It’s nearly New Years again, which means it’s time to talk about my favorite thing: goal setting.
As I mentioned last year, I keep a life list of all the goals and experiences I want to accomplish. My life list helps me figure out my direction and intention: it reminds me of all the fun and exciting things that I want to do. But it doesn’t actually show me how to do them. I remember that I felt lost when I wrote up the first version of my life list. I was staring at this list of things that excited me, but I had no idea how to actually complete them. I felt like I could never get everything done that I wanted.
My grandmother teased me about it. She told me I should never plan more than three years in advance, because you can never know what’s going to happen. This sounds like sage advice, but she said it while holding back laughter.
Jest or not, it made some sense, and it meant my lists would be short enough to be achievable. So from that one silly prompt, I developed my first three year plan. It worked out surprisingly well.
So now I use my three year plan in conjunction with my life list. It’s become a practical way to approach and accomplish my lofty goals. If you want to try making one for yourself, I’ve included my steps below.
Making a Three Year Plan
First I go through my life list, and write down the headers for each section. If you don’t use a life list, just list the important areas of your life. For me, these are Love and Relationships, Modeling, Writing, Music, Travel, and Other/Adventures.
Then for each section, I make three types of bullet points: as is, intentional, and perfect. As an example, here’s a section from my current list is below.
As Is: Finish a novel
As Is: Maintain an established blog
Intentional: Have 2-3 novels finished
Intentional: See my first novel published
Intentional: Publish a short story (and write up to 50)
Perfect: See my blog’s popularity grow dramatically
Perfect: Become a well-known author, or win a respectable award
As is bullet points are what I expect to happen if things continue as they are. They’re the guaranteed outcome if I keep doing maintenance levels of work for the next three years.
Intentional bullet points are my expected results if I put in extra hard work—effort above and beyond “as is.” Intentional outcomes tell me where it will be useful to really focus my attention over the next few years, and where “as is” may be good enough. Knowing that helps me manage my time and energy, and has allowed me to accomplish my goals more than anything else.
Perfect bullet points are just like how they sound: I not only put in the hard work, but I got lucky as well. Everything goes flawlessly, even things outside of my control. It may seem foolish to include things beyond my control on a three year plan, but I think it’s actually helpful. Perfect outcomes tell me what irons I have in the fire that could pay off. After all, you can’t win an award for a book you don’t write. Nor can a nonexistent blog become popular.
These three delineations helped me start my modeling career when I had no idea what to do. Six years ago, my modeling section looked like this:
As Is: Have a port of 100+ high quality art nude images
Intentional: Travel to a different state as a freelance model
Intentional: Have my own website and blog
Perfect: Be published in a book or a magazine, or featured in a gallery
Perfect: Make a living as a model
Some of these goals took more than three years (namely, the blog). Others I was able to achieve relatively swiftly (I was in a gallery much earlier than I ever thought possible). But I eventually did manage to achieve all of my original modeling goals. Seeing all of those “intentional” goals showed me where I could put my effort to get the most back, and that if I continued “as is,” I would never make it to where I wanted to be if life was perfect.
I update my plan every time I edit my life list, and write a new one every three years. Three years seems to be the perfect amount of time between new plans: I constantly think I can do more in a year than is ever humanly possible. Three years gives me enough time to actually get something done.
I’m hoping my new three year plan will carry me through 2016, 2017, and 2018. I know life won’t be perfect—or even match my “perfect” bullet points. But I know that planning it out will help make it even better.