Do you ever have a day like this? Last week, it was like someone put my life in a blender. Every area needed some attention in the span of about eight hours (and 100 city blocks).
The dog had an ear infection when I woke up, so I rushed her to the vet. From there, I took Ty downtown to skateboard camp before running to Soho to shop with Kaya (her summer camp requires that she bring 16 different pairs of shorts…really? Really. And we had to get them all right then because her clothes were being shipped off to camp the next day.) That made me late to the office, where I had a Moticise call about web development, then a meeting about product launch.
Then I had an audition (in an English accent, no less) which I’d only rehearsed for about five seconds. Then I ran to the eastside for a vibroacoustics session at Tournesol; then back to the office for a quick coaching session; then off to meet Stephen for yoga, before going home to get everyone fed, washed, and to bed.
At Tournesol, my physical therapist, Carey, asked me how my day was going.
“It’s insane,” I said. “I have something involving everyone today, and there’s zero time in between. But they all need my full attention and focus. How do you keep each thing from bleeding into the next?”
She laughed, but she said seriously, “I know what you mean. If I couldn’t compartmentalize, I think I’d fall apart.”
Carey runs her own business, has dozens of clients a day, and has three kids. So I asked, “How do you do it?” I asked.
“I go into my office and close the door,” she said. “And I picture myself walking through a white, cleansing light. It’s like this bright, clean energy, and it washes away the last thing, and leaves me feeling fresher for the next.”
“Wow,” I said. I didn’t know what to say, but I knew I wanted what she had. A ritual. Some meaningful way to help her navigate her day. A way to not just keep her head above water, but to swim.
In the next few days, I gave it a lot of thought. Could Carey’s technique work for me? What if I’m not in my office? I wondered. On that day in particular, I’d been in and out of subways and taxis and stores and other people’s offices, so I couldn’t exactly retreat into my private sanctuary. Or could I?
There are many days where I’m traveling around the city, and sometimes New Jersey, and sometimes other cities or even countries. But I knew I could still find a way to adapt Carey’s trick to fit my needs. After all, she was using two of my favorite things: visualization, and physical movement.
I tried it one afternoon on the subway, heading home after a long day at the office. I wanted to be ready to play with my kids and make them dinner when I walked in the door. I wanted to feel energized and refreshed, not muddled and overwhelmed. I didn’t want work to bleed into my home time.
So I copied Carey, and I envisioned a bright light surrounding me. I felt my body and mind being cleansed of the day, of what happened and hadn’t happened. I invited that light in. Even with the backdrop of subway musicians and announcers and doors screeching shut, I felt peace. It was like a mini-meditation (even a mini-mindset reset, if you will). And then when I got home, I felt ready and excited to be there.
That week, I experimented with ways to compartmentalize, and I found three techniques that really work. Here they are:
- Physically embody each task. Every task has a distinct feeling, so I decided to fully embrace that feeling. (Sounds a bit like mindfulness, right?) By stepping into each environment, each purpose, and noticing how it was showing up in my body – what did it look like? Where did I feel it? How did I carry myself? – I could really participate in each task, not rush through it, or feel distracted or overwhelmed by all the others.
- Throw in a little exercise or movement. This one’s especially good when I’m in my office all day. I take a walk in between phone calls, do jumping jacks after a meeting, or even just stand in conscious mountain pose to help clear my mind. Then, I literally take a step into the next activity. This sends a message to both my body and brain, like “Okay, now it’s time for X. New task, new you. Let’s do this.”
- Make a to-do list, and cross items off when you do them. I know it sounds cliché, but a to-do really does help settle your mind. You don’t have to juggle everything if it’s written down (and if you’re using it – i.e., it’s not buried in a drawer, or forgotten on your fridge). You get a little burst of accomplishment from crossing something off, so you’ll feel productive, which gives you energy. And if it’s all written down somewhere, you can let go of the worry that you’ll forget something, and fully immerse yourself in the task at hand.
Try these techniques during your busy day! And let me know what YOU do to compartmentalize.
Then go out and shine.