunteering. Now home and personal are the other two categories and I want to make you understand that they are not the same thing. Home are items that have to do with your home whether it’s cleaning. These are things with pets, chores, tasks and things like that. Personal is you.
This includes the people that you are in relationships with whether that’s your husband or your wife or your partner, your roommate, if you have children. It really focuses in not only on relationships, but also your hobbies, your personal growth and your health. It’s really about the harmony in these three areas, work, home and personal, that’s really what brings us happiness. We talked about harmony on this podcast before so I know you’re familiar with it when I talk about it. You’ve heard me say before that I believe that balance is bogus because you are not able to really move forward in any direction if you are spending more time in one of those different categories. That time that you’re spending changes from time to time.
It’s really all about harmony. It’s kind of like the divided plates. You know those plates that you get whenever you’re at a picnic and you can put the potato salad in one compartment and you could put the beans in another compartment and you could put your hamburger in the middle? Well, it’s just like that. They’re not exactly even because sometimes you want to spend a little more time in one section than another. Sometimes you want more potato salad than you want of the beans, right? That’s what harmony is all about. It’s not about it being even. It’s about finding the way that it works the best for you. Compartmentalizing really enables a person to focus in each one of those areas with its own time. Each one is treated as a priority during its time.
When you apply extreme focus on each of these compartments, you can do that for a short period of time. Then you can close that compartment and open the next one. For example, stopping work and focusing on home. When you open and
close these compartments, it’s like a door because you have to open it up and close it behind you to go to the next room. Now you’ll notice I didn’t say it was a revolving
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door, so you’re really wanting to keep these areas separate. You have to say no to things that don’t deserve a compartment. As I said, I really believe there are three main compartments in our lives, work, home and personal. I know this can be a challenge to really open and close compartments.
I want to talk to us a little bit about how it works and then some strategies for how you can start implementing this for yourself because I know a lot of people have some problems with compartmentalizing. Entrepreneurs in particular have trouble opening a compartment and making a slight bit of progress and then closing it. A lot of times it’s because they’re emotionally attached and they tend to need to see large amounts of progress. They focus all their time and energy on one issue and they allow that to pull all of their emotional energy throughout the day when they need to be focusing in on other compartments. I’m an entrepreneur. I deal with this myself so I’m not pointing any fingers by any stretch of the imagination.
It is really hard sometimes to shut off work and focus on home because I have a lot of things going on and a lot of it depends on me. The main opponent of compartmentalizing is overwhelm. If there’s a feeling of overwhelm in any of the compartments, you’ll feel this when you try to focus in on another. The best way to beat that feeling of overwhelm is to write down the steps you need to take and then plan or refocus the compartment you are trying to work on in the first place. You’ll remember that I believe that overwhelm is not having too much to do. It’s not knowing where to start. We want to try to eliminate overwhelm as much as we can.
One of the benefits of compartmentalizing these different areas of your life is it allows you to focus so much energy and time in each section that you should be able to do away with overwhelm. I love how Jonathan Fields talks about compartments in your life in terms of buckets. He talks about them spiritually. He says the three spiritual buckets are contribution, connection and vitality. The metaphor he uses works in the terms that I’m talking about here as well. What I like is that the three buckets you have should be full to feel fulfilled, but that’s not really going to happen because that’s not feasible. You can give yourself a quick snapshot of how you’re feeling by rating each of these compartments or these buckets on a scale of 1 to 10.
Here’s the catch. Are you ready for this? The buckets leak. You can fill up your work bucket for awhile let’s say and then you turn your focus on home, the home bucket, and you work really hard and you feel really good about that home bucket. Meanwhile your personal bucket? It’s leaked. You’re going to have to take a break from work and fill it back up again. It feels like it’s really hard to get ahead because your buckets are always leaking. They’re not gushing out. They’re just little tiny leaks. Eventually they’re going to go empty if you don’t take the time to refill them. It doesn’t feel good to feel like you can’t get ahead, but here’s the thing, the height of your lowest bucket will always cap the level of your other buckets.
When you feel like you’re not really making progress by working harder or smarter, it might be that one of these compartments of your life whether it be work or home or personal is feeling neglected and that bucket is getting empty because it’s leaking out. You have to limit the progress you’ll make in all the other areas of your life. Again it’s not necessarily about keeping these buckets all at the exact same
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level because that’s not feasible. It’s about making sure that none of these buckets are empty. You don’t want your bucket to be dry. You always need it to have a little bit of something in that. The strategies for compartmentalizing your life means dividing it into these definite sections. Again that really allows you to focus.
