Feeling out of whack? Being pulled into a million directions? When we feel off, we can’t bring our A-Game nor do our best work. So what to do when the scales are off balance?
First, don’t panic! As Gary Kelly put it in his book “The One Thing”: “A balanced life is a lie!”. We are basically always out of balance, because time and science have both shown we humans can only do one cognitive thing at a time. If we pretend to do more than one, we are merely switching back and forth between two tasks – and essentially doing neither properly.
Seeing that we are hardwired for imbalance, what hence matters is to actively re-balance yourself. And because I like simple things, I tried to find a system for different types of activities, which can help you find a counterbalancing activity more quickly.
Input refers to the type of activities that have information streaming into your mind as a main focus. Examples are:
- attending a lecture
- listening to a podcast
- reading your facebook stream
- watching a TED Talk
Then we have activities where you as a person are putting out data and information and the outcome is the focus of the action:
- giving a speech
- writing code
- writing a blog entry (I am in the blue zone right now!)
- creating a sales presentation
- cooking dinner
When information is neither coming out nor going in, we are in the yellow zone of what I call Noput. This is the time when we are dealing with what is already there.
- transcendental meditation
- mindfulness meditation
There are also activities that combine any of the states above. When Input and Noput are combined we encounter relaxing activities (orange) such as:
- reading a fantasy book
- getting a massage
- guided meditations
- playing a computer game for the one millionth time
Combining Noput and Output brings us in the green zone, some of you literally, when there is an outcome but it’s not the main reason for the activity:
- coloring a mandala
- knitting the millionth scarf
- a walk on the woods
- a work out
- hobby gardening
When we have activities that contain both Input for us and Output from us, we are usually in a professional setting:
- a factual discussion with a colleague about a problem
- collaboratively editing a journal article
The sweet spot, that I have fittingly colored chocolate brown, is when we find activities that touch on all three types of information load. Here are a few activities I would put in that category:
- meaningful conversation with a friend
- laughing so hard your belly hurts
- and yes, even drugs and alcohol (rock’n roll I would put in orange)
I understand that this is a very rough and by no means scientific model. No information entering our system is almost an impossibility. Yet a simplified model like this one can help us understand why we do certain things.
Working with my clients I often find a dominance of Input (red) and Output (blue) in their lives that is counterbalanced with shortcuts to the sweet spot (drugs, alcohol). The Noput zone is often neglected, even when it comes to the most basic “activity”: sleep.
Luckily, we are seeing trends now that put the Noput zone back on the map. Meditation is no longer something only Tibetan monks do, but CEOs and kindergartners alike.
Now, as to the frequency of how often to re-balance your Put-folio (short for Input, Output Noput Portfolio – yes I’m a sucker for lame word jokes 😉 ), I think daily is best. There might be individual differences though.
So give me some feedback! What activities would you add where? How frequently should we re-balance?
Until next time!