User Stories for Future Focus Plan - Future Focus
Worklife balance planning with simple, effective life choice cards which will prompt you to look at different aspects of your life, trigger new possibilities and prioritise what's important for your future focus plan
future focus, future focus plan, life choices, life planning, worklife planning, planning retirement, flourish, seeking work life balance, seeking well being, fulfilling retirement, what would I do if I retired, card sort, Claire Simcock
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“sort priorities”…”enlightening and very useful”…”seems simple but good things do”…”brilliant really”


Vicki C, aged 58

Vicki is an expat Kiwi who has been living with her husband and family overseas for nearly thirty years, the majority of them in the United States.  She has often had to let go of her own demanding and stimulating career in medicine in order to relocate for the sake her husband’s job, or to support his business and their growing sons.

When her husband hinted that he was thinking about change − maybe retiring or slowing down a little − Vicki used the Future Focus cards to reflect on and start planning her own future in relation to both work and family life. She looked ahead to the next five years as she selected cards.

To her surprise, the cards Vicki chose predominantly related to what she described as “community”. This highlighted an element that had been missing from her life for several years, and it seemed to take precedence over work, pleasure or engaging activities. She had made some friends through work and through connections in the boys’ school, but not enough to compensate for the comfort and ease and shared history of really old friends.

It was not easy for Vicki to change much about her community in a foreign country, but identifying that she was missing it made her realise she wanted a base in New Zealand. She wanted to be near her extended family and old friends. She wanted to have a place they could stay in more and more frequently as they got older.

The idea struck a chord for her husband as well and within a year they had bought a house in Auckland, which they have enjoyed living in over the New Zealand summers, sharing time with family and friends.  Vicki and her husband plan to steadily increase that time in New Zealand and both describe the Future Focus learning as discovering a sort of “touchstone”.

Jeanette P, aged 46

After a tough time exiting from an exciting but demanding senior role, Jeanette moved on to busy part-time work in a smaller organisation. Not completely convinced that it was the right job for her, nevertheless she persisted whilst also enjoying a little more time with her two young sons and husband. “I knew I wanted to get more work life balance so I thought reducing my work hours would be the solution.” she told me.

As she changed jobs, Jeanette used the Future Focus cards for the first time. She had received financial planning advice during the recent short break but felt that some general life planning would also be useful.  She took both a long term, ten-year approach and a shorter, one-year approach to the cards.

Jeanette’s husband also decided to have a look at a ten-year plan.  When they compared notes, he and Jeanette were both relieved and excited to see that they shared a goal of living somewhere out of the city, both working from home, and both developing new skills and interests. However, while the boys were still young, it wasn’t quite the right time for such a change.

The message in Jeanette’s one-year plan was also clear. She wanted time and space to devote to her two young sons and husband, but the current job stresses didn’t allow that dream to flourish. As she struggled to settle into her new part-time job, she recognised that it was not right for her anyway.  She reflected on the Future Focus cards and decided to take some space for herself and her family. Initially, she did not know how long she would take.

Eight months later, in the build-up to Christmas, Jeanette was feeling positive about her decision.  “I’m still enjoying time out and realise now that this is exactly what I needed to do – just stop. But I’m starting to think about going back to work next year,” she said. After Christmas she chased down some leads and within six weeks she was in a new role. “It’s a step down from director level but I think a year or so at a quieter pace may suit me and the family better. I’m also working with a great young team and one of my oldest school friends! I’m loving it.” she said with a huge smile.

Kate H, aged 28

Kate is a graphic designer trying to make her mark in her chosen field.  She is gaining skills in work that she loves and getting great experience at the beginning of her career.  In addition to her full-time job at a small agency, she works on private design projects over the weekends.

Maintaining a good balance between work and personal life is very important to Kate, but she finds that it does not take much for the balance to be lost.  Deadlines force her to prioritise work and that eats into her personal time. Kate uses the Future Focus cards on a three-monthly basis to remind herself of current and longer-term priorities. The cards trigger new possibilities that support her desire for balance.

At the start of each quarter, Kate chooses about 8-10 cards. Some cards she chooses each time (for example, attend regular health and fitness activities), but often she is sufficiently satisfied with progress in an area to feel ready for new options.  Some quarters focus on spending time on crafts: sewing, jewellery, photography.  Kate then specifies how she intends to do that over the three months: complete a quilt; attend a night class; put photos onto her website.  Other quarters have a focus on relationships: making sure she is catching up with friends who have been neglected; travelling to visit family members, etc.

Kate is not fanatical about using the cards every three months, but she knows when she hasn’t given them time.  “I become aware that, when life feels a bit out of kilter, I probably have not used the Future Focus cards for some time and I get them out of their box.  I like the focus and structure they give me.”

Colin T, aged 49

Colin has been in law for 25 years and loved his work.  He got a real jolt when his very bright son said, at the end of his school life, “I’m going to take a gap year, or two or three years, before I decide what to study.  I don’t want to get tied down into one job all my life, like you have, until I have had lots of time to think.”  Colin was surprised by this view of his life and he wondered:

  • Am I tied into this?
  • Am I doing what I love, or just what I am used to?
  • If I could have my perfect world, what would I be doing more of? Less of?

Using Future Focus, Colin worked out that in an ideal world he would be doing more of his greatest love, skiing, and less work.  The first thing he did was take a 3 month sabbatical and go skiing. He gave himself a break, time to tune out.  Then he decided to move to a ski town in NZ, and set up his law practice. He works some days and skis some days – and he is loving it!

Sarah H, aged 42

Sarah was a busy solo mum who also ran her own business.  Sarah was interested in how the cards could be helpful in her busy life.  She chose from the full set.

Through her card choices she saw that the priorities in her ideal life were a pretty even split between her children and business.  However, when she looked at her current focus, she noted two things: that the business demands were well over half; and that there was an extra large focus which she labelled “daily demands”.

Sarah realised that she needed to consider how to reduce the amount of her time that her business took up and give that time back to her children if possible.  She also realised that as a solo mum, “daily demands” were likely to be quite demanding for some time so achieving her ideal split would be a slow, gradual process.

Cathy S, aged 54

Cathy was recovering from serious illness, feeling scared about life in general (and how potentially short it suddenly felt) and quite unready to do any work. However, she felt guilty about not “just getting back onto the horse”.

If she couldn’t do anything that she expected of herself, Cathy decided to remind herself what she loved doing and start from there.  She took only the cards in the categories of Engagement and Enjoyment. From those, she chose the cards she most loved doing.  She realised they were all related to reading in some way. That was her passion.  However, she saw reading as a luxury for spare time only.

Cathy said to herself, “It may be a luxury, but I give myself permission to spend all of my time reading!  I will make myself feel better about it if I make sure my reading is 70% work-related and 30% total pleasure.”  Cathy allowed herself to read.  Within a week she felt more engaged with the world.  Her work reading (books, articles and internet) reminded Cathy what she loved about her work.  The more she read, the more she got excited about her work topics.  The more excited she got, the more she wanted to share that information with clients.  She wanted to work. She turned the corner and started gradually back towards her pre-illness life.