It helps you to work more effectively. You can do just about anything during these focus times. Because when you’re focused, you’re really able to get into the zone. When you’re in a zone, you’re going to be working twice as fast as you normally would. It takes about 10 minutes to get yourself into the zone, but once you’re there, you really can get a lot more done. Having these compartments allows you to really focus in on who you are at that moment. Because when you’re at work, you’re a business person. When you’re not at work, when you’re at home let’s say or you’re in your personal life, you are a mother, a wife, a husband, a boyfriend, a best friend, a neighbor, right? You’re all these other things.
When you’re compartmentalizing, it really allows you to be the best person you can be in that moment. How do you accomplish this? How do you actually compartmentalize your life? We’re talking about buckets and divided plates and all those things, but how does it really work? Let’s dive now into some strategies for how you can really focus in on those different areas of your life. Let’s start by talking about personal and work communication. I truly believe you need separate email addresses for work and home. If you’re using your work email to email your best friend or your mom, I really want to encourage you to get a septate email address, okay? Because it allows you when you’re at work to shut down your personal email.
When you’re at home, it allows you time to shut off your work email. It’s okay to shut off your work email from time to time even if you don’t think it is. One of the things I really love about Gmail is that it allows you to put it on do not disturb mode where you cannot get the emails. If you’re one of those people who is always
tempted to refresh, refresh, refresh and check your email again and again, put your email on do not disturb and no emails will come through. No matter how many times you refresh that screen, no email will come through. I love that because sometimes we work to our own detriment, right? We tend to keep going even when we know we need to stop. I really want to encourage you to have a separation of your work and your personal email address.
Here’s the other thing I think should really be separate, I believe you should have a separate phone number for work and personal calls. Now I know what you might be thinking. You might be thinking, “That’s not really feasible. I don’t really want to carry two cellphones around.” I don’t blame you. I don’t want to have two
cellphone plans, but there’s a really, really easy and simple workaround and bonus, it’s absolutely free. The answer here is Google Voice. You can set up a Google Voice phone number for free. If you go to Google, to the page and you click on the apps and you click on more, you have to dig for it for some reason, but you’ll find Google Voice in there.
You’re able to set up a separate phone number just for work or just for your personal life, whichever one you want to. Set up a separate phone number. That phone number will still ring to your phone, so you don’t have to get a separate phone at all. It allows you to know when someone’s calling for work and when they’re calling
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for personal. What I do is I have a separate ringer. I have a ringer for people who call my personal phone number and I have a separate ringer when people are calling my work phone number. You can use this little trick whether you have your own business
or if you have a cellphone number that your work uses. If your works tends to call you a lot on the weekends, you might want to set up a separate phone number that’s just for personal using Google Voice.
That way one of the beauties again of Google is that you can put that phone number on do not disturb mode. When people call that work number on the weekend, guess what? It doesn’t ring. You don’t have to think about it. It really is so nice to separate the two and it’s very, very easy to do. What I would have you do is once you have these different phone numbers set up on the same phone, you could have a separate voicemail for each one. One is work and one is personal. In your voicemail, state when you’re going to return your calls. If it’s your work phone number, you can say, “I answer phone calls on Monday through Friday from 8 o’clock to 5 o’clock,” or whatever times you want. It’s truly up to you.
You can have your work phone number with your very professional sounding voicemail that says when you return calls and then you can have using the same exact phone your personal phone number that has your fun voicemail and that tells your friends and your family when you’re available to return their phone calls. This truly helps to set expectations. Because if you’re always answering emails and texts and calls from your work and your family and your friends, you’re muddling up these different compartments. It’s really hard to set expectations of when you’re going to be responding. If you set the expectation that when you’re at work you only answer work emails and work calls, that’s really going to help you.
Because for example, my best friend knows that at work, I’m focused. I’m getting my stuff done so I can get my stuff done and I can go home and spend my evenings with my kids and that’s my time to talk to her. Erika does not call me during the day. She knows that during the day I’m focused on work and I know not to call her. We have set that expectation for each other. I will tell you this, if my phone rings at 2 o’clock in the afternoon while I’m at work and it is Erika, I know to pick up because I know that’s an emergency and she feels the same way. We’ve set that expectation for one another because we have laid that foundation down. Because honestly, the perfect antonym to productivity is notifications. Avoid them when you can.
