A Lesson in Compartmentalizing: Some Notes & Musings
Lately, I've been feeling the burn of juggling a lot of things, all at once. I suppose this comes with the life I've chosen, that is, being a freelancer and simultaneously being a business manager. In 2015, I decided to let go of my 9-5 job at a marketing agency, take a part-time job at a bigger agency that required me to only show myself in the office twice a week, and for the rest of the week, I would have to manage my family's real estate business AND my consultancy work at a Renewable Energy company. This set up was basically perfect for me because members of my family had some health issues that forced them to let go of some tasks that I could perform. In 2016, the health issues escalated and I was given more permanent responsibilities and duties that required me to be more hands-on with property management and tenant relations (yes, I am a landlady).
Along the way, I have come to realize that the art of juggling things takes a lot. It is draining, it is chaotic, it can be a mess. The thought that you have to do all these different things, with different goals, in all kinds of different roles, can take a physical toll, as it did with me. It just takes a lot, a lot, a lot to get over this. And out of all the things that I have gleaned, I think my number one takeaway from this entire experience so far, is this: Compartmentalizing Your Life Does Not ALWAYS Work.
I know, I know. This totally goes against what other business gurus or experts or whatever say. They always say focus on one thing at a time, and hey, I believe that wholeheartedly. Every task that you do should be given your 100%. I mean, why do it at all if you're going to half-ass it. And in some cases, compartmentalizing is a necessity. Because you will need to make sure that your personal life doesn't affect your work. You will need to make sure that whatever problems you have with the bank teller earlier that morning doesn't make you scream at your loved ones later on in the evening. For some, and perhaps for a while, this could work. It seems logical enough. Some successful entrepreneurs and business managers have sworn by this method. That's completely fair and valid. And if you're able to reduce your anxiety and stress by putting different facets of your life in different boxes, well, by all means, go ahead and do it.
However, I've always had a difficult time taming the madness and chaos of daily life by double and triple-hatting roles and responsibilities, and changing my attitude and personas while going through these roles and responsibilities. The problem that I always had with this is that my sense of identity is always compromised. I never feel like I can be my best self when I feel incongruity in my life. And yes, this is a bit abstract and intangible, but I have reason to believe that I always do a worse job of being a landlady/marketer/daughter/sister or person, in general, when I feel like there are too many cubbyholes in my life.
When I find myself over-compartmentalizing my personal, family, freelancer, employer, social lives, the anxiety I have to keep them all separate increases. These compartments are supposed to be separate from one another. No spillovers. And when it does spillover, it, more often than not, becomes more cumbersome and tedious than how it was pre-cubbyhole compartmentalization. It becomes total and utter pandemonium. The idea to keep everything neatly packed away and separate seems like a good idea on paper. It's efficient. You get things done with factory precision, you get from point A to point B with no fuss and no drama. But in all this, something gets lost in all the compartmentalized task accomplishment. The fact of the matter is, when you live a compartmentalized life and your only concern is to get things done all separately from one another, the whys of the matter gets lost. And once that happens, why would you even do anything to begin with if you don't have an integrated purpose for all that you're doing anyway. What would be the point of the whole endeavor in the first place?
I don't claim to be a philosopher or a psychologist or anyone who remotely resembles someone who understands humanity and the human mind, and I clearly have no expertise in the social, cultural, moral ramifications and implications of trying to pick and choose among personas in the workplace or otherwise. All I am saying is, we need to remember why we do things in the first place. We need to put a more premium value for consistency and transparency across all aspects of our very multi-faceted lives. It's not an easy thing to commit to, too. Compartmentalizing your lifestyle is the easy way out but it can chip away at your spirit, your very being, if you aren't careful. The foundation for any kind of effort (work, social, family, personal effort---just all the effort), should be consistent across the board for the entire experience to be enriching.
Over the course of the last two years, I find this to be more and more true. When my purpose is aligned, when I am able to communicate what I need to because I know what my purpose is, I feel that my output is better. It's more succinct. The work is more pure and suffering endured, whatever degree of suffering it is, ultimately, is more worth it. Although that isn't to say it isn't difficult. Sometimes it is the most difficult. And I'm never 100% successful at this. And I fail a lot of the time. BUT again, if the foundation of all the work that you do, all the efforts pursued will come from a healthy place, then everything that flows from it should be better than anything a disjointed, discombobulated mind can produce. Do you think I've got something here? Sound off in the comments section below if you agree or disagree? Let's discuss! I'd love to hear your thoughts.