Do you ever feel like you’re just barely keeping your head above water? Between managing your health, relationships, career, and personal goals, life can quickly become overwhelming. When every day is a struggle just to complete your to-do list, it’s hard to find time and energy to think about the big picture. What do you really want to achieve in the next few years? How can you make progress toward your goals?
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This is where creating a five-year plan can provide much-needed direction and motivation. By mapping out your goals and vision for the next five years, you can ensure you’re spending your time and energy in a purposeful way. Though it requires an initial investment, a thoughtfully crafted five-year plan pays off exponentially in helping you be more productive and gain a sense of control over your life.
My favorite method is inspired by life coach Natalie Bacon, and I’ve expanded it over time to best accommodate the unique situation of goal-setting with chronic illness. That updated version became the basis for our workbook, Create & Execute Your Five-Year Plan: a Five-Year- Plan(ner).
Consider Your Life Categories and Priorities
Before determining specific goals, take time to get clear on what really matters to you. Start by identifying the main categories of your life. Examples may include health, career, finances, education, recreation, relationships, personal growth, environment, and service. Mine includes additional categories, such as An Ideal Life, my creative works, and my other projects. Make your own list of 8-15 categories that encompass your priorities.
Then, reflect on your values within each area. What brings you meaning and purpose? What legacy do you want to leave? What values do you want your life to reflect? This reflection provides an essential foundation for setting ambitious yet aligned goals to be more productive over the next five years.
Envision Your Ideal Life
Now, let your imagination run wild. Forget limitations and constraints. If anything were possible, what would the next five years of your life look like in each category? Dream big about your ideal future scenario and don’t hold back. This visionary thinking stretches your sense of what’s attainable and sets the stage for bigger goals.
Get Crystal Clear on Your Goals
With your values and best-case scenarios in mind, get specific about measurable goals you’d like to achieve in five years. I like to choose one priority goal for each category. Having clarity on the end destination is crucial for laying out the steps to get there. In fact, this is similar to the process used in the Passion Roadmap as part of each Passion Planner!
Break down these big goals into smaller milestones. For example, if you want to finish writing a book, define yearly publishing milestones. If you want financial freedom, determine income, debt payoff, and savings targets (maybe check out our modified Dave Ramsey baby steps!). Specify what you want to create, accomplish, and experience.
Make an Action Plan with Timelines
Now reverse engineer from your five-year goals back to the present. Outline the concrete steps needed each year to make progress toward these goals. Be as specific and realistic as possible. For example, if your goal is to launch a nonprofit in five years, your action plan may include: year one – establish a board of advisors, attain 501(c)(3) status, and create branding; year two – fundraise $50k, hire executive director, and lease office space; etc. If you’re struggling to break your goal down into smaller steps, a resource like Goblin.tools will be a lifesaver! Let the action plan stretch you while still feeling achievable.
Schedule Regular Goal Reviews
Don’t just create your five-year plan and then shelve it. Schedule quarterly or biannual reviews of your goals and action plan. Celebrate progress and milestones. Re-evaluate what’s working and what’s not. Adjust timelines, priorities, or goals based on changing circumstances and emerging opportunities. Use reviews to hold yourself accountable and ensure you’re on track with your plan. This is especially crucial for those of us with chronic illness, who may need to make adjustments due to fluctuating symptoms or severity of our illness.
Align Daily Tasks with Bigger Picture Goals
With your five-year goals and timelines defined, break down what you need to do this year, month, and week to move in the right direction. Make sure your daily to-do list aligns with the macro goals outlined in your plan. For example, if networking is critical for your five-year career goals, schedule time for it each week first and foremost, not just when it’s convenient or you happen to think of it. Maintaining alignment of daily tasks with bigger picture goals keeps you focused and productive.
Troubleshoot Setbacks and Roadblocks
Despite your best efforts, setbacks will happen as you try to be more productive. Unexpected challenges will disrupt your carefully designed plan. Don’t despair. View roadblocks as opportunities for creative problem-solving. Ask yourself, “How can I course-correct to still achieve my five-year goals?” Be willing to modify plans while still holding your larger vision. Seek support and input from others. Stay focused on the progress you’re making, not perfection.
Use Your Goals to Be More Productive
When you’re having a tough day, revisit your five-year goals. They will re-energize and motivate you to keep taking small steps forward and be more productive overall. Remind yourself how the project, relationship, or task you’re currently struggling with fits into the bigger picture. View each daily effort as building toward your longer-term vision of fulfillment. Big accomplishments are just small wins compounded over time.
Example Goal Breakdown
Let’s say, for example, that one of my five-year goals is to sell 1,000 copies (or more!) of the five-year plan workbook. This is how Goblin.tools breaks it down—I’ve set the “spiciness level” all the way up to get the greatest breakdown, then click the little magic wand icon to expand upon my original goal and those steps leading up to it.
Here, my initial goal reads “Sell 1,000 copies of my workbook, Create & Execute Your Five-Year Plan: a Five-Year Plan(ner), over a five-year period.” The first step MagicToDo came up with is “Develop a marketing strategy for the workbook,” which I then broke down to “Conduct market research to identify potential target markets.” I broke that down again to steps like “Understand the purpose of conducting market research,” “Research different methods and tools for market research,” “Identify the specific goal of the market research,” “Determine the information needed to identify potential target markets,” “Identify resources available for market research,” and so on. I could absolutely break these down further, too!
From here, I’ll open my workbook and figure out how it can help me be more productive. For simplicity’s sake, let’s break that into 200 per year—50 copies per quarter, and 17 per month.
Some of my tasks might include:
- Spend 30 minutes researching workbook marketing best practices
- Brainstorm 10 potential reviewers to reach out to
- Spend 1 hour optimizing the workbook sales page SEO
- Draft email templates for reaching out to reviewers
- Post on social media about the workbook 2 times
- Send workbook to 5 potential reviewers
- Write 1 new blog post about the benefits of five year plans
- Post on social media about the workbook 1x per week
- Run a social media ad campaign for the workbook
- Follow up with all reviewers contacted
- Publish 2 more blog posts about five year plans
- Create an email nurture sequence for those who signed up via the ad campaign
- Run 1 giveaway campaign for the workbook
- Get 10 formal reviews of the workbook
- Create an automated funnel so customers get free worksheets when purchasing
- Run 1 promotional campaign per quarter
- Optimize SEO monthly and improve website copy
As I progress, I’ll continue revisiting and adjusting these timelines and daily/weekly tasks as needed to be more productive and make progress even as my illnesses fluctuate. The key is translating your big 5-year goal into the small, incremental steps that will accumulate over time into something much bigger. With consistent effort and tracking, you’ll be amazed at the progress you can make!
Creating a thoughtfully crafted five-year plan takes effort upfront but pays off exponentially in providing direction and motivation and helping you to be more productive. Ultimately, it allows you to create the life you want instead of just reacting to life as it comes. Regularly revisiting your plan keeps the big picture in mind while ensuring daily alignment with your values, priorities, and vision of the future. With a clear map of where you’re headed, each day becomes more purposeful and productive.
If you want extra help perfecting your own five-year plan to be more productive, consider using a guided workbook like our Five-Year Plan(ner). This workbook walks you through each step of creating your perfect plan, with plenty of room for customization. You can use it to lay out goals for your professional life, personal life, finances, and more. It includes worksheets and pages to help you brainstorm, visualize, set milestones, and track progress. The Five-Year Plan(ner) is an invaluable tool for anyone who wants to achieve their goals and create a successful future, even amidst unpredictability. With a personalized plan in place, you’ll be prepared to navigate whatever comes your way.