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How to create your five-year work plan

Have you had this question in an interview:  “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

A five-year plan is an outline of professional and/or personal goals you want to reach within the next five years. It usually includes broad goals relating to career, relationships, health, and finances that are broken down into action items and milestones.


  • Whether professional or personal, a five-year plan is like a reset for your life. Who doesn’t like a fresh start?
  • If you write down a detailed plan, it inspires and motivates you to jump into action.
  • This brings us to our next point: Clarity. Sometimes, a path seems scarier than it is because we don’t actually know what it looks like.
  • A five-year plan can serve as a reminder of what’s at stake – shaping our future.
  • The decisions we make today affect what our life will look like years from now. Having a visual reminder of this can keep you focused on your goals.


  • Firstly, ask the question “why.”

This is singlehandedly the most important step in creating a plan. Perhaps you want to walk the Camino de Santiago, become fit by walking every day, increase your determination or broaden your perspective – ask yourself why?

Now, we’ve taken something at surface level and brought it down to a personal, human level.

  • Secondly, choose your objective.

Start by saying:  “In five years, I want to be [fill in the blank].” This will help you figure out goals that you may not have vocalized before.

When creating a five-year plan, you want to review your life as a whole and decide what your objective will be. Some core pillars you should always consider:

  • Career
  • Health (physical and mental)
  • Finances
  • Relationships (with self and others)

Depending on your goals, you can also add categories for religious or spiritual development, recreation, and service.

Don’t forget bucket-list items – have you been wanting to learn a new language? Or perhaps you want to visit every country in the world. Bucket list items are perfect for five-year plans because you can spread them out over a long period of time and have fun tracking your progress.

  • Thirdly, start with the big ideas then narrow your focus.

When you’re first writing your five-year plan, start with an end goal for each year. From there, break it down by:

  • Process: What steps will you take to meet this end goal?
  • Benefit: How does this end goal bring you closer to your five-year plan?
  • Resources: Which resources will you need to achieve your goal?

This process will help you turn your broad ideas into clear action items that can be executed. Let’s say your five-year financial plan is to be debt-free. That’s the big idea but you need to dive deeper. How exactly will you achieve that? Your research will likely suggest setting a budget, paying off your most expensive loan first, consolidating your debts, and more.

Once you know the key action items, you can break them down by year.

  • Fourthly, do the S.M.A.R.T. test.

To give you the best chances of success, every goal should pass the SMART test. That means being:

  • SPECIFIC – The vaguer your goal, the harder it will be to reach.
  • MEASURABLE – You must be able to quantify your goals because otherwise, how will you know you’ve reached it? This doesn’t always mean assigning a figure to it, it can also be a feeling.
  • ACHIEVABLE – While it’s good to push yourself beyond your limits, your goal should be attainable and realistic based on where you stand currently.
  • RELEVANT – How does this goal fit within the bigger picture? Does it align with your personal values? What’s the impact on your life?
  • TIME-BOUND – It’s not enough to say it’s a five-year plan, you have to create a timeline and set milestones at specific points within your journey.

If you want to add more structure to your life and play a more active role in shaping your future, consider creating a five-year plan. While things may not pan out exactly as you’ve expected, you’ll be surprised at how close you’ll get to what you wished for.


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