Strategies to Plan Your Life
Learn how to create a roadmap to get to your desired life destination.
Remember when we were younger and people used to ask us what we wanted to be when we grew up? It may seem silly to ask an eight-year-old what they hope to do with their life. But maybe this small talk was also a way to get us to think about what we wanted from life. And most of us answered this question with confidence, revealing our hopes and dreams. However, as we grew older and learned how to manage the curveballs life threw at us, we might have lost sight of what we once hoped to become and achieve. So take a moment now and ask yourself what you want to be. It doesn’t have to be what you hope to achieve five or ten years from now—what is something you want to do next week? Next month? Next year?
Planning out your life doesn’t mean having every minute of every day mapped out. Instead, life planning is a process of creating a generalized guide of what your purpose(s) in life is, what you hope to accomplish during your lifetime, and how you aim to work toward those goals (Smith, 1999). Life plans often include an estimated timeline of when you hope your goals come to fruition and also take bumps on the road into account. Ultimately, life is full of surprises, and we cannot possibly predict unforeseen events. As such, life plans are often works-in-progress, should be amended as life goes on, and preferably, are flexible rather than rigid blueprints.
Why Might You Want A Life Plan
Even if you are someone who enjoys going with the flow and taking life one step at a time, you may still find the following information useful, or at least insightful. Let’s take a look at why life planning can be beneficial for you (Miller & Frisch, 2009).
Life planning keeps your priorities in check. As humans, we have several life aspects to think about—families, friends, jobs, health, finances, and hobbies. And yet, there are only 24 hours in a day to complete what seems like a never-ending to-do list. Creating a general life plan can allow you to list your priorities and rank which ones are most important. Of course, as life goes on, priorities often change. Having a flexible and amendable life plan lets us revisit our priorities and focus on those requiring the majority of our attention.
Life planning outlines your dreams and goals. Life plans allow us to put our dreams and goals on paper rather than just in our heads. When we see our dreams and goals listed in a life plan, they can serve as important reminders of our purpose and why we do the work we do. This may also enable us to make decisions that are in tune with our dreams.
Life planning serves as motivation. Motivation ebbs and flows. Some days we wake up and feel determined to accomplish a week’s worth of tasks in one afternoon. Other days, we may procrastinate for hours to complete a chore that would take fifteen minutes to complete. Life plans can help motivate us on the days we lack the inspiration to chase our dreams and create a life that we love for ourselves.
Strategies to Create a Life Plan
Do you feel like making a life plan would be useful for you? Try walking through some of these steps to create a life plan, or at least start thinking about making one.
Whether you write your answers down or ponder these questions in your head, take some time to reflect on your life. Here are some questions to consider:
Where do you come from?
Where are you now?
Where do you hope to be in the future?
Which aspects of your life are you satisfied with (e.g., family, social relationships, career, finances, recreation, health, etc.)?
In which aspects of your life would you like to see improvement?
What are your priorities right now? How do you see them changing in the future?
2. Assess Your Life Satisfaction
I am going to provide you with a list of categories in your life. You may find it beneficial to rate your satisfaction with these categories on a scale of 1-10. This activity may help you figure out what works well and what needs to be improved in your life. This is not an exhaustive list and I invite you to incorporate any life categories that are relevant to you as you complete this activity.
Social Relationships (e.g., friends, community members, neighbors, etc.)
Love and Romance
Nutrition and Fitness
Personal Growth and Learning
Recreation and Fun
Community Involvement and/or Civic Engagement
Religion and/or Spirituality
Once you finish rating, think about whether you can create a ranked list of which categories are top priorities and which can be momentarily left on the back burner.
3. Create Goals
Maybe you looked at this list and realized you hadn’t visited your parents in a while, didn’t take a vacation last year, or missed participating in a hobby that you loved. Once you have made a list of your top priorities, you may find it helpful to create some goals that can help you increase your satisfaction with these different life aspects.
Miller, C. A., & Frisch, M. B. (2009). Creating your best life: The ultimate life list guide. Sterling Publishing Company, Inc.
Smith, J. (1999). Life planning. Action & self development: Theory and research through the life span, 223-255.