While modern psychology defines “compartmentalization” in negative terms: “Compartmentalization is an unconscious psychological defense mechanism used to avoid cognitive dissonance, or the mental discomfort and anxiety caused by a person's having conflicting values, cognitions, emotions, beliefs, etc. within themselves,” this is not the compartmentalization I’m referring to.
Healthy compartmentalization involves isolating one aspect of life, applying extreme focus, and then, at the appropriate time, closing that compartment and moving on to the next. A compartment could be work, kids, intimate relationship, etc. This approach keeps worries and concerns isolated within problem area of your life and prevents unnecessary spillover of those worries and concerns into other areas. Forbes.com has an excellent article discussing healthy compartmentalization for success in business and in life.
During my time as a Marine jet pilot, I employed compartmentalization on a daily basis in order to function at the highest possible level, regardless of what else was going on in my life. I kept my mind focused on flying while in the jet and on work while at work, and I left my personal problems at home. Likewise, once I left the squadron, I freed myself up to be fully present in my marriage and with my friends by leaving the frustrations, fears and disappointments of the day back at the squadron.
But compartmentalization is only the beginning…