how to write a life plan and achieve your goals

Quit making New Year’s resolutions; create a Life Plan

We all know New Year’s resolutions do not work. Simply, “no more cookies” will never stick for 365 days. Finally, a few years ago, I reorganized my resolutions. I don’t even call them “resolutions.” I call it my life plan, or my personal action plan.

If you’ve ever started or thought about starting a business, you may have written a business plan. A business plan keeps you focused and makes sure you see the big picture, so you will not overlook one element of your business because you’ve spent too much focus on the others. It includes things like income sources, expenditures, legal needs, marketing, personnel resources, and more. A well-drafted business plan covers everything. A well-drafted business plan also is something you will constantly revisit and sometimes revise as your business changes.

Similarly, a well-drafted life plan explores all avenues of your life: finance, health & fitness, leisure, personal relationships, etc., and leaves no stone unturned. It is also adaptable, changeable. Something you will probably want to revisit often or, at a minimum, annually.

Step One: Figure out your goals

Before you start drafting your categories, spend some time thinking about the goals you want to achieve. Start by listing three things you want to accomplish this year. If there are more than three, jot them all down. But write at least three.

Next, go ahead and think long-term: List three (or more) things you want to accomplish before a bigger deadline: i.e., in 5 or 10 years, before you retire, or even before you die. Things you may have relinquished to your “someday” list.

I know you have a “someday” list. Don’t we all? Do any of these sound familiar?

  • Someday I’ll visit the Colosseum in Rome
  • Someday I’ll learn to surf in Hawaii
  • Someday I’ll read Ulysses
  • Someday I’ll grow a vegetable garden
  • Someday I’ll write my memoirs

Tell me something: Have you ever actually achieved anything on your “Someday” list? Let me let you in on a little secret: “Someday” is an illusion. A phantom. A chimera. It does not exist. If you want to achieve that goal, you have to make it real.

Someday is an illusion. A phantom. A chimera. It does not exist.

— Cynthia Conlin

Therefore, to recap this first step, write down your goals. Start with:

  • Three (or more) things you want to accomplish this year
  • Three (or more) things you want to accomplish long-term.

Step Two: Determine the categories of your personal life plan

After you write your goals, you need to figure out what categories they belong in — and determine the categories of your life plan.

Core categories, or main subjects, are the segmented areas of your life that you can work on and improve. These are broad topics, which you will break down into smaller elements. But, for now, pick the major topics.

It’s essential to realize that, just like no two humans are the same, nor should two life plans. You cannot simply copy someone’s life plan. Yours will be customized and personal to you only. However, many people may share the same core categories.

Also, realize that these categories change. As I said before, your life plan is a work in progress! When I drafted my life plan on New Year’s weekend 2015, I created nine categories. The order is not important, but they were:

  • Business
  • Health & Fitness
  • Wealth & Finances
  • Home Life
  • Love
  • Social/Family
  • Leisure
  • Learning
  • Contribution – Giving

When I drafted my 2017 life plan, however, my topics differed:

  • Business Growth
  • Professional Growth
  • Health & Fitness
  • Wealth
  • Home Life
  • Personal Relationships
  • Leisure (Travel, Play, Adventure)
  • Intellectual & Artistic Growth
  • Community

Again, order is not important. Think of them more as pieces of a pie. Some I changed because I could consolidate them, as topics tend to overlap. For example, “love” and “social/family” became “personal relationships.” I also created a new, separate category for “professional growth.” I got rid of the “contribution/giving” category because it became subsumed under other categories, like personal relationships, and, a new category, “community.” In (or even before) 2018, my categories may change again.

The categories of your life plan are personal to you. You may not find my categories sufficient for your life. For instance, if you do not run a business, omit the “business growth” category.

Start determining your categories by writing down your big, umbrella goals as subcategories under the larger categories. For example, one of my goals is to write a book. I put that under “Professional Growth.” Below are a few of my categories with just a few of my own goals included in them. These include short-term and long-term goals. Again, these are big goals — umbrella goals.

  • Professional Growth
    • Write book
    • Continue to develop public speaking skills
  • Health & Fitness
    • Lose weight
    • Cure insomnia
  • Wealth
    • Save $1 million
    • Buy an office building

It’s hard to know what your categories are until you start drafting and writing your plan. If you have more than 10 categories, think about consolidating. If you have fewer than five, consider whether you omitted an aspect of your life or if you over-consolidated your categories.

Did you include too many goals in one category but none in another? Look for balance. What categories are missing goals? Maybe you omitted, for example, home life. If so, figure out what you can do this year to improve that aspect of your life. The answer is never “nothing” because there is always something we can do to improve each aspect of our life.

Step Three: Add the details.

Once you’ve listed your goals, it’s time to segment them into bite-size, achievable goals — so you can actually do them. I wrote about this subject separately in: how to achieve your goals. This step is essential because you will never achieve your goals if they are overbroad.

By the time you’re done, your life plan outline may be a few, or several, pages long. That’s OK. The more detail the better.

It will likely take more than a couple of days to draft your life plan. It will start with notes, just a list. But it will grow. Keep revisiting it. The format does not have to be anything special. So long as it is accessible. You may want to use the “notes” app on your phone or Google Docs. I myself prefer a Microsoft Word document on my computer, so I can move sections around, add and delete. Or you can write it down on pen and paper in a pretty notebook you can carry around with you. Whatever format you’re most familiar with, and whatever you are comfortable with.

Step Four: Focus on the Most Important Goals

Now it is time to determine which goals you should focus on first. It’s essential to realize that you can never do everything at once. It’s reasonable to focus on no more than three big goals at a time. So pick the three most important ones to get started on. As you segment your goals, you may find recurring themes and overlapping. If so, those are probably important ones that you should get to work on first.

Revisit & reevaluate every 3 months

Right now, while you’re in planning mode, block off future times on your calendar to evaluate your personal life plan. Consider blocking off time every three months. Then, when you’re busy and may have gotten off track, you can have a meeting with yourself to get you back on track, reassess, and refocus. During this evaluation time, go over your plan, check off the things you accomplished. Add or delete sections where necessary. Shift your focus if necessary. Determine: What are the 3 most important things I should focus on this quarter? Once you make a habit of your plan, it should be quick and easy, and, you won’t have to spend so much time drafting.

Good luck!

I hope that this blog helps you on creating your own life plan. I am interested if it did or if you have tips of your own you’d like to share. If so, please comment below. I look forward to reading your comments.