That’s what’s really nice about being able to put your phone and your email in do not disturb mode when you’re in one of your compartments. When you’re at work, personal and home is on do not disturb. When I’m at home, work is on do not disturb. It really allows you to set boundaries. I set boundaries with work and with my family so that when I’m at work, they know that I’m focused in on what I’m getting done during the day for my business. They know that when I’m at home with my family, they know that time is precious to me as well because I’m giving all of my attention when I’m at work to work. I’ve even trained my kids to understand these boundaries and I started this training when they were little bits, when they were teeny-tinies.
They knew that when I was working, that they were not able to interrupt me because quite frankly, I’ve been using this Google Voice trick for years. My kids are
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now 10 and 14. They know when they hear the special work ringtone, that meant that they needed to be quiet. That that was my time that I was really focused on work. Even when they were little, tiny, when my kids were like four and five years old, they totally understood that. They knew that when that phone rang, I was walking in the other room. They knew they were okay to watch a TV show because I’d already set those boundaries up with them. We had already come up with a plan for when mommy was in work mode. I really encourage you to set hours for yourself.
If you’re working from home, this is where things can get a little bit complicated with these compartments, right? Because if you run your own business, it’s really hard because you’re always working on your business. If you work out of your house for your company, it can get really muddled. You need to set hours for yourself and I want you to keep in mind that hours don’t have to be nine to five. Quite frankly, they don’t even have to be hours all together. You can work two hours here, six hours there. Make it work for your life if you have that flexibility. If you don’t, obviously that can be a little bit difficult. If you do have that flexibility, take advantage of that.
If you do work better within different hours, set those hours as your business hours. Now here’s the catch, I want to encourage to have hours of business and hours of availability. Hours of availability are the hours that I publish and I share with others as being available. These are times when I am actively responding to emails. I am including these times on my voicemails, on my emails and everywhere else because people know those are the times I’m available. Even if I’m working at other times, I’m not available for communication because I’m focused in on my work time. That’s my time where I really get a lot of work done because I’m not being distracted by communications.
Even if I’m writing emails to a client or a customer or anyone else at odd hours, I save them as a draft and I email them during my hours of availability. Now there are different apps you can use and you can add on to your email inbox so that you can actually delay delivery of those. I want to encourage you to do this because it sets the tone for your clients, it sets the tone for your boss, and it lets them know when you’re truly available. As soon as your boss emails you at 11:30 at night and you respond in 15 minutes, your boss begins to think, “You know what? They’re working late at night. I can email them all the time and expect a response.” By keeping your hours of availability, it really sends that message.
Again it helps to set those boundaries. I think boundaries are truly the key with compartmentalizing because you have to communicate those with others. It helps you to create structure and routine because that will help you feel more empowered and successful. I really think that will help you tremendously. I want to encourage you to find some ways this week to compartmentalize your life. Can you set some working hours? Can you set some hours of availability? Go ahead. Set up the Google Voice. Have a work phone number and a personal phone number. Set up separate email accounts and really commit to focusing in all your time and your energy when you’re in that compartment. When you’re at work, really focus in on work.
When you’re at home, truly focus in on the things that are important to you at home and same for your personal compartment. I want to really encourage you to do
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that because I think it’s really important. I found this great alternative to this Yoda quote so I love the Yoda quote “do or do not, there is no try.” I heard this one the other day, “do or do not, there is no stress.” When we do the things that we need to do and we don’t do the things we don’t need to do, we’re not going to stress. We’re going to do or do not, there is no stress. I really want to encourage you to do this. Here is what I’d love for you to do next. I want you to take some action to compartmentalize your life and I want you to tell me about it.
I want you to find me on social media. You can find me on Instagram. You can find me on Facebook. You can tag me with @inkWELLPress. You can use the #productivityparadox. You can send me an email at Hello@inkWELLPress.com. I want you to tell me what you’re doing to really compartmentalize your life and really focus in on the things you’re doing while you’re working in those areas. That way when you’re in your other compartments, you’re able to truly enjoy them to the most of your ability. If you’ll do that for me, I would really appreciate it. I really look forward to hearing from so many of you. I love what I see that you’re doing.
I love the work that you’re doing because I can see that you’re already starting to make some strides into streamlining your life. Next week’s episode is all about making good decisions and focusing on getting rid of sunk cost bias. If you don’t know what sunk cost bias is, you’ll find out next week because it really is a fascinating subject and I’m really excited to talk to you about it. Until next time, happy planning.
**This transcript is created by AI, so please excuse any typos, misspellings and grammar mistakes.
Audiences call Tanya Dalton the best woman productivity keynote speaker. Tanya loves inspiring audiences and motivating them to take action with their time management, goals, and finding meaning at work.