We all need a plan for the future. Some of us already know how to plan, while others do not. Some like to plan in their heads, and some like to write it all down…and usually, the ones who write it down actually accomplish what they set out to do. Creatives, in particular, seem to like to plan in their heads rather than write things down. I’m currently planning my future, step by step myself. Learning how to plan your future comes down to what you want in it – the goals and dreams you have. It can be overwhelming at first to plan your life – I mean, look at all the things we have to do, should do, and want to do in life.
We want our futures to be better than our pasts, obviously. But we have to consider all aspects of life. Financial, mental, emotional, relationships, everything. It may help to start with a vision of your ideal day. What do you do that day? What do your surroundings look like? Where do you go? What do you see? All of these can bring about goals that will fill you with excitement.
You have to start somewhere, so grab a notebook, Evernote, OneNote or other note-taking apps, a word document or something else. Avoid the cocktail napkin…we all know where those end up. What do you want in life?
Write It Down
The most important thing you can do for your future is to write your plan down. You are not going to remember it all, trust me. I used to be an in the head planner, and things always got messed up one way or another from me forgetting something important. Write it down. There are numerous studies done that prove that writing things down gets more of them actually accomplished. Try it out for 30 days and see how much more you get done!
Put Your Plan In One Place
Don’t scatter your plan into many different spots, mediums, programs, whatever. Plan in one place. This helps to keep your mind happy, and it also prevents that scattered feeling when everything you need is every which way. So choose the medium or program and keep with it. You can use other things for other parts – like the actual implementation of your plan. I use OneNote, as it’s convenient and allows me to really drill down. Evernote is another good option. A bullet journal or regular journal works too – either digital or paper.
Break Goals Into Smaller Pieces
I know you’ve heard the advice before, but breaking down your goals into smaller pieces makes you more motivated to actually get moving toward your goals. It prevents you from feeling overwhelmed by the nature of the goals and all the things needed to do to reach them. This especially works well for long term goals. Let’s say your goal was to make $1000 a month online. How would you do that? Some examples may be starting a blog, find freelance writing clients, etc. Even those can be broken up further, such as find hosting, figure out a domain name, pitch favorite magazines, etc. The goal is to break your goals into tasks rather than projects. You can even break them down into timed blocks, say 5 minutes a day searching for the best hosting deal or whatever.
Don’t Get Stuck In Planning Mode
It is so easy to just continue to plan what you are going to do in the future that you never actually start working toward them. Planning your goals and planning your life can take over your life very easily, so take care to watch out for it doing so. It’s easy to plan, and hard to execute, so your brain wants to stay where things are easy. And let’s face it, planning your life can be super fun! But planning your future alone won’t get you where you want to go, so make sure to execute the plan as you go. You are never going to have a perfect future plan, so stop tweaking and get to work! The idea is that your plan for the future grows with you and is flexible in how you achieve things.
Schedule, Schedule, Schedule
Chances are, if you don’t schedule it into your calendar, it won’t get done. We’re all very busy people with packed schedules…but typically only those actually on the schedule get done, as we don’t have all that much time outside of it to do other random to-dos. I use Google Calendar, but you can use whatever format works for you. This one is hard for me, though I’m used to scheduling appointments and such. I just “forget” sometimes, which gets me nowhere fast. Don’t be like me! Half the battle is just showing up.
Adjust Your Plan As Needed
Your future plan will need adjusting as time goes on. I recommend weekly, monthly and even quarterly reviews so that you continue working on that which matters most. You can also adjust as events happen that change things, such as new opportunities, as long as you are aware that each thing you say yes to changes the plan if it wasn’t already on there. Keeping your plan in your mind and viewing it regularly will help – so don’t hide it away in a drawer to gather dust. That’s part of what the reviews are for, to keep the plan front and center for you so that you can evaluate any new opportunities as they come. The plan is flexible, so keep adjusting as needed.
Planning for the future is vital. Otherwise, you plan to fail. While failure isn’t necessarily a bad thing, inactivity is. You will never reach your goals sitting on the couch watching Netflix all day, that’s for sure. Every bit of time you spend working toward your goals counts, even if you can only squeeze in 5 minutes a day. Maybe you could give up some daily things to make some more time for achieving your goals? In the end, no one is going to do it for you.
In the words of Janis Joplin: “Don’t compromise yourself. You’re all you have.”