Compartmentalization is overrated.

March 1, 2013

workA while back, I learned the importance of creating boundaries between my work and personal life.  Those boundaries helped to compartmentalize my life, which had its benefits.  I kept my work life separate from my personal life.  And there wasn’t much crossover.
Working at thinkspace has shown me that I actually need less compartmentalization.  A healthy level of balance can still be maintained without strict boundaries.  In a recent conversation with a coworker, he expressed his strong dislike for the idea of work/life balance.  He argued that the work/life balance concept creates a delineation that doesn’t need to be present.  It usually generates a “clock-in” and “clock-out” mentality.  To compete in the Social Era, that mentality needs to take a backseat to generating value and relationships.  With Value driving the car and Relationships as the copilot, crossover (once was seen as a negative thing) is now welcomed.
In an article in Forbes, Ryan Blair explains a  “pro-compartmentalization” strategy:

“Pretend as if everything you’re dealing with in your life is a room where you have to walk in and solve an equation on a white board. You have a countdown clock with less than an hour to get the problem solved, or take a single step in the right direction, and then shut the door and go into another room equally as important. You spend your entire life going from compartment to compartment.”

While I appreciate what Blair is getting at, and while it may be helpful for some entrepreneurs,  his “one room at a time” strategy is limited.  Every area of our life is hard wired to every other area.  Therefore, there will always be some rooms that I simply can’t “shut the door” on.  Plus, there are some rooms that will always take up more than just one hour of my time.  To take part in meaningful projects, conversations, and interactions, rooms should be inviting.  A countdown clock may be strategic, but it is not inviting.
In an article called “The Fallacy of Compartmentalization,” Jonathan Fields shares his opinion on why compartmentalization is overrated:

We talk about things like our work life and our home life as though we can somehow slip out of our skin and assume another identity when transitioning between them.  However, trying to compartmentalize the various parts of life can take a significant toll on our effectiveness across the board.

How about you? Are you pro or anti-compartmentalization? How do you make sense of balance in your life?


Picture of Annie Duncan

Annie Duncan