It doesn’t matter how productive you think you are. If you don’t set realistic goals, you’re only going to be spinning your wheels. But why should you set a five-year goal plan?

Five years is a long time but it’s not too long. It gives you enough time to build skills or collect resources. Also, it can give you space to deal with the curveballs life throws at you.

Let’s break down a five year goal with a few goal planning tips.

5 Reasons Why Setting Goals is So Important

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  1. Goals help you plan your journey.
  2. They make your dreams actionable.
  3. They’re a way to stay grounded to what you know is really best for you.
  4. Seeing your goals in writing every day helps you stay sharp and focused.
  5. Goals hold you accountable.

How to Set Achievable Goals

Commit to working on them daily. It’s very helpful to create a solid plan for the next five years. But if you write up a plan and tuck it away in a drawer, never to be seen again, you’ll never reach those goals. Work on your goals every day even if it’s only for a few minutes.

Make your goals realistic. If you decide to be a billionaire in five years, you better have an absolutely awesome plan in place to make that happen. But if you plan to finally finish writing that book you’ve had knocking around in your head for as long as you can remember, setting a one-year goal to finish it is totally doable. Unless, of course, you’re writing a 20,000-page epic.

Know the steps you need to take to meet those goals. If you want to start a bakery, you should know how to bake. Getting good at baking can take a long time. Make sure that the steps to achieve your goals follow each other in a logical way. And make sure that each mini-goal along the way builds off on one another.

  1. One great way to plan your goals is by using something like a Trello board. You can create a column for each of the goal types listed below. Then you can add cards for each of your goals in those goal types. For more information on how to use Trello for your goals, learn how to create a vision board.
  2. A note-taking program, like Microsoft OneNote or Notion can be a journal and a planner. In OneNote, you can create a Section for each of the categories. Then create a Page for each of your goals. You can use those pages to take notes on progress. And you can store materials like pictures and PDF files to keep track of your work.
  3. You don’t need a fancy tool to track your goals, though. Even a plain text file is enough. The important thing is that it’s something you regularly use to stay organized.

The Big Picture: A Five-Year Goal

Goal Planning

One of the worst questions interviewers like to ask is, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” The answer probably isn’t “Hoping to claw my way to middle management at your fine company, sir.”

Your long term goals are yours and yours alone. Your five-year goal is your big dream. It’s the answer to, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” now that you’re a grownup.

Even though a lot can happen in five years, this is a great place to start. You may choose a completely different path in two years. Your objective here isn’t to actually define where you’ll be in five years.

The reason you set a five-year goal is to figure out what you want out of life. It’s a way to learn something crucial about yourself. You may have an answer right now. Or you may not.

If you don’t, take some time and think about it. Try sitting somewhere without distractions for 20 or 30 minutes. Silence your phone and just think about it. Think about your dreams and ask yourself what’s important to you.

Zooming In: Set Next Year’s Goal First

a woman thinking about her goals in a thoughtful pose

The five-year plan is a bit fuzzy. But the one-year plan is much more concrete.

It’s easier to imagine what you want to do one year from now. A good idea is to plan out the next year in October or November. Start by reflecting on the year you’ve had to date, and the one you want to have next year.

You may need to set aside a full day or two to work on this. You should put some energy into your plan and think deeply about the specific steps you’ll need to take.

  • If you’re a big picture thinker, think about how to break down your plan into smaller, more actionable pieces.
  • If you prefer the bottom-up approach, think about your goal and the “why” of those goals. Then, plan what you can do today to move towards your goal.

You are on the right track when your one year goal aligns with the overarching purpose of your five year goal. After you finish your one year plan, it becomes easier to move to setting quarterly goals.

Making Next Year a Reality: Setting Quarterly Goals

There are a lot of things you can do in a year. It can be overwhelming. But if you can break down your plans into four major projects, you’ll be on the right path.

Think about projects that you can finish in three months or less. Make sure that these projects line up well with your five-year dream and your one-year, overall goal.

Use the time you set aside for your one-year goal to fully flesh these out. Think about the steps you’ll need to take and who you’ll need to work with.

Plan ahead. What things will you need to set in motion before the quarters come up? What will you have to do in each quarter to finish the project? Are there any blocks you’ll need to overcome before you can finish your projects? What is the best order to do those projects?

Staying on Track With Monthly Goals

Setting monthly goals isn’t really vital. It’s more important to make sure that you’re making progress towards your quarterly goals. Checking in monthly helps you to do just that.

If you feel like you’re on track, great! Keep going! If your current actions aren’t well aligned with your quarterly goals, now is a great time to think about how to refocus.

Plan Your Week Every Sunday

a minimalist image of a calendar and pen with sunday on the calendar

You should have your week planned out before you go to bed every Sunday night. This is a good time to think about the most effective actions you can take this week to work towards your goal.

Plan Your Day In Advance

It takes just a few minutes. Before you leave the office or stop working for the day, make sure you know what you’re going to do tomorrow. Trying to figure out your day while you’re still ramping up in the morning can be counterproductive. But if you sit down at your desk and know exactly what you need to do, it’s like being on autopilot.

A journaling habit can be a wonderful way to keep track. Here are five apps and printables to help you do that.

How to Stay On Track and Make the System Work For You

Staying on track with your goals

It’s easy to forget your goals. It’s a good idea to frequently look at your five-year plan to remind yourself of why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Use notifications and alerts to keep reminding yourself. You can use Google Calendar, Outlook, or iCal to stay on track. Set an event on October first to remind yourself to schedule time for your yearly planning session. Set more reminders for your monthly and weekly planning sessions as well.

Entering daily planning sessions can clog your calendar and make it look busy. It may be better to set a daily alarm to go off at a certain time. Another technique is to use a habit trigger, like setting tomorrow’s plan when you get back from lunch.

Procrastination will arrive with progress. When it hits your momentum, try micro-goals instead.

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