Well, Do you?
I wouldn’t say I was odd, but I do like a certain amount of order in my life, I’m totally happy with having no idea what’s happening in the short term which is why I manage my time using my Franklin Covey to manage my time in conjunction to other elements, but I have always got a long term plan for myself. Why? well I want to know where I’m going to be in a few years, I want to get everything I want and the only way of doing that sort of thing is with a plan.
I think it is important for people to have a rough plan of what they want to do and where they want to be, it helps focus your mind somewhat and helps take the personal element out of leaving a job as it never becomes you leaving because you dislike it, it’s more that it doesn’t fit with your long term goals.
Set a target
Okay, so simple starting point, pick an age, pick a job title, pick a life style, pick the sort of person you want to be, with the house you want and all that fluffy surrounding stuff. It is more or less the same process marketing folk use to work out the target audience or demographic, accept in this case it is all about you not other people.
As with any good plan, it starts with a goal, an objective; the sort of person you want to be, with the house you want and the car you want etc etc. This is not enough though and you have to add some element of realism to what you want to do, I am not saying that you can not go from being a butcher to being brain surgeon, but there is training in any element of those tasks which you need to account for which affects your time line so being the world’s best butcher is going to take more than 5 minuets with a knife in the kitchen.
At this point you can now start working backwards from your goal, I’d suggest that your objectives are set 10 years apart at this point and as you get closer to where ou are the time should decrease, There’s good reasons for this; mainly not being able to predict the future.
So if you want to be CEO of a Small-ish company by the time you’re 50 What do you need to have done / be doing by the time you are 40 ? I’d imagine being in a senior management position in a number of large / small companies with a variety of roles. Which probably means by 30 you need to be in a management position of some sort taking responsibility, But you need to get to the senior role in multiple companies by 40!? don’t worry about it, it is a long way away. By the time of getting to here 30 isn’t 2 far away, so we reduce the time frame down to 2 year chunks.
If you need to be a manager by 30 then you need to do X Y and Z by 28, and you need to be demonstrating certain skills and personality traits, acting in a certain ay etc etc
I would say in the short term view you need to set some decent objectives so you know what “there” looks like, but more importantly you can bear in mind what you need to do now to help you get to “there” but also what you need to start doing now to get to your target 10+ years away.
For myself I’m quite interested in business, psychology, planning and project stuff, one of the reasons I’m into a lot of that stuff is it helps me out on my long term goals, I don’t need most of that stuff now, but it doesn’t hurt to be ahead of the curve.
If you were expecting something more complicated then you were lucky, it really is as simple as making sure you know what you want, write it down, work out high level milestones and just work backwards in more and more detail until you end up with a credible plan.
When you get to a milestone it is important that you are objective in assessing it, did you meet your targets? Did it matter? Did you get most of the way there? Does it matter?
Things move on so even the objectives you set 2 years ago are relatively pointless in some cases, so be objective and don’t be afraid about moving on to “new opportunities” if it helps you achieve your goals and don’t be afraid of missing them either, if you are happy where you are and it doesn’t affect the overal plan stay a while longer.
It’s probably also worth mentioning your short term goals with those that are in a position to help you out, if you don’t make it clear to them what you want to do they can not help you out. Be aware though that some managers will just tell you what you need to hear to keep you around, so be objective, bring it up, give them gentle reminders on any actions every now and then, 3 months later if nothing has changed bring it up again and re-stress the point, 6 months in give up, hand your notice in and move on.