Do you often feel pulled in many directions? This is my constant state of mind.
- I'm the Co-Founder of Successful Culture International which keeps my calendar full with client engagements and strategic planning.
- I'm the Co-Founder and lead facilitator of Women's CEO Roundtable, and facilitate a monthly CEO educational cohort.
- I facilitate my monthly CEO meeting as the Regional Chair for Women Presidents Organization.
- I write 6 times a month for Inc. Magazine.
- I'm a (highly selective) keynote speaker.
Then there is the rest of my life. I am never without a to-do list. I don't know the definition of "done."
Compartmentalizing is one of the most important strategies for setting healthy boundaries. It allows us to establish mental barriers between one priority and another so that we can direct all of our energy into what's right in front of us.
Here are 5 strategies to effective compartmentalization:
- Stick with "I love what I do, I'm great at it, and it's the best use of my time." Clearing your plate of everything you shouldn't be doing is the first step to making room for what you should be doing. If an activity doesn't meet these 3 criteria, there is someone better to do this.
In the last 2 months, I've helped 2 CEO clients secure great operations assistants to automate processes, streamline operations, and take everything off of my client's plates that they don't want to do. Their productivity is through the roof.
- Align your activities to your goals. Even if you love it, you're great at it, and it seems to be a good use of your time, does it align with your goals? Every activity must align to our desired outcome.
One of my CEO clients considered generating a report to show customers the ROI they were getting by using their products/services. This is a great idea! However, it's not what the CEO should be doing. It must be delegated to someone in his marketing division, with final approval for release coming from him.
- Regardless of "the list," focus on only one thing. Your list likely has many competing priorities. However, prioritization is a pyramid. In any given moment, we are focused on only one thing.
If you can't complete your obligations in a single focus session, it's ok. Estimate how much time each obligation will require, and create chunks of time to complete it. This is great for large projects, such as writing a book, or working on a client deliverable. Some deadlines will be self-imposed (a book); others will be imposed on you (client deliverable or taxes). Work your way back, and block the time out.
A friend was going through a divorce, and felt overwhelmed at the amount of paperwork and accounting required to move through the process. We branded the process "Get D" and she carved out a specific block of time a few times a week to address it. On the other days, she didn't think about it. This stopped the overwhelm and the feeling that the process was consuming her life.
You can apply this process to any potentially overwhelming task, if you started with the desired outcome and work backwards.
- Delineate emotional and logical reactions because they drive different outcomes. Finally, be aware of the emotional reactions your obligations trigger, and plan accordingly. A client recently has dealt with several emotionally charged circumstances in their company. In each one, I walked him through how to process the event from a business perspective, rather than reacting emotionally,
Emotional reactions are like dominoes. They set off chain reactions that are difficult to stop once in motion, and lead to completely separate set of circumstances. This is why high emotional intelligence is a key component of leadership success. Leadership is a mine field for emotionally charged circumstances. The ability to calmly and rationally navigate them, and keep your eye on the desired outcome, sets apart the good from the great.
Compartmentalizing applies to all aspects of our lives. With 24/7 digital access, it's never been more important to establish structured boundaries and honor them. My weekday mornings from 5:00 - 7:00 are my time. I'm at the gym, engaged in my health and wellness. I don't check emails. I don't answer texts. I have a firm barrier around this time block.
When we don't compartmentalize and establish boundaries, resentment grows, and that's never a good place to be. The good news is that you can begin compartmentalization at any time. Own your list! Take back control! Good luck!