How To Make A 5-Year Plan

I recently shared on my IG that I had been working on my personal five-year plan. I was shocked how many of you asked to hear more about this process. I have benefitted immensely from simple goal setting in both my business and personal life. So I am happy to share how I made my own five-year plan and hopefully some of you will try it for the first time as well!

The reason I love to have a five-year plan and track my progress is because I am the kind of person who very easily gets overwhelmed. I create huge guilt for myself over smaller things like having too many DMs (which I really need to let go of … haven’t gotten to the bottom since before Christmas) or forgetting to send a thank you note or text a friend back. So the big responsibilities like saving for retirement, funding our next adoption and making sure I am spending the right amount of quality time with my family each season can spark explosive levels of fear and panic if I don’t keep on top of them. And when I am spiraling in stress it becomes more difficult to separate important priorities from things that I should either just check off my list or remove from my list altogether. I struggle with feelings that I want to “do it all” and it gets me nowhere. Instead, I think it’s an important practice to step back, evaluate my priorities and then work to keep them at the top of my list.

No one’s life is perfect, but the pressure to create perfection makes it even more difficult. It doesn’t push me closer to my goals. If anything, it wears me thin.

With that said, here’s how I created my five-year plan. It’s extremely simple because I believe the best plan is the one you can keep up with.

Five years is a long time 
If you add it all up, five years is a lot of days … it’s a lot of dollars made and spent … it’s a lot of time to spend working on a goal, even with just a little bit of effort every week or every month. It’s a lot of chances to try again and do better. I believe it’s possible to change your whole life in five years.

Zooming out + dreaming big 
90% of why I need and want to have a five-year plan is because I don’t want to regret how I spend my life. None of us want that!

When I zoom out and try to imagine how I will feel looking back in five years, it’s a lot easier to weed out the unimportant things. So try imagining yourself five years older. What would you be so proud of yourself for spending your time and money on during these years? What would you regret?

Don’t forget how long five years is! Don’t be afraid to dream bigger and set goals that feel borderline impossible to you today. You have time to get there.

For me personally, I know these next five years are going to fly by. Since I have a toddler now and we’re planning to adopt again in that time frame, I feel like I will blink and it will be over. So setting my big goals comforted me and helped me feel more in control … even if it’s in my own mind. It relieved a lot of stress.

Five years, five goals 
Five goals is plenty. This is my personal preference. You can set 20 or 30 goals if that makes you happy, but for me I know I lose focus and achieve less if I keep my plate too full.

I actually only made four goals for these next five years and they will take me ALL five years to achieve.

Three of them are financial goals because that is something I need to be focused on right now. Jeremy and I are probably in our “prime” earning years of our lifetime and we want to make good choices for the future. I’m someone who is only good at saving money when I know what I am saving it for—so having these specific goals is an important step for my personality type to stay motivated.

My fourth goal is personal and extremely simple, but takes focus and work every day. It’s also the one that gives me the most panic because I don’t want to blow it. It’s to give Nova a magical childhood. All parents knows that it is a marathon, not a race … and each individual day can be so exhausting. I can already tell that small habits like planning a fun weekend together, or prepping art projects, or taking the extra 30 minutes to walk in the grass for as long as Nova wants to at magic hour (lol) make a massive difference in the quality of our life and our time together. These are her memories she’ll have her whole life and it freaks me out that I only have one little window of time to make these childhood memories with her.

These goals are not rocket science. They are pretty obvious. But I also feel like they are things I could put off, or regret not working harder at. So that’s why I chose them. There are 100 other things that are also important to me, but I feel like I’m already doing them or able to do them quickly or easily. To me, the five-year goals should be the marathon-type things that you are scared you will neglect.

Break your goals into smaller steps 
The way you will do this will vary per each goal. But take the time to figure out what steps you need to take this month, this season, to be on pace for your five-year goals. Some goals (like my personal goal) don’t need a big list—they are just more of a daily and weekly reminder of how I want to be spending my days.

Other goals, like a savings goal, can be broken down pack check by pack check, so you know exactly how much you need to save each month to stay on track.

I would split the dreaming up of your big goals and the planning of how to execute them into different sessions. Each goal will need a good amount of time and planning as you figure out your strategy. But the first step is just getting the goals on paper.

Keep up with your goals, but also relax! 
Once you have your goals made, you can stay up with them season by season. Some years you may make more progress than other years—nothing wrong with this. But if you keep them at the top of your mind, season by season you can also relax a little more because you know you are taking care of the most important priorities and responsiblities.

Bonus tip
I like charts. A LOT. Make charts for your goals so you can track your progress. When I save up money, I make a big chart and them divide it into smaller pieces. Then each time I make a deposit, I color in a section until it is all the way full. With my time with Nova I made a “summer bucket list” to check off fun things I want to make sure we do together. Whatever your goal is, think of a creative way to track your progress visually. It helps me stay motivated!

I realize this is all pretty simple. But I do hope it is helpful and that some of you will try making your own five-year plan. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Just schedule a couple hours one day to be alone and think about what you really want to achieve in this season of your life. You can change your life completely in five years … I mean, my last five-year plan led me to Nova! xx. Elsie

P.S. I asked my friend Elise if she had advice and she has an IG story highlight about this topic as well.

