In this post, you’ll learn what you need to do to create a solid life plan and reach your biggest goals.
I want to show you that you can live a life you love; a life you’re excited about.
They say we need to focus on systems instead of goals: systems help you work towards whatever you want to achieve, while goals might sound static and abstract to some.
In my opinion, you need both.
Systems are crucial to doing what you need to do daily to make your goals a reality.
But… what are systems without goals?
The trick with setting goals is setting realistic goals that you care about.
In this article, I’ll show you how to set both goals and a unique system to reach them.
This exact same system is what allows me to work as a freelancer, work out, study online, cook my healthy meals, read around two books a month, run a business, and sleep 7-8 hours a day.
And, what’s most important, it helps me work towards my greatest goals and dream life every single day.
What Is Life Planning
A life plan is an outline of your goals and the necessary steps you need to take to get there.
It serves as a roadmap that’ll help you navigate through life while keeping your biggest dreams in mind.
The reason why planning your life is important is that it helps you think strategically, use your resources effectively and prioritize the right things.
Creating a comprehensive life plan can be overwhelming if you haven’t done it before but trust me: it’s well worth it.
And the best thing is, you don’t have to wait for a week or a month to start seeing progress.
If you put this life plan together, you’ll start feeling great about yourself immediately.
You’ll feel refreshed, motivated, and in tune with your deepest self.
This is a very personal process that, as I said before, works for me because I’ve mixed several life organization methods and put them together to fit my exact lifestyle and preferences.
If you feel disorganized all the time and don’t have a system of your own yet, then this is a great one to try and see if you like it or not.
You can adapt it and make it work for you.
This system will help you set and organize:
- big dreams
- bucket lists
- 3-year vision
- yearly vision
- yearly goals
- monthly goals
- weekly goals
- daily goals
- things that inspire you
- books you want to read and books you’ve read
This system consists of three (+ an optional one) excellent tools that work great on their own, but life gets magical when you put them together.
- Trello or Notion: a fantastic tool that lets you organize projects easily using boards, lists, labels, and many other features.
- Google Spreadsheets: this is what I use to create my simple habit tracker. I this post, you’ll find a free template and instructions on how to use it.
- A notebook: practical to set weekly and daily goals as well as checklists for the day.
- (Optional) An app to manage your to-do lists: If you prefer to go digital all the time, you can replace the notebook with an app. The one I like the most is Todoist, but there are many options, like Wunderlist and Google Tasks.
The Step-By-Step Guide to Plan Your Life
1. Evaluate where you are now
You can’t plan your life if you don’t really know where you’re standing in life right now.
And there’s no better way to assess your current life than by performing a simple but powerful life audit.
A life audit is a process that allows you to look at your life from several perspectives.
Basically, you organize your life into different areas and then ask yourself what you want to achieve or improve in those areas.
It’s great to break everything into small pieces because it makes it easier for you to know what you want to improve, what’s important to you, and what you’re doing right.
Once you’ve finished your life audit, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what you like and what you don’t like about your life.
Look at that with honesty and ask yourself what you want to change.
Picture yourself living that dream life and then compare it to your current life:
- Is it a lot different than it is now?
- What’s the main difference between your current you and your future you?
These questions will help you set a solid starting point for your new life organization system.
If you get stuck here, spend some time knowing yourself better.
2. Start with the end in mind
Let your wild imagination run free and ask yourself what your dream life looks like.
Don’t be afraid to dream big. Ask yourself questions like:
- Do I want to live in another city?
- Would I like to change careers?
- Do I see myself starting a family?
Another great way to do this exercise is by picturing your perfect day from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed.
For this exercise, it’s key to picture even the smallest details.
- What do you do first thing in the morning?
- What does your home look like?
- What do you have for breakfast?
- Who do you live with?
- What smells can you perceive?
- What do you wear?
- What do you do for a living?
Go deep into these and more questions, and write everything down.
Pay attention to what you feel when you picture yourself living that dream life.
Then, take notes of all the possible scenarios that come to mind when you think about your future and how they make you feel.
This is a great life planning exercise that’ll help you clarify your vision.
3. Use Trello or Notion to plan your life
Notion is a fantastic tool for organizing projects visually, but you can also use Trello, which is what I used a couple of years ago to create my first life plan.
