A five-year plan is one of those concepts you hear about as you move through life, but no one really takes the time to explain. No one says, “Here’s how to make a five-year plan and why you’d want to. Knock yourself out!” With this post, I hope to do just that!
I’ve gone through a few iterations of my current five-year plan as my life’s changed. I recently started a full-time job I would never have imagined having—that undoubtedly changed my plans! That’s the beauty of this concept, really. When plans change, your five-year plan itself can change.
The first version of my five-year plan, though, was inspired by one of the most influential people I’ve had the chance to “know” (albeit through her blog & podcast!), Natalie Bacon. Natalie’s take on a five-year plan starts with envisioning your dream life amidst eight primary life categories:
- Personal Development
Then, Natalie’s planning process takes you through the transition into becoming your dream self, then implementing massive action to reach your desired results.
My plan started similarly, with a list of life categories. In my case, there are a few more than Natalie’s—if nothing else, I work better envisioning my various businesses separately. So, in my five-year plan, I begin with these categories:
- GYST (read more here)
- Health (fitness, chronic illness management, nutrition, mental health care, medical treatment)
- Money (debt payoff, passive income, saving & investing)
- Relationships (family, friends, romance)
- Full-Time Job (a new addition!)
- Freelance Services (writing, editing, & branding)
- Writing (poetry & prose, book reviews, and work under my pen name)
- Nightingale & Sparrow (my small press/literary magazine)
- An Ideal Life (this blog!)
- Development (professional & personal development, education)
- Spirituality (magick, deity work, research)
- Environment (cleaning & organisation, moving)
- Recreation (hobbies, fun, self-care)
- Service (volunteering & giving)
That works out to 14 categories versus Natalie’s eight, meaning mine involves a bit more work. But, in my case, this works best for me—in creating your own five-year plan, your own categories will be completely different, too! Essentially, the key is to consider your life’s main priorities.
From there, I craft the big-picture image of my ideal life (I couldn’t resist that one!). Going through each of these categories, I imagine the best possible state in five years. Typically, I write a few paragraphs per life category. You could craft a page-long imagining or turn to bullet points for a simplified version. Like your categories, your visualisation process is customisable.
Natalie’s initial guide to a five-year plan then focuses on mindset work or becoming the person you aspire to be. I won’t try to combat her expertise here—definitely check out her blog post to understand journalling as the person with your results, overcoming your fear, and consuming media that reflects your goals. I try to implement these methods myself, and I’m sure you could add your own mindset practices.
Then, both Natalie’s process and mine move to practicality—setting goals that move you toward the results you’re dreaming of, then taking action towards those goals. Typically, I try to have one main goal per category at any given time. Natalie’s a proponent of having just one main goal. The two concepts aren’t necessarily incompatible. With more than one goal, the key is to prioritise based on a hierarchy of your goals and categories.
In my experience, these hierarchies change. One week, I may be behind on a particular project and want to focus on catching up. The next, I might be more interested in caring for myself and reaching a healthier balance between work and play. Once again, you can work to figure out what works best for you! This method might mean I progress more slowly than if I were working towards one central goal at a time, but it’s what works best for me at this point in my life.
In practice, I aim to create my big main “impossible” goals, then break those down into smaller goals on shorter timeframes. I ask myself: “What needs to happen between now and then for this goal to become a reality?”
If I want to be settled in my new apartment by the five-year point, for example, I need to save for the upfront costs. I have to research my complex of choice and make sure my finances are in the best possible place before applying. And, of course, I need to figure out the logistics of my first big move! By planning a rough timeline for these milestones, I’ll have a better idea of how I’ll get from here to there.
Finally, I create task lists for the short-term goals set to be reached soonest, usually daily, weekly, or monthly projects. Armed with those to-dos, I can schedule my upcoming time blocks to best move towards my goals!
By far, what I love most about this take on a five-year plan is its flexibility. When life changes—as it so often does—your plan can change with it. When you hit a roadblock, you can adjust accordingly. And, so long as you reevaluate your priorities and arrange your strategy accordingly, you’ll make incredible progress.
Five years isn’t very long compared to a lifetime but, nevertheless, you can find yourself living a whole new life in that short time. I hardly consider myself the same person I was five years ago, and that was without a solid five-year plan. With one, the possibilities are pretty limitless.
Be sure to check out Natalie’s blog and podcast, Design Your Dream Life, as well as her coaching programs, Grow You (at the top of my wish list) and The Creator Program. You just might stumble across the advice you need to skyrocket your own success in creating a five-year plan and beyond!