Out with the old, in with the new: Create a five-year sketch

In December and January, The Simple Dollar is posting a daily series focusing on specific activities you can do right now to set the stage for a great 2011. Out with the old, in with the new.

Illustration / Chris Ware / Newscom / File
It can be hard enough to schedule a play date, so it may feel daunting to plan for the long-term. It's a worthwhile activity, though: Where do you see your life in five years? Better, what do you WANT your life to be in five years?

2. Create a five year sketch.

What, exactly, is a five year sketch? It simply means a detailed picture of what you would like your life to be like in five years. It can be literally drawn. It can be written in paragraphs, or as a list. It can be a collage. It just needs to be some sort of physical representation of what exactly you want your life to look like five years down the road.

December, The Simple Dollar is posting a daily series focusing on specific activities you can do right now to set the stage for a great 2011. Out with the old, in with the new.

Here are some elements to think about when making this sketch:
What will your job be like?
What will your family be like?
What will your physical appearance be like?
What will your home be like?
What will a typical day be like?
What will you be looking forward to?
What will your social circle look like?

I encourage you to try to write down at least ten traits for each of these questions that describe the way you’d like your life to be in five years.

Realistic or not? Don’t paint a picture of a future that’s completely unattainable. Instead, seek out a life that is somewhat better in the areas that matter to you. If you’re happy with your current physical shape, maintain it. If you’d like improvement, improve it a little, but don’t go from being highly out of shape to being a supermodel or else you’re just sketching something that you’ll never be able to obtain.

The sketch should depict an improvement in your life that you’re happy with, whatever that may be.

See, in the end, this sketch is the accumulation of the projects and goals for the next five years that you hold most dear to you. It sets a clear picture of what your life will be like if you achieve some things between now and then.

Don’t create this sketch all at once. My suggestion is to create a new document in Google Docs, paste in the questions above, and then just throw down some thoughts under each one. Save the document, then return to it every few days for a week or two. Let the ideas grow in your mind, then revise what you’ve already written down.

You’ll know when you’re finished. When you look at your sketch of your future life, it’ll ring true. You’ll feel that it’s a life that you deeply want in every way.

The next step is the empowering part: start pulling goals and projects out of that sketch. Make a list of them. What exactly do you need to do to make this happen? What can you accomplish in the next year to move you towards this picture?

From those one year goals, you can make a list of actions that you can do today. For each of those things you can accomplish this year, what can you do today to get it started?

I find this process incredibly empowering. It ties the big picture of my life down to the specific actions of today, making them feel much more worthwhile. If I know that this mundane thing I’m doing today directly connects to some bigger thing in my life, it gives that mundane thing much more life.

Return to this material regularly. As mentioned above, I keep mine online at Google Docs so I can easily check it from any web browser without really having to worry about where I’m at when I’m thinking about this. I’ve reviewed such things in the car, at my parents’ home, and so on.

Returning to this material is key because it makes you think about and reflect upon the goals you’ve set and look for new ways to move forward with them.

It’s all incredibly empowering. I strongly encourage you to give it a shot.

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