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You may not realize it, but you are most likely impeding your brain function and your personal effectiveness by consciously or unconsciously compartmentalizing your experiences day in and day out. What does this mean? According to one recent article, “Psychologists define compartmentalization as a defense mechanism that we use to avoid the anxiety that arises from the clash of contradictory values or emotions.” Compartmentalization is also a way that your brain takes control of all of the input it receives each day. Basically, it is easier for your brain to organize things into categories such as “work” and “home” in order to keep things straight.

This doesn’t sound so bad, right? Our brain is keeping things organized for us without us even needing to think about it. However, there are some problems with compartmentalization. According to the article, “compartmentalization can also narrow our thinking so that we don’t mix behaviors between compartments and make connections.” If we’re not making mental connections, then we are not operating at our maximum personal effectiveness. Such inflexible thinking doesn’t improve your ability to create work-life balance. Instead, it impedes problem solving in both areas.

But our brain’s organizational system is not too difficult to overcome. According to the article, “The good news is if we can find ways to foster mental flexibility and allow the boundaries between compartments to become permeable, we can develop more creative solutions and leverage better information.” Sometimes it is good to leave work at work and to leave home at home for work-life balance, but it isn’t necessarily good for your brain to use different problem-solving solutions in each setting.

How to Increase Personal Effectiveness by Thinking Creatively

1. Bring together ideas and people from a variety of fields or a variety of backgrounds to brainstorm new solutions to old problems.

2. Give your brain a mini-vacation by getting up from your desk and clearing your head. When you jump back into problem-solving mode, you might find that you are able to think more creatively.

3. Consider your own problem solving techniques in a variety of settings. If you solve a certain kind of problem differently at home and at work, consider how each technique could fare in the other setting.

4. Get together with your colleagues regularly to discuss problem-solving and planning. Regularly listening to and considering different ideas and perspectives could help your own brain to make more connections.

5. Take some time at home to ponder work problems, and take some time at work to ponder home problems. Or strategize regularly offsite, such as in a coffee shop or on a trail through the woods. Sometimes a change of venue can help you think more clearly and creatively.

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