For this exercise, you’ll need to open a free Notion account if you don’t have one yet.
a) Create your dream life board
Create a board called life or dream life.
This is the board you’ll use to organize your goals so you can plan your life accordingly.
It’s the one that’ll keep you inspired to take action every single day. It’s a pretty big deal.
Your board should look more or less like this:
b) Create your dream life list
Now create a list called my vision.
This is the list you’re going to use to describe your dream life; the one you wrote about on your life audit and the one you dream about all day long.
Create a different card for every dream or vision.
Important things to keep in mind:
- Write everything in the present tense (Write “I own a house” instead of “I’ll own a house”)
- Be mindful of the line between dreaming big and being realistic. Dream big, but stay realistic.
Read all the cards on this list every single day.
c) Create your 3-year (or 5-year) life plan
A lot of people get overwhelmed when asked how they see themselves in 3 or 5 years.
And I understand why.
We can’t predict the future.
However, just like you did in one of the previous steps when you thought about your dream life, you can now use that same imagination to picture yourself in 3 or 5 years.
Just try this exercise for 5 minutes to see where your imagination takes you.
For this one, it’s not necessary to be super detailed.
Just think about one or two areas of your life you want to improve and start from there.
And, if you still have a hard time figuring out what you want to be doing by then, don’t worry.
We’ve all been there. Take your time.
A great way to make this step easier is by journaling about your perfect, ideal day.
Go to Notion or Trello, create a list called my life in 3-5 years, and write 3-4 paragraphs describing your dream life in 3 or 5 years.
Remember to use the present tense (“I work as/in…”) instead of the future tense (“In 5 years, I’ll be working as/in…”).
d) Create your biggest dreams list and bucket list
Create a list called my biggest dreams and bucket list, and let your imagination run free.
Don’t be afraid to dream big, and don’t worry if you’re a little embarrassed to admit what your big dreams are, remember nobody else but you have to check this list.
e) Create a new board and list called my year
This will be our second and last board for this life planning exercise.
I prefer to create a different one so I don’t end up with many lists on a single board.
Now, looking at your life audit and your dream life list, ask yourself these questions:
- How do I see myself by the end of THIS year?
- What do I have to accomplish by the end of THIS year to reach my 3-5 years plan?
I know doing this might be hard. But don’t give up.
Engage with yourself and this exercise, and really go deep on your goals and wishes.
Use your imagination, and if that’s not enough, just look at what people you admire did to get where they are now.
Make a new list on this new board and create cards that describe that vision in detail.
You’ll end up adding cards that resemble the ones under my vision (on the first board) but are like the child version of those.
This means this year’s goals are your big goals, only a little smaller because they’re smaller actions and milestones that’ll take you where you want to be in 3 to 5 years.
f) Split your life into categories and create Title Cards
To make this List of goals even more organized, we’re going to set different categories.
Create a card for every single area of your life you want to work on, like:
- mental health
The life audit exercise you did earlier should give you a good idea of the areas of your life you want to improve.
Since these cards are going to serve as titles, let’s call them “Title Cards.” I place mine with no particular order in mind, but you can set priorities here and place the most important to you first.
Besides the Title Cards for categories, we’re going to create one more called COMPLETED.
After you’ve done that, take every card you created earlier for every goal you have for the year and drag it to place it below the corresponding title.
As time goes by and you get tasks done, you’ll move the corresponding cards to place them under COMPLETED.
i) Use the checklist feature to organize smaller tasks
After you’ve filled every area, let’s use the checklist feature of the cards to organize the steps we need to follow to achieve that goal in particular.
Let’s say we want to plan a wedding.
To complete this step:
- Click on one card. A pop-up should appear.
- Click on Checklist (the third option on the ADD TO CARD list, located on the top right of the pop-up)
- Title it “Steps”
- Add items on the checklist
What I love the most about the Checklist feature on Trello is that it has a progress bar to see how far you’ve come and that you can drag individual items and place them wherever you prefer.
Remember, there’s no need to place these steps in their logical order.
Just transfer what you wrote earlier into this checklist, and if more ideas pop into your head, then write those too.
You’ll end up with something like this:
Use your best judgment here to arrange the steps, and don’t forget this isn’t set in stone.
