How to Start a 5 Year Life Plan in 5 Steps

Coral Tolisano

What are you doing with your life? Too big? Ok, let’s take a step back. What are you doing with your day?

For some of us, getting a handle on who we are now, is easier when we first tackle the question of who we want to be next. The stress of planning for your future can be overwhelming, but if you’ve decided to really take control of your goals, then it’s time to understand the steps along the way to achieving them.

Whether you’re starting midstream or still streaming Netflix in your PJs all day, developing a life plan can be easy and super rewarding. Be honest with yourself and take the time to refresh and refine your passions. Start by sitting down for a nice open conversation with, You. Set aside a few minutes to ask yourself these questions, and be sure to write down your answers so you have them as a guide for later.

  1. What’s working in your life now? What makes you happy? Friends, new couch, finishing school… this can be anything that really adds to your life.
  2. What’s not working in your life now? What makes you stressed? Unrewarding job, trust issues with BF, bingeing Oreos… anything you see that’s draining your time and energy.
  3. What do you really value? In the world? In a career? In yourself? Maybe family, honesty, financial comfort, friendship… it can be a white picket fence and the PTA or 6 week vacations and a tight tummy, just try to get specific about qualities you want to see in yourself and in your life.
  4. What do you want to change? Job, boyfriend, apartment, gut?

Did you get some answers? Good job! If you’ve actually sat down and done this, re-read your answers and see if you can be even more clear or add in more areas of focus. Next, let’s get planning.


Step 1.  Go long – Planning for 5 years.

What would you like your life to look like in 5 years? Do you want a family? A new career? Where are you living? What’s the big goal? Degree, promotion, marriage? Start up company? Think big picture here. Now think about what steps you need to take to get there- taking exams, applying for grants, training, getting over that horrible ex? These are the only slightly less daunting flights you’ll have to climb along the way. Pencil them in, get clear and outline possible hurdles and actions as best as you can, while remaining both real and optimistic.

Step 2. Time flies – Planning for 1 year.

Ok, now we’re looking a little closer at those pieces that can lead to the big shifts. Think about where you are now and where you think you can actually get to in the next 12 months. Are there application deadlines coming up? Write them down. Are there classes or commitments that you’ve been putting off, like finding a new apartment or jump starting a fitness plan? These are the kind of mid-sized chunks you should be considering, things that might take a few months to fully master, but can be started right away.

Step 3. The day after tomorrow – Your 1 month goals.

This plan should still be a little broad but way more approachable than the 1 and 5 year plans. Try here to pinpoint specific accomplishments that you can tackle in 4 weeks. Things like: Look up prices and compare options on X. Look up 5 new jobs, lose 2 lbs, go 4 days without smoking , call doctor to get that weird bump looked at.

These don’t have to be massive undertakings, but they should be relevant to the bigger picture and process. This list should include a few easier tasks that you can complete for a pick me up as well as harder ones that you can amp up towards. Having a range of difficulty and time restraints helps you to feel accomplished while still challenging yourself.

Step 4. The here and now – Your 1 week goals.

Hopefully by this point in your planning, you can see that the smaller bites are helping you to eat bigger pieces of the pie over time. This one week plan is about the baby steps you need to take to achieve your monthly plan, and about motivating yourself to stay focused and to feel in control. Buying groceries, doing laundry and organizing your desk really are part of the road to health and happiness, so these can be on your list as well.

Set a few new tasks for yourself alongside the chores you already need to get done, as this will help them seem more manageable. You might want to write this list out in a journal, or on sticky notes, so you can see it every day and cross off tasks as you go. You might want to set an alarm to sit down and review your list at the end of the week to add additional accountability. Try to be aware of what you’re putting off and why and then let this motivate you to plan bigger and better for the following week.

Step 5. Wash, rinse, repeat.

At the end of every week, I encourage you to check back in with yourself and reevaluate the small stuff. Then on a monthly cycle, look at where you can think a little bigger. Do you need to adjust your plans? Your desires? Are you still on track? It’s ok to change directions and to have ups and downs. Try to let your plans evolve to accommodate new information while still remaining focused.

Remember, the more data you input, the more accurate your plan can be. Monitoring your spending habits, your health risks and your feeling of satisfaction can add more information to help you complete these exercises.

I encourage you to pin, post and print information and motivational tips along the way. This is about helping yourself to be the best you. Stick with it, because who better to understand your needs than the person directly involved.


Written by Coral Tolisano

Coral TolisanoHaving experienced fertility complications in her own family, Coral is now focused on helping young women stay healthy and better plan their reproductive options. Raised in New Mexico, Coral currently works as a writer in New York City, where she continues to investigate the role of science and nature in our everyday lives.

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