Hey there, Dean here. I run content and SEO at AppSumo. Here, I write and share about productivity, leadership, money, psychology, marketing, and more.
I wonder about this question a lot.
While we spend most of our time at work, there is more of life than that. Being aware of different areas of life gives us a few advantages.
First, it enables a more balanced life. Without knowing different areas of life, it's easy for us to overly focus on one area and ignore the other.
Second, it helps us identify our source of energy and emotions. Knowing these areas gives you a clearer picture of which areas fuel you up or drain your energy the most. At the very least, you'll know where you should improve to make your life better.
The last benefit might not be obvious. Thinking about your life in different areas allows insights to flow which helps in generating new ideas. These ideas could be the seeds we use in creating art if you're a creative or a solution to a problem we're working on.
How you categorize your life is largely up to you. If you have no idea how to do it, here are the six key areas I use when I think about my life for your reference.
This area is your job, business, and work.
I sometimes split it into two different categories because I'm working at a day job and a personal blog at the same time. It's okay to think about them as one life area. But I prefer to split them because they have different goals, metrics, and plans.
You don't need to have a side hustle or business, it's just my personal preference to have a side project.
It's important to limit how many projects you work on at the same time to make sure you're not spreading yourself too thin.
Personally, I try to limit to two to three projects or goals per life area. If I do take on more projects, I would fit them into other life areas so that I could approach them with a different context.
For example, I don't think about investing as a part of my work but instead as a part of my finances. Another example is seeing your side hustle (in the early stage) as a part of your hobby instead of your career.
The next area is how you manage and spend your money.
As mentioned above, I consider investing as a part of this life area. But you're trading or flipping/managing real estate actively, it could be a part of your career because it requires effort beyond managing cashflow.
Believe it or not, we have little to no control over how much our money grow. Your investment grows because of the upward market movement, not because of you.
Because of that, I automate my finance (and investing) as much as I could with a few simple money principles. Mainly spending responsibly, and then, save and invest consistently for the long-term.
I'd also suggest not think about how much you make as a part of your finance, because it's a dynamic of what the market wants and what value you create. That sounds more like a part of career and business to me.
Instead, think about how you spend, what you spend on, how much you save and invest, and even better, think about why we make those financial decisions.
Again, you can split this area into two to three different categories—love relationship, family, and friends. Splitting them would be helpful when you approach them in different depth.
Relationships play a huge role in our lives. If you're still young, it could impact career and finance directly. Being around smart people makes you more successful. But also think about relationships in terms of personal growth and happiness. Sometimes, the people who make you richer aren't the people you want to spend the remaining of your life with.
While you're thinking about how a relationship can contribute to your life, don't forget to think about how you can contribute to the other person. The way to form and build long-term relationships regardless of love, family, or friends is to focus on what you can contribute.
This may come off as evil or ingenuine but you should always be intentional with who you associate with. Just like how you pick your career and how you manage your money, you should pick your friends carefully too.
Some people might want to split this area into two but I think they should go hand-in-hand unless you have specific sports or fitness based goals.
Health is how well our body functions on a day-to-day basis. A good way to measure it is to take note of your energy level. A better way is to keep a record of your body measurements like body mass, body fat percentage, waist circumstances, blood pressure, and more. It's not hard to measure these things with the access to health devices we have today. Asides from that, doing a regular check-up is essential too.
Fitness, on the other hand, is our ability to perform certain physical activities. Depending on the sports and activity you do, there are different ways to measure it. And because of that, there's no one-size-fits-all measurement to tell how fit you are. What matters is that you're making the progress you want.
Asides from physical health and fitness, mental health and fitness are gaining a lot of traction lately. I don't know any formal method to measure it but you can start by keeping track of your mood.
I always see health and fitness as the most important area of my life. Like time, it's a free resource we can't get more of. While I do have goals in improving my fitness level such as lifting heavier weights and performing certain bodyweight movements, I tend to see health and fitness as a process. Instead of focusing on a one-off strategy or tactic to accomplish a goal, it's better to develop the habits—working out, keeping a healthy diet, etc.—to keep it at the desired state.
While health is important and it's up to us to improve and maintain, don't trick yourself to believe that you're in total control. Like the time we have again, we don't have control over it. We can do everything right but still get injured or sick.
Personal growth is where learning happens. Depending on what you're learning, you can put them in different categories. Some examples if you want to learn about starting a blog as a side hustle, it could be a part of your career and business.
The way I think about personal growth is that it has to do with discovering how the world works and learning more about ourselves. One way is by creating guiding principles that will help you navigate the decisions you need to make in life.
In a more practical sense, I'd suggest learning and mastering meta-skills. Skills like how to read, how to learn faster, time management, knowledge management, how to connect with other people, and more. These skills are useful at every stage of your life and regardless of what you do for a living.
The easier path to personal growth is to read books. It's also the cheapest. But don't forget that exploring is a way of learning too. It's essential to experiment with things, travel to some other places, and practice sometimes hard from time to time.
This final life area is something we do for fun. Lately, there's a trend of turning a hobby into a career. While it sounds like a good idea but you don't have to. Sometimes, a hobby is only pleasurable when we keep it as a hobby rather than work.
Personally, I don't invest as much time here because I prioritize other areas heavily. You can be as committed as you want or you can take it less seriously and see it as an outlet to try new things.
If you're someone who focuses on work a lot, you might not aware of any hobby you have right away just like I did. But you'll find it when you pay closer attention and give yourself permission to explore. For me, it's making coffee and sometimes even cocktails. I used to be a bartender and barista, now I no longer work in the industry, I turn them into my hobby.
Think about your retirement where you have all the money and the time you need, what would you do — without the need to generate any income? The answer could be your hobby.
While you can create more areas when thinking about your life, I'd recommend to keep it simple so it's easier to manage. At any given point, you can rate these areas of your life. These ratings are not about the output you've accomplished, but more about how you feel about them.
You can do very little about an area and still feel good about it. For example, I spend 10 minutes making coffee every morning and I feel good to rate it at eight or nine on a scale of ten. Similar to areas like relationships and personal growth, it's not the time and effort spent, it's the quality that matters.
After you rate it, it shows you how balanced your life is. In many cases, we feel stuck not because we're not good enough but because our lives are not in balance. Imagine these life areas combining into a wheel of life. It's very hard for you to make forward progress if your wheel is imbalanced and it'd be bumpy along the way.
Now you have an idea of how to think about your life, I want to end the article with a few realizations I've come across on this topic: