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A tall, leaning stack of brown boxes sits in front of a purple shut door.

Photo by Curology on Unsplash

Compartmentalization. It’s a long word and it’s something we need to do well as leaders. We have many things going on at the same time, and we can’t be thinking of them all simultaneously. I put things that I can’t deal with (for whatever reason) on what I call “the mental shelf.” When I have the attention and time, I pull them off the shelf and deal with them.

This technique of mentally shelving things can go to extremes where we completely shut down our emotions and thoughts and don’t know what we’re going through or feeling. I’m not talking about that, which could call for therapy to help open pathways for safe self-discovery. What I’m talking about is being able to move from task to task, meeting to meeting, person to person, and being able to be fully present with whatever or whoever is in front of you.

This present-ness is an important quality of a leader. It makes our people feel valued, heard, and secure. When we give a task or person our full attention, we open up space for creativity, problem solving, and relationship building that doesn’t happen when we’re trying to do three things at once. People know when we’re not fully present and it hurts more than helps. Being present also makes us more efficient, but that’s a post for another day!

Here are two simple techniques to compartmentalize effectively and be present with the task at hand:

  • Give yourself five to fifteen minutes between meetings. In that space, you can list on paper the important takeaways and action items from the previous meeting, and refresh your mind for the next meeting or task. This also allows us to be fully present in the meeting because we’re tracking what we need to do and not depending on mental recall to keep us on task or remember important to-dos.

  • Provide yourself with blocked off calendar time that is not for meetings, clients, or staff and is non-negotiable. Our brains work best when we’re not interrupted. So give yourself thirty- to ninety-minute chunks of time throughout the week when you can get your tasks accomplished with minimal interruptions. Whether it’s writing a contract, making your sales calls, or finishing paperwork, schedule it in advance and stick to it! You’ll be amazed at how this lowers stress levels and increases concentration and focus.

Stay curious friends!

Make sure you’re listening to season one of the Dream Big Authentic Leadership podcast, found on Apple, Google, Spotify, and Stitcher.

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