Applying "Balanced Focus" to your Lifestyle (Part 1)

Updated: Dec 15, 2020

How focused are you?

How focused are you?

Be honest.

When answering this question I want you to look at your (work) calendar for the past week(s) and reflect.

Do your activities and actions actually show focus toward one worthwhile objective?

Or are you spread thin doing lots of different activities, context switching all the time, and making therefore overall only mediocre progress on an important goal?

Quick reflection: On a scale from 1-10 (where 10 is extremely focused), rate yourself how focused you actually were. Don’t think too much, just look at the data, and decide.

How balanced are you?

Now let's look at other categories of your life (e.g., your health, family, relationships, fun activities). Would you say that you have achieved a good work-life balance in the past 7 days or the past month?

Quick reflection: On a scale from 1-10 (where 10 is extremely balanced), rate yourself how balanced you actually were. Don’t think too much, just look at the data, and decide.

When it comes to focus I hear people often talk about being "laser-focused" toward an objective. However, as you are aware, laser cuts and burns through material. So unless you want to ruin your health and neglect other important areas of your life, it is generally not helpful to apply this technique.

Balance is one of the most important universal principles in all aspects of life.

Balance is doing something in just the right amount or dosage. Not too much of it, but sufficient so that something can actually flourish. Think about watering a plant. If you water it too much it will die, but without sufficient water it will die as well.

When you now combine balance and focus in a systematic way, this can generate a very powerful impact to your life. Let’s find out how …

Your Taxonomy of Life Categories

There are different categories in your life that deserve attention. Several books about personal growth are suggesting categories of different aspects of your life.

To keep things simple, I suggest a simple taxonomy of categories of life that worked well for me:

  • Healthy Body & Mind

  • Personal Growth

  • Relationships

  • Business, Career, and Finances

  • Quality of Life

  • Fun & Happiness

Of course you can organize it differently. But you get my point, that there is not just "Work", there are other aspects of life that equally deserve your attention, if you want to thrive and live a fulfilled and purposeful life.

While working in the Silicon Valley for 20 years, most of the time I actually applied (unfortunately) the "laser-focus" methodology to my work and career, therefore neglecting those other aspects. This caused eventually high stress levels, followed by health problems. But I also missed out on cultivating relationships, as well as neglecting the necessity to have fun.

The Idea of Creating Balanced Focus

Over the past years I therefore devised and experimented with a methodology I now refer to as "Balanced Focus." It works very well for me, thus I'm sharing it with you so that you can also benefit from it.

The main idea of it is that you create sufficient focus for 2-3 of your life categories per quarter, possibly set yourself also a category specific theme or goal, and then a system to continuously create balance over time.

There are two parts to this method:

  1. A system and method on how to effectively and continuously create balance

  2. A method on how to actually create a strong focus and sufficient level of awareness

In this article I'm addressing part 1 - introducing a system and method on how to effectively and continuously create balance.

First you may think that by spreading yourself over several categories, you will actually lose focus. However, that is not the case. Focus will be created two-fold:

  1. By limiting to 2 or a maximum of 3 (focus) categories at any point in time.

  2. By creating then focus for one particular aspect or goal within that category over a short period of time (e.g. 3 months).

Typically people just focus on one category (e.g., “Work”), therefore missing out on other important aspects of life. Eventually, they become stressed and sick as the body and mind are being neglected. They are "feeling alone" as it seems that there is not sufficient time to cultivate their relationships with family members or friends. Eventually becoming stressed and sick, as body and mind are being neglected, and “feeling alone” as it seems there is not sufficient time to cultivate your relationships with family members or friends.

Or, people are going into the other extreme, and spread themselves thin by trying to balance too many things at once, possibly becoming stressed while doing that.

There is no perfect balance all the time!

However, the “Focused Balanced” method is a systematic attempt to create balance over time. If you can apply it for just a quarter, do a reflection afterwards using the first two questions I asked at the beginning and observe the (positive) change in your life.

Getting Started:

First, reflect on the categories above, and determine whether these capture (most of) your typical activities. If not, add another category if needed. Important is that you understand what is behind each of these major categories.

We are using a quarterly system to rotate balanced focus at a higher level.

I suggest creating a spreadsheet (Google sheet, Excel) to capture a yearly plan to create balance.

For example, you could use a format to capture each quarter of the year in one column (or even go for a monthly scheme). Then you use the rows to add the corresponding categories.

You may also define one major theme or goal per category.

For example, in the "Healthy Body & Mind" feeling less stressed, or loose overall some weight. Or within the Business, Career, and Finances” to create focus for the completion of a major project.

These are the (suggested) guidelines: