How to Start Designing Your 5-Year Plan

Carolina Jacobs

Mar 12, 2021
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You may have already heard about the dreaded and revered “five-year plan” before. Lots of people have five-year plans, or even longer life plans that stretch years beyond that — like ten-year plans, though those are common among people who are usually a bit older. While you don’t have to roll out a long and crazy plan anytime soon, starting to formulate and design your own version of a five-year plan could be a good step to take you a bit into your future.

Nobody’s five-year plan looks exactly the same, and really, that’s the beauty of it all. Your plan for the future doesn’t depend on external expectations — at the end of the day, it depends purely on you and what kind of goals you want to set for yourself and achieve. But if you’re having a bit of trouble getting started and figuring out what you want to see a few years down the line in your life, there are plenty of ways you can get started on your own five-year plan. While starting to figure things out doesn’t mean you have to have it all down pat at any specific time, it can give you a bit of a leg up so you can decide what you want to do with the next few years. Here are a few tips for those looking to start on their five-year plan.

1. Consider What You Want

One of the very first things you need to do when planning for your future is to ask yourself what you truly want and start to think of ideas of how you’d like your life to look, both in the present and further down the line. Even if you only have more abstract, long-term goals in mind, that’s better than nothing at all. While they might seem a bit cliche, finding career path examples through activities like visualizing and making vision boards can work well for this if you use them thoughtfully by considering what matters most to you and allowing your instincts to guide you.

2. Brainstorm Goals

Once you have a general idea of what you want, brainstorming the kinds of goals that would fulfill you the most is a good next step. Brainstorming goals might seem a bit foreign or scary at first, but brainstorming isn’t concrete — and that’s the beauty of it. Brainstorming can be about laying out anything that sounds good to you in your head and seeing where it fits in with your life. These goals can span all avenues of life — from education to family planning and so much more. Considering career path examples and travel goals all matter here. You can consider each goal with the passage of time, and truly take days or even weeks to consider which goals are the most important to you.

3. Set Annual Goals

Once you’ve brainstormed and have an outline of your goals, setting them up in an annual sense is a great way to form a bit of structure in your plan. Of course, these annual goals are subject to shift and change depending on life and its many changes. But creating a bit of an outline for yourself is one of the most important factors in making a five-year plan exactly what it is — a plan. Goals may become a bit more abstract the further they span into the future, and that’s okay. There should be a mix of all kinds of goals, as a life plan is about more than professional or personal goals alone. It’s about a full picture of life.

4. Create Action in the Present

Having goals is all well and good, but what are goals if you don’t put action into place to achieve them? Once you have your goals and your timelines laid out for your five-year plan, start thinking about habits, practices, and even risks you can take to make your goals a reality. The difference between goals and dreams is that goals have clear paths you can forge to get there, even if they’re difficult. Whether it’s getting an internship, working on your studies more, or even finishing a personal project, creating present action can lead to achievement down the line.

5. Revisit Your Plan Frequently

Over the years — or even months down the road — you’ll probably find yourself revisiting and reevaluating your five-year plan to adjust to where you are in the current moment. This is, overall, a sign of success. Not only are you making progress on your plan, but you’re frequently engaging with your goals so they fit your needs as best as possible. What could be better than that?

Your Five-Year Plan

Everyone’s five-year plan is a bit different, but when you take the time to think about your goals, engage frequently with your plan, and set up actions for success, you can make the best plan for you — present, as well as future.

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