Whether you’re just starting out in your career, deep in the freelancing trenches or already at your media dream job, developing a 5-year plan is a bold, take-charge move. With a long-term goal in sight, and with actionable steps leading to that goal, you’re no longer simply floating by, you’re taking the reigns on your destiny. And that feels awesome.
Wondering where to start? Read on as we take a look at the 5-year plan, and how to really get it going.
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1. Determine Your Overall Goal
Think of your overall goal as a finish line, the desired outcome of your 5-year plan: Maybe you’re looking to transition into a new career, or maybe you want to turn your idea for a startup into a reality. Whatever the goal, be sure that it’s realistic and concrete, as more defined goals make it easier to develop actionable steps towards your desired outcome.
Let’s say your overall goal (what you plan to achieve with your 5-year plan) is:
To create a blog with a strong online following that generates enough steady income from ad revenue to support myself by first quarter 2021.
Wondering what you’ll need to do to hit that goal? See below for more on how to make the dream a reality.
2. Determine Your Actionable steps
Now that you have your overall goal laid out, it’s time to figure out the actionable steps you’ll need to take in order to reach that goal. What are actionable steps? Put simply, they’re steps that require you to physically do something in order to get closer to your goal.
To just state your 5-year plan and attempt to achieve it would be incredibly overwhelming. Rather, set small attainable goals that lead to your ultimate goal. Using our blogging 5-year plan as an example, let’s take a look a couple of the actionable steps that get us closer to our end:
Build a following of readers.
For this step, you can break down all the smaller steps that lead to this being accomplished. You might list these steps as learn how to build a blog following via online classes, study other successful bloggers, write at least 10 new articles every month.
Use digital marketing techniques to raise my visibility online.
Here, you might list take a class in digital marketing .
3. Break Out the Calendar
Here’s where things get real: Take your actionable steps and substeps and give them real dates.
Determine which steps need to happen in which order, then begin filling out the calendar. Start with yearly goals, move on to monthly goals, then add your daily or weekly goals.
A good idea when filling out your calendar is to ask yourself with each entry, “Is this step directly contributing towards my 5-year goal?” Asking this will help weed out what are actually side-projects and what are essential steps needed in reaching your goal.
Here’s how this might look with our blogging example:
End of week 1
Set my 5-year plan in motion!
Began researching top bloggers in my field
Completed 3 of 10 blog posts to roll out next month
End of month 1
Finished researching online classes and signed up for at least one
Began following the top bloggers in my niche field
Created 10 quality pieces to roll out for the next month
End of year 1
Completed content and marketing classes
Reached out to popular bloggers for advice
Created quality content for my audience (at least 10 pieces a month)
To make your steps even more specific, and yourself more accountable, productivity strategist Mike Vardy suggests renaming “appointments” on a calendar with “agreements” helps make them more difficult to break. “Rescheduling an appointment is something that can be done,” Vardy says, “but rescheduling an agreement seems more daunting and less viable.”
4. Add and Adjust Steps as Needed
As you continue towards you goal, it is very important to revise steps along the way. Maybe you, our hypothetical blogger, thought a content marketing class would help, when you realized a creative writing class would also be beneficial. Or maybe you learned that you also need to add video and a podcast to your site in order to gain more followers.
The main lesson here: Don’t be afraid to make changes to your steps, as long as they are changes that will more effectively lead you to your 5-year goal.
5. Stick to Your List by Becoming Your Goal
It may sound weird, but this change of mindset can help you achieve your goals. Behavioral psychologist James Clear says that our current behaviors are a reflection of our identity. To change your behaviours and actions, Clear says, you must “start believing new things about yourself.”
How to do this? Clear recommends developing a new identity and backing it up with small wins (which in this case are your actionable steps). Let’s check out our blogger example one final time:
A highly creative writer capable of pulling in large audiences from all walks of internet.
Prove It through Small Wins/Actionable Steps
Each month, get over 100 shares on at least 3 articles.
“You have to become the type of person you want to be,” Clear says, “And that starts with proving your new identity to yourself.” The more actionable steps you take towards your goal, the more you become your new identity.
Need that extra boost to jump-start your 5-year plan? Sign up for one of Mediabistro’s online courses such as Project Management Methodologies or Fundamentals of Digital Marketing. Developed and led by industry experts, these courses are designed to up your skills and get you closer to your goals.