Short, Medium And Long Term Strategies, It’s All A Question Of Zooming

One of the most popular posts of this blog is a parallel between photographic lenses and life focus. Although it’s more than 10 years old, it still gets a decent amount of traffic. I’m not going to spoil it for you, but it talks about how we can use our “life lenses” to get a sense of clarity when there’s some confusion in our lives – just like the image on a camera is blurred.

The other day I realized I still use this metaphor a lot, only with a twist. I’m not into the blurred / non-blurred dichotomy anymore (seems like I got that right, in the last 10 years, at least) but more into aperture. Oh, forgive the technical term, let’s try something easier to understand: I’m more into zooming in or out as a metaphor for short, medium and long term focus.

Short Term Focus – Zoom All In

Any short term project is a matter of zooming in as much as I can. Stay in the present moment, look at the next step, and that’s it. Don’t even raise your eyes, keep it all on the path. Zooming in is what I do every day, every working hour. It’s not ALL the hours, on a good day I can achieve 4-6 hours of focused work, and on a bad day at least one.

Zooming in effectively is a matter of avoiding distractions, as much as it is a matter of avoiding boredom. It’s doing the same thing constantly, without any interference with other patterns, relentlessly.

Training for zooming in is a question of will power and it can’t be gamified – at least I can’t gamify it for myself. I may try nice stories and motivational stints, but it seldom works. The good news is that once you got this right, this sort of in the moment training, it tends to be inertial. One you understand how to focus on only one thing at a time, it gets better.

Medium Term Focus – Enlarge Zoom

Living with eyes on the path may be prone to accidents. I may acquire quite a good speed and momentum, but if there’s something crossing my way, I will bump into it. That’s why I need to zoom out, every once in a while. Zooming out is the level of weeks and months.

Some of the tools that I use for medium term focus are related to budgeting, for instance, or, lately, to acquiring new skills, like learning to play the guitar. It’s mostly journaling or spreadsheets. Once I create the habit or writing down my progress, or tracking down my budget, then I just let it pile in. As more information is collected, I get a clearer picture.

Medium term focus can be gamified. I can set up some nice goals, and use all kind of techniques to get there. For financial resilience, these are easy: from being (and staying) debt-free, up to saving a certain amount, or generating a certain amount in passive income. For other projects, like learning to play the guitar, it may be some specific event, like actually going out and busking. Which is something I really want to do.

Long Term Focus – Zoom All Out

On top of this, there’s another layer, long term projects. It’s like having a drone flying on top of me, and I get the picture of the road ahead from that drone. This happens at the level of years and it involves things more profound, like the country where I’m going to live in for the foreseeable future, or what kind of life / work balance I want to have in 5 years from now.

Zooming out on this level is probably the most difficult of all and the most fragile. The world we live in changed dramatically and location independence is not a luxury anymore. We can’t know for sure if the place we choose to live in will be the same in the next 2-3 years. Also, the way we generate income changed dramatically, so there’s no guarantee that what we do now for a living we’ll be still doing in 5 years from now.

Whenever I spend time at that level, I try to steer my way like I’m driving a huge transoceanic ship, in very, very small increments, knowing that any small change will have very strong consequences. Nevertheless, when there is an iceberg in sight, I turn around as vigorously as I can. I just did this 3 months ago, when I switched countries.

Obviously, making this all work is not as easy as playing with the zoom button on a fancy camera. There’s actual work to be done. But it’s a nice metaphor and it works quite well.

Photo by Evan Wise on Unsplash

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