“I invest in things for the long term and have a long horizon and the flexibility.” – Jerry Yang
“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
I am interviewing for contract jobs at the moment and nearly every interviewer asks this question. I never know how to answer it because it seems so irrelevant. I have a long term plan but it doesn’t extend to five years.
Think about it – five years is a very long time. Where were you five years ago and how much has changed?
Five years ago I was still married and working in a secure full time job. I hadn’t even thought about starting a business and certainly not one teaching other people how to plan and schedule. I would have thought you were crazy if you told me.
Today I’m an entrepreneur and have big plans – a one year specific plan and a broader three year vision.
The world we live in changes too quickly to make a five year plan necessary. So I decided to work in 1-3 year increments. This way I can keep up with changes and revise as needed. Just because you have a plan doesn’t mean it can’t change and this is the key to successful long term planning.
Here is the process I use for designing a good long term plan.
Create or imagine your three year vision. The easiest way to do this is to pick a day three years in the future and write out who you are and what is happening on that particular day. Be as descriptive as possible. You want to be able to feel, smell, see and touch this vision.
If you close your eyes, you can imagine exactly what your surroundings look like and you can feel your emotions as you move through the day. If you do this, not only are you able to get clear on your vision but you also implant that feeling into your system and it aids you in your journey to get there.
Brainstorm everything you need to do to reach your three year vision. The key to brainstorming is to really brain dump. Write down everything that comes up and don’t eliminate anything as you are writing it down (no self editing) no matter how outrageous or far fetched it seems.
This may seem silly at first, but sometimes, you will find a unique approach or great idea by doing this. Just keep thinking up things you can do to achieve that three year vision. Do this until you can’t think of anything else and then take a break.
Review the brainstorm list and break the items into categories. As you look at the items you will see those which naturally fit together – these become your categories. Your categories will be driven by what is on the list and they may change over time.
My vision includes things happening in my business as well as moving to a different location and defining my volunteer work so my categories ended up being business, housing, and volunteer time. The categories are really there to help you organize the list and not be overwhelmed by what you have written down. It helps our brain to think about things in smaller packages.
Start the planning. In each category, review the items and determine what you want to get done this year. Transfer these items to another list or highlight them in some way so you know they go on the plan for the next year. The next step will put the items on a calendar. The rest of the items on your list will remain on the categorized list for later review. It’s a good idea to review the yearly plan and the categorized list at least every six months. You can account for changes to the plan or to your vision at that time and change what is on your plan. You might even delete or add new things.
Put it on the calendar. For most entrepreneurs, scheduling something out a year in advance goes against their very nature. This key step of putting things on the calendar is vitally important for many reasons. It keeps you focused on the bigger picture, it shows you where you are going and it reminds you of your larger vision as you move through the year.
To put these on your calendar, I suggest just a calendar with months on it, don’t get too granular at this stage. Take all of the tasks that you highlighted and place them in a month. You can do this on a wall calendar, on a white board with just squares for each month or in whatever way makes the most sense to you. I personally use a document with the months as columns in a table. The key here is to be able to see each month and understand if you have too many tasks in one month and not enough in another. You want to try to estimate what will be realistic in each month. (see my estimating post here) Move tasks around until you feel that everything on the calendar is doable.
Congratulations you have finished yearly planning.
The planning process doesn’t end there, you need to do more detailed planning in each month and then each week but I will cover that in next month’s post.
Until then, work on these tasks and see how much better you feel about what you have to do in the next year to reach your three year vision.
Let me know in the comments how you are doing on your plan, especially if you are getting stuck on something. And if you want some really personal guidance on how to do this planning, please schedule a free consultation with me. We can figure out the best way for you to do your planning.
Thanks so much for reading.