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Compartmentalize to Become More Productive

I work from home. In theory, anyway. But in practice, I’ve found that just because I can do my work without leaving the house doesn’t mean I should.

DrawersTo put it another way: I may have the ability to work from “anywhere,” but that doesn’t mean I’ll be productive anywhere.

The basic problem is that I have ADHD, which means if I politely tell my brain to do something, my brain doesn’t always listen.

If I say “dear brain, now I’d like to sit at my kitchen table and do some work,” my brain might listen, if it’s in a cooperative mood. It might also simply give me the middle finger and continue with whatever it was doing before.

For my brain to get the message that now it’s time to do some work, it needs to be told loudly, clearly, in no uncertain terms. An important cue that helps me communicate this to my brain is my environment.

I find that it’s easier to get into a mindset of being focused on my work if I’m in a place that I associate with work at a time I normally do work. Since I’m self-employed, that means coworking spaces and libraries are my friends. Even just stopping into a coffeeshop before pulling out my laptop is a good way of telling my brain “OK, from now until you leave is time dedicated to work.”

In other words, having a job that is flexible in time and space doesn’t mean you have to abuse that flexibility. If you don’t have the compartmentalization that’s built into a 9-5 job, sometimes you have to create that compartmentalization yourself, by having specific places and times of day you associate with work.

This is true for people who are self-employed. It’s also true for students, and for people who take a substantial amount of work home with them at night, like teachers.

Really, it’s true for anyone who wants to be productive outside a typical office environment. Having a defined work space and work time can do wonders. Spontaneity is great, but if you have trouble being spontaneously productive, consider bringing some compartmentalization into your life!

Image: Flickr/emdot

Compartmentalize to Become More Productive

Neil Petersen

Neil Petersen writes regularly on education, learning disabilities and technology. He received his B.A. in 2014 and was diagnosed with ADHD at the beginning of his college studies. Neil also works for a music education non-profit and hopes to help create an education system that can better serve students with ADHD.

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APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2018). Compartmentalize to Become More Productive. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 25, 2019, from


Last updated: 27 Jun 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 27 Jun 2018
Published on All rights reserved.