Compartmentalise to overcome the overwhelm of daily life

How to compartmentalise
Tips for building emotional strength through compartmentalising


I had a request from a client who is going through a drawn-out stressful period marked by all kinds of disruptions and chaos. His sense of being overwhelmed by all of this and not achieving anything is getting worse. He asked:

  • Are there any tips for building emotional strength?
  • How does one actually compartmentalise? It sounds good, but can it be done?



The main idea for coping with a long-term, chaotic and disruptive situation is to find more emotional strength by tackling the feelings of being overwhelmed by it all. It really helps to compartmentalise in order to create some structure in daily life to fall back on.

Follow these 7 steps, always paying attention to the purpose behind them.

Step 2: Make a large visual diary

Using a big piece of paper, map out an overview of your calendar for a fortnight or a month. Fill in confirmed plans and non-negotiable appointments, deadlines and dates and tape it to your wall or the back of your door as a constant helper in compartmentalising. 

Step 3: Add your compartments to your calendar

Fill in time-blocks (not too long) for your other compartments. Start by using a kind of repeat pattern – as if you are building a jigsaw. See what fits where. It’s a great idea to use post-it notes. You can move them around until you arrive at an overview that looks do-able.

Step 4: Leave some time slots blank

You need idle time between compartments. Use that time to do something physical between blocks of intellectual work. Do the dishes or have a cup of tea to clear the way for the next compartment.

Step 5: Start the day with a healthy activity

Walking, running, some outdoor yoga, or any exercise that you enjoy … make the first thing you do in the morning a physical activity. The health benefits are obvious, but you’ll also find that early-morning exercise will lift your mood for the day.

Step 6: Relax before bedtime

Make sure there’s a relaxation compartment in the evening. In this time slot, you should do something that truly helps you unwind and relax before going to sleep.

Step 7: Express gratitude

Before going to sleep, say a gratitude prayer and try to ‘let go’.

As you start out on these steps you may need to convince yourself to only focus on what is in a particular compartment during the time you allot to it. Treat this as a learning curve. It’ll take some practice and you may have to remind yourself: ‘This is my hour dedicated to (for instance) budgeting; nothing else!’ Compartmentalising will get easier and easier with time.  

I wish you great success in following these 7 steps to overcoming the overwhelm of daily life! I’d love to hear how you’re doing. Please let me know.