Credits//Author: Elsie Larson, Photography: Amber Ulmer. Photo edited with A Color Story Desktop.
  • I love goal-setting! For me, my goals get so big and grand that I get overwhelmed with everything and quit when things get really hard. One thing that has absolutely helped me is to write and re-write my goals every. single. day. I have a column in my day planner (I even created my own printable for it!) where each day I write 10 things I’m grateful for along with 10 goals I’m working on. Having the reminder every single day keeps me focused and on-track. It keeps me grateful and brings my longer-term tasks to the forefront of my brain so I can move forward a little bit each day with them.

  • Thank you so much for this! I do a “digital vision board” at the beginning of each year which has made a bigger difference in meeting my goals than I ever dreamed! I love this idea and I’m going to work on mine ASAP!

    • Melissa, that sounds great! Would you care to share any details or tips on how you did this?

  • Thank you for this post. I feel like the days and years have slipped by and all of a sudden I’m almost in my mid 30’s. Setting goals is always something I’ve struggled with. Sure, I daydream about what I’d like to do and have happen in my life but I don’t feel like I’ve ever taken a whole lot of action. Sometimes having someone tell me HOW to do things is what I need to get started and make good habits like this!

  • i am so glad i’m not the only one that freaks out about making sure their child will experience a magical childhood lol. since adopting our little girl 2 years ago, it’s something I think about everyday. I want to make sure she lives her best life but always have to remind myself that the small everyday things are just as important and will have a longer, positive effect. It’s easy to get lost in the every day business of life. I love this idea of a five year plan and goal setting. And the summer bucket list is an awesome idea! Going to sit down with my little one today and get one started. Thanks for sharing!

  • Thanks for these tips! I love goal setting! I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed lately with all my project ideas and home renovation. I think making a five year plan would be really help! Also, I just got married and I think make a 5 year plan with my husband would be really fun!

    Laura
    http://www.laurelandfern.com

  • I love this idea! I usually think of five-year goals connected with work. But it’s important to do this in your day-to-day life.

    I think a big goal for me is saving up for a house down payment. Fingers crossed!

  • What are DMs?
    From the generation of whole words not initials for words!
    🤣🤣🤣

  • I love goals settings, and I love this post, thank you Elsie. Too bad my partner in crime isn’t too much into goals settings, but I’m still trying to discuss it with him every year.
    Having two little girls and expecting our third child my five year plan would be to “have a couple hours one day to be alone” 🙂

    • I was’t able to find these couple of hours a day with 3 young kids around me everyday. This is what we do now: when my husband goes to bed i just stay downstairs for just a little bit longer (half an hour or so) so i can enjoy the silence and the clean house. It works for me!

  • Thanks for this post, Elsie. I recognize some shocking similarities to myself in what you wrote about your personality tendencies, so this is helpful. I love to daydream about my future idealistically, but when my practical side kicks in, I can get really overwhelmed with the reality of all the “adult” things I am going to have to plan out! You laid this out in a really manageable and non-intimidating way, I’m definitely going to try it 🙂

  • I just can’t imagine how my life will look like in five years! haha I am a student right now and plan to graduate in a year, after that I’ll be looking for a job, maybe move to another city (or country?!). Maybe we’ll be married or even thinking about kids or not at all. I’m excited for the future but for now yearly goals are more suitable for me haha, but these tips also work for that 🙂

  • I’ve always wanted to write down a 5 year plan because having my goals on paper feels so much better than letting them swirl around unattached in my head. I’ve always been intimidated by planning so far out though because it just seems so daunting! You broke it down in a way that inspired me to just go for it anyway – the process you described took all the pressure off. Thank you so much for sharing this, Elsie!

  • 5 years is such a long time! When i look back over 5 years I would never have been able to plan what happened, life has been so crazy! But it’s so good to have goals in mind 🙂
    This is really good thanks!
    Debs @ https://tiger-mint.com

  • I hope it’s not too personal, if it is just ignore my question, but I’d like to know what your financial goals are (even not specific in numbers).

    For instance, I’m trying to set up a specific amount of money for having a child, but I’m still worried about retirement and wondering what a good starting point – or end result – would be sensible. I’m paying a mortgage for a tiny flat that I bought in a city in which I don’t live anymore and I’m wondering if it would make more sense to sell it or transform it into a Airbnb, so any insights on how a successful entrepreneur and mum like you selects and sets financial goals would be appreciated.

    Hope this is not too intrusive 🙂

  • I’m curious – do you do a five-year plan every five years, or do you revisit it and revise it every year?

  • I used to set goals all the time and have neglected this for a while.

    I think its time to get back on track. Thank you for the inspiration!

  • Thanks for sharing this Elsie <3

    I'm a perfectionist and I often have huge anxiety about the future

    I just wrote my 5 year plan, breaking it down into smaller goals, and suddenly the future doesn't seem so scary.

    In fact, I've made more progress towards my goals than I thought!

    Thanks for your continued inspiration

    Sincerely,

    Rebecca
    http://www.adventurebird.ca

  • I find it so much easier to be planful and goal-oriented at work. But then I get home, and all I wanna do is veg and go with the flow. I’m such a “driver” in my professional life, yet I feel like a passenger in my personal life. I like the idea of making a chart, and it fits perfect with the art bug I recently caught.

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