It doesn’t matter what your goal is. It could be as simple as losing a few pounds or having a cleaner house. It could also be a long-term goal such as getting out of debt or writing a novel. Maybe your goal is more abstract, like you want to improve your relationship with a family member.
Now, people who achieve their goals are considered hard-working, determined, and ambitious. Are there any secrets to being those? I know some days I fit those adjectives and others I definitely don’t. So how is it that some people set goals or objectives and reach them, and others don’t?
The answer lies in what is called strategic planning and the best example of that is 5-year planning. No matter how small or big the goal is, learning how to 5-year plan is an important step.
I learned about this type of planning from a friend who works in HR (human resources) and she basically helps employees climb ladders in their careers. She taught me how to apply the same strategic planning (5-year planning) to my own life and goals.
I seriously accomplished so much in only the first year that I regret not knowing about it sooner. At the end of this post, I will go into more details on how it’s changed my life but first, what is it, why is it so important and how to apply it to your own goals.
What is 5-year planning?
5-year planning is exactly what it sounds like. You envision where you want to be in 5-years and then work backwards. You map out all the tiny steps that you would take to reach that overarching goal.
Now why is that so groundbreaking? Well, if you don’t take the time to break the goal into action items, then you will probably never start. The big picture is always too overwhelming because you can’t see all the tiny steps that you must take to get there.
An important step in this process is that you understand that this plan can be revised. In fact, you don’t even need to know exactly where you want to be in 5 years. It still works because once you start to work towards a goal, you start to move forward. As you start to move forward, you will learn more through both mistakes and successes. The learning is where you actually start to achieve real success.
Let’s take an example. If you want to be debt free in 5 years, then by itself that could feel like an impossible goal. However, if you break it down to the smaller goals such as decreasing your grocery bill by $20, it becomes easier to tackle. Motivation will also improve in the long term if you can see a path (all the tiny steps) to your eventual goal.
Can you still use 5-year planning if you want to accomplish your goal sooner or later than 5 years?
YES! You can apply it to any timeline you want. 5-year planning teaches you to approach and think of goals in a new way.
First, I always encourage you to have a 5-year plan for your life so you continuously make progress towards your life goals. Life does not wait. The years come and go fast. Make sure you are truly making use of your time.
And secondly, when there is something that you want to accomplish on a deadline. Utilize this new approach to help yourself complete deadlines. 5-year planning is a type of strategic problem solving that can be applied really to anything.
Why is 5-year planning essential to any goal?
Besides the fact that it allows you to break down your goal into action items, 5-year planning will do wonders for your motivation.
When I have a goal in mind for my life, I usually get really motivated to achieve it. This usually happens at the end of the day for some reason and then I vow wholeheartedly before bed that I am going tackle it tomorrow.
When the next day rolls around, I usually lose all of the motivation and push off starting that goal. Then life gets busy and I never really start because it seems so daunting.
5-year planning essentially teaches you how to achieve your goal in a realistic fashion. With this strategy, you put the big goal into the distant future and instead focus on tackling the smaller action items. These are much easier to accomplish. Once you start doing them, you start seeing success everywhere instead of failure (not accomplishing the big goal yet). The success keeps your motivation high and therefore you continue reaching for that bigger goal.
For example, losing 40 pounds is too big of a goal. If you only saw success as losing 40 pounds, it would take a very long time to succeed. Additionally, trying to figure out how to lose 40 pounds is also overwhelming.
Once I start to break down that goal into smaller items like one gym class a week, eating a piece of fruit every day and learning how to cook a new healthy meal once a week, I start seeing success everywhere. This is the key to sticking with goals.
Steps to creating a 5-year plan
Here is how I go about creating a 5-year plan. You can create this using a notebook, printer paper, or digitally. Whatever works best for you when you plan and brainstorm.
1. Start by picking a subject or by picturing your life 5-years from now.
Think about all the different areas in your life such as relationships, health, self-care, finances, etc. Now pick one that you want to improve. For example, maybe I really want to improve my finances and get out of debt.
Where do you want to be 5 years from now? Picture it and then write it all down. Remember to think about all aspects of your life. Leave your hesitation and negative thinking out of this step. Don’t worry about whether you will or won’t succeed. Maybe you want to meet a milestone like getting married or finding a new job or having less stress. Maybe you want to improve your self-confidence with a new wardrobe, have a cleaner or more organized house, make some new friends. Make the list as long and as detailed as you can.
2. Decide what success would look like
Now, take everything you wrote down that you want in your life five years from now and write it down as clear goals. I like to use a notebook and I write down each goal on the top of a page. Try to be as specific and detailed as you can with your big goal.
3. Break down that big goal into smaller goals
For each goal, you want to create a “road map” on how to reach it. This involves breaking down that big goal into smaller goals. If you aren’t sure of what a smaller goal could be, here is one way to think of it: If you want to reach that goal in five years, where do you need to be one year from now, how about two?
Another way to brainstorm is if my objective is to buy a house in five years, what other goals do I need to reach in order to make that happen? Those other goals become the smaller goals.
Now for each small goal, make even smaller goals. Go until the goals break down into action items. By action items, I mean things you can start doing today.
