Learning how to manage your time—your attention, energy, and decisions—is a good thing. It’s how you get more done in less time with less stress. You have more time, attention, and energy to direct towards the things that matter most to you.
Daily productivity is only one side of the coin, though. You need to spend time thinking about the direction you want to take things. Without a long-term plan, you’ll make good time, but are you going to be happy with wherever you happen to end up?
A personal mission statement helps you define the man you want to be. That statement can be something you spend a lifetime working towards, refining yourself. It’s very long-term, and can represent a very large, very intimidating amount of change. You need something to connect where you are now with where you want to be eventually.
You need a five-year plan.
There’s nothing magical about five years. It’s long enough that you have several iterations of annual goals to help you get there. It’s short enough that you can still get excited about the results.
Have you ever scaled back or rejected—consciously or subconsciously—an annual goal because you thought it reflected too much change from where you are now? A lot can happen in five years. Dream big.
What do you do with a five-year plan? Here are some ideas:
- Review it for inspiration as part of your weekly review.
- Use it as a checklist of annual goals to make sure you’re heading in the right direction.
- Pick one item or aspect and try living it for a month.
- Let it influence your budget. Fund the dream.
- Start a discussion about your relationship or family life. You won’t achieve some goals by yourself.
- Remind yourself why you’re making the short-term sacrifices you are. Stoke the fire.
Not sure where to start? It’s easy.
- Take a piece of paper and write “My Life in 2021” across the top.
(If you prefer digital tools for your planning, then grab this Evernote template to get you started. Just click “Save to Evernote” to copy it to your notebook. Or create your own from scratch.)
Congratulations! You’ve started your five-year plan. Now ask yourself what you want your life to be like in five years. As ideas come to you, you have a place to write them down. Use first-person, present-tense statements. (For example, “I am debt-free” instead of “I will pay off my debts”.)
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. It’s followed by 4,223,999 more, but that first step can be the hardest one to take. That’s why it gets so much attention.
Start a five-year plan now. Even if you don’t know what to put on it yet, start the document. The first step can be creating a home for inspiration when it strikes.
The holidays are a great time to create a five-year plan. We spend time with family. We catch up, relive the glory days, and dream big dreams. While you’re at it, take a few minutes to write things down. Make the dream happen.