Last week Reece and I sat down over the kitchen table to work out our five year plan.
Anyone who has had anything to do with me in the past few years would know there are two things I love this life: Reece & a good list. When it came time to combine the two, I thought all my Christmases had come at once!
It turns out reconciling the aspirations and realities of two very ambitious people who are about to start a new life together is a little more complicated than the weekly grocery or daily to do list.
Both Reece & I are in the early stages of a new career. As it stands, we both have extremely demanding study loads and adequate but unpredictable streams of income & employment that suit our academic priorities. We're both very dedicated to our respective career paths but neither of us are too crash hot on putting off big family & lifestyle milestones for too long, either.
It became apparent early on in the process that we'd be drifting towards personal, professional and financial disappointment if we didn't figure out how we we're going to make it all work.
We looked at everything from the stability of the housing market, to the availability of child care. Whilst it sounds like it may have been the antithesis to romance, for this type A, it was anything but. After several hours we landed on the 5 year plan that we think will best keep us both happy, satisfied and connected.
I'll spare you the gory details of our planned trajectory, but it would suffice to say that knowing what is within reach for us as a couple over the next 5 years has given us both renewed focus and has only served to add to the sheer excitement we already felt about being together for the long haul.
I can see how sitting down and planning any aspect of your future in that much detail could be overwhelming for a lot of people, so I've included my top 5 tips for crafting your own 5 year plan.
1. Decide on the Non-negotiables
It can help to think of this step as defining your goals. It is 2016. What do you want to have achieved by 2020? Perhaps you'd like to have won at least one national title, or maybe you want your current job to be a distant memory and see yourself working as a freelancer.
These non-negotiable goals are the things that you can't see yourself giving up or passing over and will shape your course of action over the next few years. As with all goals, be sure to keep them realistic! .
2. Make Several Versions
We put together 4 different versions of our plan. Each one had a different course of action, or various combinations thereof. It is important to keep an open mind and consider every possible avenue that may be available to you, even if it isn't automatically your most preferred course.
If nothing else, laying out a trajectory on paper can help you realise what you really want. I can tell you that two of our plans went straight to the shredder, but it was good to be able to look at them and say with 100% certainty "No. That isn't what we want".
Keeping one of your less preferred plans on hand can also give you something to refer back to, should life throw you a sneaky curve ball and you find your preferred plan just isn't going to work anymore.
This is particularly pertinent if you're forward planning with someone else, but is also relevant if you're working on your own. Again, it comes down to keeping an open mind.
It is possible to achieve a lot in 5 years, but its not possible to achieve everything. Keep in mind that in the course of a life, 5 years is not long at all. Are you jamming things into your 5 year plan that would be more comfortable in a 10 year plan? Part of the experience of forward planning is letting go of unrealistic expectations in favour of less ideal but more realistic ones.
We both found that our most work-able 5 year plan took us towards our goals in a roundabout backwards kind of way, but keeping those non-negotiables in mind we settled on it anyway; because despite not being what we had in our minds eyes, they got us there.
4. Check in Every Year
Be sure to write down your 5 year plan on paper, and stash it in the same place you keep your passport/birth certificate. Bring it out at least once a year to make sure its still relevant and in line with what you really want. Be sure not to change it on a whim (a new 5 year plan every year never helped anyone), if all is still on course, reviewing can merely be an opportunity to re-focus on the bigger picture.
5. Be Flexible
I will sing the praises of pre-planning any element of your life until the cows come home, but the fact is, sometimes shit happens. Things like mortality, illness and loss catch us off guard and suddenly everything changes, and I fully acknowledge that you cant plan for those things, None of us have the magical crystal ball that can predict what will happen in the future, but we shouldn't let that stop us from preparing for it anyway, just in case it is smooth sailing!