You can always go back and add new steps, discard steps or rearrange them.
g) Create a list for the current month for monthly goals
With this list, you’ll do exactly what you did earlier with your yearly goals, but you’ll set monthly goals this time.
Create a new list and set the current month as the name of that one.
Go to the previous list, the yearly one, click on every title cards (including COMPLETED) little pencil that appears on the bottom right, then Copy and then send a copy to the monthly card you just created.
Do it with every title card:
Now, take a look at the checklists you created for every major task in the previous step and ponder:
- what can I take care of right now?
- What needs to be postponed for later?
- Is there any step I have no idea how to complete? (For those, you’ll have to do some research. Set “research” as an additional step.)
Then ask yourself:
- What can I handle this month?
- What needs to be done this month?
- Which tasks are necessary but not urgent?
Create a different card for every sub-task, and again, place each of them below the corresponding Title Card.
Find your balance. Please, be realistic. And also, please, push yourself.
It’s great to live life without stress, but sometimes you’ll need to handle a bunch of things at once.
Don’t be scared to aim high, but also don’t try to achieve the impossible.
Setting too many tasks for a single month will leave you frustrated and overwhelmed.
You’ll end up with something like this:
This step completes this part of the tutorial.
So far, you’ve:
- described your dream life,
- analyzed what you need to do to make that dream life come true,
- broken your life down into categories,
- set goals for the year,
- organized the steps you need to take to reach those goals,
- and set monthly goals.
Plus, you’re now familiar with Trello’s basic features.
5. Plan your weeks
This type of planning (if not all) is better when it’s done from macro to micro:
You started thinking about your life as a whole, then about a 5-year plan, the current year, and the current month after that.
Following this logical order, now you have to plan your weeks and, of course, your days.
This is where you get to use the notebook (or the app!) I mentioned above.
If you prefer to go digital on this one as well, that’s great.
However, writing by hand works wonders for many people because it helps take in all the information, so you don’t forget what you need to do.
This means you’ll end up internalizing your to-do’s better.
If you’re not sure which method you prefer, I highly recommend you start with the one I’m about to explain.
If you find out you prefer to have everything on your phone, then switch to an app.
This is how I plan my weeks at the beginning of each month:
- Take your notebook, pick a blank page, and write WEEK #X (instead of X, write which week of the month you’re in: the first, second, third, etc.)
- Have a look at your monthly cards on Trello. Of all those monthly tasks: Which one can you tackle first? Which are urgent?
- With that in mind, organize the tasks you’re doing on WEEK 1 and write them as a list under the title of that page in your notebook.
Then, set your weekly spread in your notebook. This is a simple weekly spread that does the work perfectly fine:
If you want to find more ideas for your weekly spread, simply look for “easy weekly spread ideas bullet journal” on Pinterest.
Look at that weekly List and schedule the subtasks for the week.
I like to set my whole month at once.
I just leave weeks #2, #3, #4 (and sometimes #5) blank and then fill them as the month goes on.
You can do so if you prefer, or you can set weekly planning sessions every Sunday.
6. Plan your days
For the smaller planning sessions of them all, this is what you need to do:
- Look at your weekly goals: Which ones can you take care of today or tomorrow? Schedule them.
- Reflect on what you got done and what you didn’t and
- Mark tasks as completed or reschedule accordingly.
You can do these planning sessions in the evening, right before bed, or as part of your morning routine.
Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages, but the most important thing is that you do your planning.
Take a look at your Trello, at your cards, read your dream life vision, revise your weekly goals.
And always keep in mind that only you can take action when it comes to your life.
7. Do monthly planning sessions
Something I love to do and find vital to my sanity is to sit 1-2 hours on the last Sunday of every month to reflect on everything I got done and everything I have left to do.
Usually, I do a small journaling session of about 10 minutes to write about how this month was for me.
This helps me set new steps to reach my goals, discard tasks or plans that aren’t working, etc.
I like to set “themes” for the month.
For example, if I know I need to learn more about growing my traffic, and I realize there is A LOT to learn in that area, then I set that goal as the primary goal for the month that’s about to start.
To do this, just schedule 2-3 hours of your time during the last weekend of the month to plan your next steps.
