One of the things I learned in doing the research for my forthcoming book, Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative is that it’s possible to be incredibly busy with a lot on your plate and not feel overworked and overwhelmed.
One of the common denominators that I heard from the people who are most successful in doing this is that they create a clear separation in both their minds and on their calendars between when they’re working and when they’re not working.
One CEO I interviewed referred to it as “compartmentalization.” He and his wife have several teenagers living at home and he has found that things go better for everyone when he makes clear decisions in his mind to ignore his work when he’s home. As he said to me, “If my daughter just broke up with her boyfriend or got a C in a class . . . I need to be present and be her dad, even though I may have had something blow up at work and I’ve got all hell breaking loose all over.”
I recently came across a Harvard Business Review blog post from Google’s head of people operations, Lazslo Bock, that describes why the CEO I interviewed is happier with his life than many overworked and overwhelmed professionals. By compartmentalizing his life, he’s made a decision to be a segmenter, not an integrator. And, if the research being conducted with 4,000 Googlers has broader applications, the CEO is in the 31 percent minority of professionals who are segmenters. The other 69 percent are integrators.
What’s the difference? Segmenters set clear boundaries for themselves. When they’re at work, they’re at work and they’re all in. When they’re not at work, they make conscious decisions to not think about it. Integrators, on the other hand, never really leave work even when they physically leave it. They use their smartphones to stay constantly connected to the information flow from work and never really give themselves a mental or emotional break from it. It’s that unending connection to their work that makes them feel overworked and overwhelmed. (By the way, I’m not arguing for work-life balance here. I don’t believe in that.)
So, are you feeling overworked and overwhelmed? If you are, ask yourself if you’re a segmenter or an integrator. The odds are that you’re an integrator and could use more segmentation in your life.
What are some simple things you could do this week to create more segmentation between your work and the rest of your life? Do your fellow readers a favor and share your ideas in the comments so everyone can learn from everyone else.