Compartmentalizing When You’re Always Home

Do you compartmentalize?

I know I do! Are you finding it harder to do during these Covid days? (Or if you’re reading this later, are you suddenly home a lot more for any reason?)

First what is compartmentalizing? Have you seen this Seinfeld episode (am I showing my age)?

If you’re like me, you have different “worlds.” Work, home, school, church, club, exercise, charity, etc. And each of those “worlds” has it’s tasks and people. When I’m in one world I might completely ignore the other. Or, to put a more positive spin on it, I really focus on the needs and happenings of the world I currently occupy.

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Sometimes I’ll do something that seems really silly after the fact. I’ll be visiting with someone in Homeschool World. I’ve been meaning to talk to them about something important in Book Club World, where we also see each other. I didn’t email her because I said, “Oh, I’ll see her in Homeschool World and we can discuss it then.” But I don’t because I’m so deep in Homeschool World when I see her that Book Club World is, well, a WORLD away. Am I the only one that does this?

There are a lot of upsides to compartmentalizing. It helps you stay organized, mentally and practically. It lets you focus and be present. So it’s not a bad thing.

But maybe right now, when ALL YOUR WORLDS are at home, it can be frustrating. We don’t have the cues of different people and places to help our brains switch worlds. It makes sense that it’s much easier to focus on work tasks when you’re at your office where everything is set up to help you focus on work! If you find yourself having trouble staying organized when you don’t have the separate environments as cues, consider these strategies:

First let’s establish some example categories to use – Home Life, Kids’ School and Work.

Separate Notebooks

Have a notebook for each life category. They can be small/thin. They can be stacked together or in separate areas of your home. Maybe it makes sense to keep the Home notebook in the kitchen and the Work one in the office?

Different colors

You can make those notebooks specific colors. Perhaps your Kids’ School binder is blue and you write everything school related in blue and use blue post-it notes, as well. In addition to post-it notes, binders and pens, you could also color code white board marker colors, wall calendar pens and stickers, notebook/binder dividers, bulletin board pins, refrigerator magnets and more.

Separate Work Spaces

This isn’t realistic for everyone, but you can do different tasks in different areas of your home. OR you can even just have different chairs or ends of the table. Home Life tasks can be done in or near the kitchen, while Work Life tasks are done at the far end of the table. It’s a small thing but it may be enough to set the stage and mindset you need.

Time Blocking (combined with the above)

There are some great Time Blocking materials out there, but setting aside blocks of time for different life categories and tasks in a routine can really help you manage all your life categories. You can do so while using all of the above ideas, as well.

Planner Pad

I’ve talked about why this paper planner is so excellent for managing life categories. Or time blocks. Here’s my detailed review. The beauty of this planner is you can make categorized lists and funnel them down to each day’s task list and schedule. It’s perfect for someone who compartmentalizes as a list maker! Obviously, you can use your own favorite planner and use color coding or your own formatting to try this, as well.

Artful Agenda

I wrote about why, after over a decade, I recently went digital here. I moved to the Artful Agenda planner, as it still allows me to have some paper planner features with the convenience of digital. And you can definitely make categorized lists here, as well. I am hoping they’ll make font colors an option soon so that I can color code!


Here’s my post on how I use this free tool in various ways. It’s super flexible and can be used in many, many more. You can use color coding for boards, or within the boards as filters. This isn’t a Trello post, but you can DEFINITELY make categorized to-do and other lists in Trello. I’m sure you can use other list making apps to categorize.

If you have other ways to help you categorize your life, please do share!

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