In my last post, I wrote about micro focus and macro focus, and how I feel I’m good at micro but bad at macro focus, whereas I observed the opposite in many people. Today I want to follow up and share another observation that is related to macro focus. I call it “serial focus” and “parallel focus”, for lack of better terms (if you have any, please share).
Some people have this one big idea, the main thing about their life. They have figured out their macro focus. Other people have multiple ambitious plans, but they apply serial focus, which means they focus on one thing at a time. The serial entrepreneur is the most famous example. These people pour all their expertise and dedication into an idea and either make it successful or find the right point to pivot or give up and change their focus. Once a project has reached a certain level of success, they sell it and start the next venture. Of course, they may have overlapping periods or prepare their next big idea, but they know their macro focus for a given time. Outside of entrepreneurship, it is also the nature of the stereotypical geek who can get obsessed with something and learn everything before the next obsession kicks in.
The opposite, “parallel focus”, is an oxymoron, because the very definition of focus is to limit oneself to a single thing. There are too many exciting things, and it’s hard to decide, so the person with parallel focus tries to make everything a priority at once. Quite often, I am that person. Again, there’s the example of the parallel entrepreneur. I’ve seen that term used for people involved in multiple ventures as a founder and for people who bootstrap a company while having a regular job or a contract. And there are successful examples of those, so is it possible to maintain parallel focus after all? I believe some considerations are vital unless you want to be on the highway to burnout.
Focusing on multiple things at the same time doesn’t mean you can do everything. You still have to say “No” some times. And I feel saying “No” is now even more difficult because adding a fourth item to a list of three seems less of a deal than removing your single macro focus. Also, approach your goals and the perfectionism about achievements and results realistically. You cannot compare a side project to something that another person dedicated their life and resources to. Finally, understand that there cannot be a perfect balance. Priorities change over time. You cannot expect to make progress in every area every single day.
So if like me, you’re struggling with missing macro focus and find yourself unable to serialize your priorities and approach them one after another as serial focus, I wish you good luck at maintaining parallel focus. Still, please be aware of the consequences and limitations.