You need a plan to reach a destination that means something to you. Where are you headed this year? What about five years from now? If you could dream, where would you be in ten years?
Here’s a useful tool that I use to think about my goals. Every six months or so, I take a piece of paper and write down my goals. I take a photo with my iPhone, and make it my desktop wallpaper — and then it’s there to remind me every day for the next six months. I’ll explain in this post how I think about creating the goals.
I don’t know where I learnt this approach, or whether I invented it myself, but I was amused to find the same idea on a lululemon bag recently. Not only do they make great yoga and sportswear, they give great advice. You should shop there, if only so you can read the bag.
1. Two career goals
Step one is to create two career goals for the next twelve months. What do you want to achieve in the next year?
Everyone who’s working probably has goals in a system somewhere, but these should be more personal. What do you want to learn to do better? What characteristic do you want to develop? How do you want to be perceived by the people around you? Where should your focus be? How do you want to direct your energy?
My recommendation is that your goal should be a few words that mean something to you. A short phrase that triggers a longer thought. Something you can glance at and consume.
2. Two health, fitness, and wellbeing goals
You’re getting to know me through my blog, so you won’t be surprised by this section. I’ve learnt that the number one priority in life is health; without health, you can’t look after your family, yourself, or your career.
So, now it’s time to write down two goals for the next twelve months that are about you and your health, fitness, and wellbeing. Do you want to get to a healthy weight? Eat right? Get exercising? Sleep better? Fix your posture? Take tests to check on family conditions? Or do you want to take it something to the next level? How about trying my ten tips for being fighting fit?
3. Two personal goals
The final step for planning this year is to think about your personal life and capture two points. Do you want to travel more with the family? Take up a hobby? Switch off from work on the weekends? Call your friends? Make new friends? Help the community? Give your time to a cause?
4. This year, in 5 years, and in 10 years
Steps one, two, and three give you six points to focus on for the next twelve months. I recommend repeating them to create a five year plan, and again to create a ten year plan. I enjoy this part the most: thinking about the next year is a little tactical, but turning a dream for the future into goals for the future is fun. This is where you get to think about who you want to be, what success is for you in life, and what you want to be doing in your career after you’ve made substantial progress. I’d recommend thinking about your larger financial goals, your wellbeing, what success is for your family, and what your perfect career looks like.
While you’re writing this, think about coherence: is the one year plan leading to the five year plan? Five year leading to the ten? One year leading to the ten? Don’t be afraid to go back and make adjustments. You want your one year plan to take you roughly 20% of the way to your five year goal.
When you’re done, you’ve got 18 points on a page. I can fit this easily on a small sheet. As I said, I keep the points very short and consumable in a glance. Then it’s photo time, and time to make it your desktop background.
Every six months or so, you should refresh your goals. Read the previous entry, and make an honest assessment of how you’ve gone with your goals. Copy over the phrases you still like or that shouldn’t change, and make a few adjustments where you need. Don’t get too unhappy with yourself the first time around — I started by writing overly ambitious goals, and I’ve learnt that it’s better to write down achievable goals that push me in the right direction. I don’t tend to change the ten year goals, and I rarely tweak the five year goals. I often make changes to the one year plan, but always in the context of asking: is this helping me get from today to my five year goals?
This is an enjoyable exercise for me, and an investment in thinking about myself. I hope you find it useful too. Let me know how it goes.