4. Make a plan from your action items
Now that you have made these flow charts for each big goal, where do you begin?
What action items are you going to tackle? What supplies or knowledge do you need?
This is where you start to make progress. Go through all of your action items that you could start working on. Pick one or two to tackle first. Now, schedule them into your next week.
By blocking off time and adding them to your schedule, you are more likely to accomplish those tasks. I like to add the tasks at times in my day when I am most productive such as in the morning or evening.
If the task is particularly unfun to me, then I play music and have a coffee while I do it. Anything that will increase the likelihood that I will complete it. Once I get over the learning curve and get use to the new task, then it becomes easier to do. In general, I find it takes two weeks for something to become habit.
Another way to help get started on a new action item is to ask a friend to join. For example, I might be trying to tackle sticking to a budget. If I ask a friend to join me in the challenge, then it becomes more fun. Additionally, I now have a buddy to relate to and to bounce ideas off of.
5. Revisit your original plan
Have your goals changed since you started? What about your action items?
This is so key. Strategic planning such as 5-year planning works because it continuously changes based on new information. You should continuously improve it. For example, if you wanted to start trying to eat healthier, every time you learn new information on healthy eating you apply it. Every time you apply your new information, you are that much closer to achieving the goal of eating healthy.
This goes for any goal you make. After you make your plan, you will learn a lot as you work towards achieving those action items. The learning will allow you to make a better version of new action items or shed light on your overarching goals. Having a goal change isn’t a failure at all, it instead should be seen as success. You would have never even realized what your true goal would have been without doing a 5-year plan in the first place, and that is why it is so valuable.
You can revisit your 5-year plan as much or as little as you want. When you do, use the time to reflect and improve it with your progress and learning. I like to revisit it once a month over a hot cup of coffee in the morning before the kids are awake.
Should you do it even if you don’t know where you want to be in 5 years?
YES, YES, YES. 5-year planning has actually nothing to do about where you will be in five years. But rather it’s the thought process you go through in having to think about where you want to be in five years which is the most important step.
You might end up nowhere near what you pictured for yourself. However, by taking that initiative and working towards a goal, you actually find your true goal. If you just start taking steps towards a goal, then it becomes clearer what you want to do and how to achieve it.
Remember the value comes from the process. If you don’t know where you want to be in five years, then you should be the first person doing this. Seriously, it will change your life.
The first time I decided to give this type of life planning a go, I really had no idea what to expect. I think I stared at my blank piece of paper for about a solid 15 minutes. Once I finally thought of a few goals, my mind started turning. By the end I had over 30 goals that I wanted to accomplish in the next five years.
Some of my goals included improving my finances, buying a house, having a baby, becoming a better cook, decluttering and organizing everything, getting in better shape, working on my wardrobe, and working on finding a friend group. I realized immediately that I wanted to accomplish a lot in the next five years. I was also surprised that envisioning my life resulted in excitement and motivation instead of just a lot of work.
Then came the details. I mapped out how I would work towards each goal. I added in action items to my schedule each week. I revised when things weren’t working or when I learned something new. I stopped feeling lost. My days were intentional. I was learning and living.
How I improved my finances
While I won’t go into every detail on every goal in this post, I will share my journey on improving my finances. My big goal was to improve my finances so I could buy a house and have a baby. I broke that down into two smaller goals, which were to save more and make more. For saving more, I had two smaller goals which were budget and reusing. For making more, I had increase credentials, side hustle and improve current career standing.
My action items under the section budget included learning how to budget, finding areas to save, finding ways to save in those areas. As I started working on this, I learned that groceries were a huge way to save. I learned how to meal plan. I changed grocery stores. I always brought a list to the store. I always kept a snack on me, so I didn’t buy overpriced foods.
For reusing, I started with a lot of simple projects such as switching all paper products for reusable cloth in the kitchen. I then entered the world of DIY. I learned how to sew and how to use a variety of tools. I really started to save money when I discovered the world of garage sale-ing and thrift store shopping. I had fun exploring and shopping this way. It was like a treasure hunt.
That was enough for us to move into a house. We now have two babies. If I hadn’t been proactive and worked toward that goal, I am not sure how long it would have taken for us to afford it all.
I am now focused more on the second part of my 5-year goal which is to make more. As a current stay-at-home mom, I have started finding work that I can do from home in the mornings or evenings. I never imagined I could make what I do and also be a stay-at-home mom.
And I can tell you right now, I might not have ever had the self-discipline and determination to do the hard work of working every free hour I have if I hadn’t made a 5-year plan. I needed to know I was working towards a goal and what that goal was.
Pursue your 5 year plan Today
I have heard that if you write something down, then you are more likely to complete it. After starting to use intentional planning in my life, I 100% agree. I don’t want to look back on my life and wish I had done more, lived more. So, I make an effort to check in with myself and my goals. You will be so surprised at how much you will truly learn about yourself and how much you can accomplish.
Now, tell me where are you going to be in five years?
So, go out and buy a cute notebook and a fancy pen, set a date with yourself, a nice hot drink, and some cozy slippers and Pursue Today!