5 steps to the perfect 5-year plan

 5 steps to the perfect 5 year plan

5 years ago, one of my co workers told me a story about being at a party where she met the quintessential masters student, who obviously had his entire life planned out. After hearing this she in panic made a mock  5 year life plan that ended with her being the mayor of a super tiny province in Canada (even though provinces don’t have mayors) and  owning a dairy bar after retiring  from a long  career in the public service.

 While she said this as a joke, I decided  that I was going to make my own five year plan and give my life some direction. I wanted to create life plans with some balance between living spontaneously and living purposefully.  A 5 year plan allows  for the flexibility of planning  but  without the part where you go over board and over plan your life for teh next 20 years.  

To create a succesful 5 year plan, you should do the following

Make it S.M.A.R.T

All the leading industry experts agree that  when creating goals structure is key, using the S.M.A.R.T  model. This means that your  goals should be:

1. Specific (ex instead of get fit, it can be go to the gym)
2. Measureable – go to the gym 3 times a week
3. Actionable –  you have a gym membership and a way to avtually get to the gym
4. Relevant 
5. Time Based – go to the gym 3 times a week for the next 6 months 

Write it down

Often when people have goals, there is more than one thing they’d like to accomplish. It is overwhelming to have all these ideas floating around and I’ve found that writing each goal down helps me. I believe that you cannot achieve your goals if you don’t have clarity on what those goals are or even what your end result looks like. Personally, creating an itemized list of my goals make it seems a lot more concrete. After creating a list I am then able to group them in order of priority (starting with the most important).

I have also found that it helps to also have a visual representation of those goals. so, I create a digital vision board that I can look at daily to remind me of the things I am working towards

Think big but be realistic

It might seem a bit like a contradiction to say think big but realistic. You want your goals to be a bit challenging because that’s how you grow. For each person what is considered a challenge might differ. If you suffer from depression, it can be something like cleaning up your room a little each day even when you do not have the energy to. For others, it might be getting a dream internship or moving to another state. While you want to think big, you don’t want to set yourself up for failure by writing something that couldn’t possibly be completed in 5 years. For example, becoming an astronaut, when you have not yet completed the basic degree required.

Break it down and create a plan

Achieving a large goal does not happen overnight. Writing a goal down is one thing, but it does not necessarily show you how to successfully achieve that goal. To be successful, you need to break down the bigger goal into smaller achievable steps. For example, if your 5-year goal is to become a front end developer, your smaller steps might be:

1. Finish coding classes
2. Get a summer internship working with developers.
3. Gain additional internship experience
4. Complete degree
5. Apply for front end developer jobs etc etc


Doing a check-in of your goals list and actionable steps are essential. life happens, distractions happen and that makes it all the easier to for us to forget the goals we’ve set out to accomplish over the course of the year. Doing a check-in lets you know where you currently are and what additional steps or adjustments you will have to make to actually make those goals happen.

Adjust as needed

As I mentioned earlier, life happens. sometimes the things we want now do not always make sense months or years down the line. I remember 5 Years ago writing down that I wanted to be in law school in 5 years, however as I took the steps to achieve it i.e. taking prep courses and studying for my LSATs, sitting in on lectures at my university, I realized that this career path was not for me and I wouldn’t be happy doing it for the rest of my life. so, I changed my plans. If you find that as you are working on a goal, you do not enjoy it or it’s moving you in a direction you do not want to be in, it okay to stop, reflect and adjust as needed.