During this monthly planning session:
- Take a deep look at your Trello and analyze what you did right this past month, what you could have done better, what you have/want to do next, what needs to get taken care of right now
- Create a new List on your “This is my year” board for the upcoming month
- Copy Title Cards and paste them to the new List
- Create new Title Cards if necessary
- Look at your subtasks on the yearly goals and analyze which ones you’re going to tackle next
- Create cards for the monthly tasks and place them under their corresponding category
- Read your dream life vision on Trello for the umpteenth time
- Set up your weeks lists and your weekly spread on your notebook
- Plan your next moves
- Feel inspired to take action
8. Set the right habits
I know you probably think you’ll never be able to follow up on this, so I’m going to share the secret tool and mind trick I use to get everything done, no matter how lazy I feel on a given day: habits.
Habits are micro-actions that you perform daily without giving it much thought, like brushing your teeth or taking daily showers. For better or worse, they can change your life.
Once you’ve learned the basics of habits and how powerful they are, I’m sure you’ll want to make them part of your life.
And there’s no better way to do so than by using habit trackers.
Habit trackers are a record of your habits.
Some people come up with very complicated and intricate designs for their habit trackers, but basically, they look like this:
I used to roll my eyes whenever I saw one of those pretty Bullet Journal spreads showing people’s elaborate habit trackers.
Honestly, I thought you had to be pretty bored to keep a habit tracker. Why would someone do that? Boy, was I wrong.
Habit trackers are great for getting into new habits. If you work out every day, for example, you don’t need any help with that.
However, if you just paid for a gym membership and are having a tough time waking up every morning to go, then a habit tracker may be the perfect tool for you to track your progress.
Once you go 3 or 4 times in a row, you’ll start feeling more and more confident.
According to James Clear:
Habit tracking is powerful for three reasons.
- It creates a visual cue that can remind you to act.
- It is motivating to see the progress you are making. You don’t want to break your streak.
- It feels satisfying to record your success at the moment..
I designed this habit tracker, and you can grab it for free 🙂
I recommend you try it. It’s pretty simple to use.
Here’s how it works:
Every single system to get organized relies on habits.
Now, take a closer look at your plans, goals, tasks, and subtasks.
Remember I just told you they depend on you being consistent? Well, that’s where habits come into play.
We’re going to be very clear about the habits we need to make all those goals happen as well as about the reason why that habit is so important.
This is key because sometimes we get so caught up in the day-to-day life that we may forget why we started this whole plan in the first plan or why we want to meditate every single day.
Look at your Trello and ask yourself:
- Which daily or weekly habit can take me closer to these goals?
- What do I need to do every day to achieve this goal in one month or one year?
What’s important about setting habits for your habit tracker is that you’re very specific about the exact activity you need to perform to mark that habit as completed on a given day.
So, instead of writing “Read,” you’ll need to write something like “Read ten pages a day” or “Read for 30 minutes straight”.
Write a specific title for your new habit, and right below it, write WHY you want to cultivate that particular habit.
Then, day after day, copy the corresponding block of color on the right column next to the habit and paste it below the corresponding date only if you actually “performed” the habit.
The Bottom Line
This whole thing we just created looks overwhelming for some, but if you look closely, it’s a life plan broken into tiny little steps you can complete.
And it’s pretty fun to do, right?
Just schedule around 2 hours to follow the tutorial step by step.
You’ll start noticing the benefits even before you finish this whole thing because it gives you a sense of direction, and that’s key to having a wonderful life.
Once you finish putting this all together, you won’t have to go through the whole process ever again. You’ll just need to perform some “maintenance” on your system, but it’ll be already set.
Plus, you’ll end up feeling ready to tackle any challenge you set up for yourself.
Your next step: work towards your goals every day. And use habits to your advantage.
Of course, there are going to be days when you’ll make little progress, while there are great days when you do a lot and feel accomplished and warm inside.
That’s perfectly normal. We’re only humans! So don’t get discouraged if you skip a task from time to time.
Having your dreams and goals beautifully organized like this in a single place helps you feel motivated, inspired, and organized.
And that’s one of the best feelings ever because you know you’re not simply drifting through life.
I hope you liked this life planning step-by-step tutorial to get your life together and that it helps you as much as it helps me.
Remember: Nobody’s going to do for you what you need to do for you to get your life together. So get started.