Compartmentalization: Lessons from the school bell

A` couple of weeks back my wife and I visited a few schools in, so we could select one for our son who starts school next year. At one of the schools I heard the school bell ring and that immediately took me back in time to all those school years when the ringing of the school bell was the most awaited event (well, at least for some of the classes).

As I thought about the significance of that bell, I realized how it used to act as a cue for us to switch from working/thinking of one subject to another. Irrespective of what happened in one class, the ringing of the bell meant it was time to move on to the next subject. Our day was completely compartmentalized.

It got me thinking of a typical day at work. So much to do, in so little time. Important reports to make, meetings to attend, projects to work on, and mails to respond to. And more mails keep flowing in by the minute. Any amount of planning didn’t help.

And then I connected the two – compartmentalization at work.

While these lessons are not new, they have helped me, and hence I am sharing them. Any more tips are welcome.

Blocks of time for regular activities: While we can’t compartmentalize our entire day, there are chunks that we can block time for. Time to check and respond to mails can be an hourly activity (depending on the volumes you get) in the morning, noon & evening. You could also create blocks for important projects that you are working on. Remember to block the time on your calendar, so others see that time as unavailable. Getting away from your regular desk (into a meeting room) sometimes helps stay away from those distractive colleagues.

Stay focused on the task at hand: ‘You’ve got mail!’ While Outlook (or Lotus) may not use these ‘romantic’ words to indicate incoming mails, you get the point. A window pops up indicating you have received a new mail, and we give in to the urge to check the mail and respond to it. It is a good practice to turn off notifications for new mail, so you can focus on the task at hand (unless of course checking and responding to mails is your core job).

Prepare based on your calendar: “Check your time table and get your bag ready,” my mother would often tell me during those school days, so I had in my bag the books required for the classes scheduled the next day (& sometimes even finish my homework at the 11th hour). Checking your time-table (popularly known as Calendar in corporate lingo) is a good practice, so we are aware of the meetings/appointments we have scheduled the next day and can take time to prepare for it.

If you have any more tips, feel free to add them here. Any more lessons from those school years are also welcome. 🙂

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One Response to Compartmentalization: Lessons from the school bell

  1. Super thoughts, again put in a very simple manner. And the best, the school comparison.

    Phew…. will try to do something from this… 😉


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