One of the things I loved about being a homemaker was how my entire life flowed together. It is true that moms work 24/7 but SAHM’s can also play 24/7, my life, my schedule. I can for the most part do what I want and when I want.
So when some major event happened in my life that caused pause, I was free to pause. I was free to cancel my plans, let my kids watch videos all day, order take-out for dinner and just stop my entire life to wallow in whatever major problem had come my way. Maybe even a couple days. Or a week. Eventually if you disengage from life too long you have to admit you have a problem but if I was overwhelmed by my life during those years I had time to stop and process the new information, determine how it would affect me going forward, create a new plan and then resume normal activities.
Now that I am working, stopping my life is not an option. I have to sit at my desk and try to think about business deals and solve other people’s problems while I am in the midst of my own personal crisis. Not fun.
I have always loved the flow of life that occurred when I was at home and one of the reasons I am pursuing self employment is because of how much I value the non traditional schedule and flexibility that comes with it. But, whether I punch a clock for someone else or for myself I still have to show up for work and get things done. People are counting on me and they don’t care what is going on in my personal life.
I have decided I need to learn to compartmentalize.
I have to admit I have never wanted to learn this skill. I have never viewed this as a positive or healthy mental exercise. As I look into compartmentalizing I can see what has always kept me from pursuing it. There is a danger that you over compartmentalize. You can get to the point where you live a somewhat conflicting life or set of values depending on circumstances because you have so fully separated different areas of life. That is not the kind of compartmentalizing I am talking about here. I simply want to be able to turn my focus from one thing to the next without letting a stressful situation in one area of my life become a destructive force in another area of my life.
After reading a few internet articles (my thorough research method) I have decided to implement a few new skills:
Simplicity. Our family has actually been working on this one for several months as we recently did a significant downsize of our entire lifestyle which included a move to a much smaller home, lowering expenses and getting rid of a lot of possessions. We are still in the process of the transition and still purging but I already feel more peaceful. One of the writers referred to living a “clean” life as helping him compartmentalize. He included being debt free as one of the things that helps him cope. It is another aspect of this simpler life we are hoping to fully achieve. Knowing we are on the right track with these tasks helps to keep on the path even though the journey toward living a simple life is not particularly simple and frankly has contributed to my stress in recent months.
Planning. The articles talked about scheduling out the areas of your life you need to be in and then being present in them. This is the time of my day I am going to interact with my daughter, this is the time I am going to return emails, this is the time I am going to write, this is the time I am going to do client care, etc. Plan it and then follow it. It isn’t that things don’t happen to distract us during those times but it will keep us from getting overly trapped in one area. One post talked about entering each “box” in your life, making a plan for how to deal with whatever problem needed to be dealt with, getting the process of solving it started and then moving on. It made me think about watching grass grow, getting stuck sitting there watching the process and accomplishing nothing else. Don’t watch grass grow. Plant the seeds and then move on. Come back later to water. When I have a problem I definitely like to watch the grass grow between activities.
Focus. When I am stressed about something or have a particularly challenging event occurring in my family I tend to be very focused…on the problem. Because I like to view my entire life as flowing together into one life, I tend to bring my problems with me into every area of my life. I need to start focusing on what is in front of me. Now sometimes our problems are in front of us. So go ahead and spend some time giving the problem attention, anywhere from 10 minutes to a couple hours depending on how extreme, and then move on. I will confess that even with a big problem, after an hour or so I am just re-hashing the same issues, same thoughts, over and over in my head. No new answers on how to solve it come up. This is the time to delegate this problem to God. He is far better equipped to handle it than you are anyway. Then move into the next box and get to work.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven” Ecc 3:1
Check out my resources below. Not sure any of them are exactly experts but they have been developing the skill of compartmentalizing a little longer than I have.