How to Create a 5-year Plan (With Examples)

Updated October 10, 2022

Creating a five-year plan with small and large-scale goals can guide you toward your ideal future. Creating a five-year plan in your professional or personal life is an excellent way to determine what smaller steps you need to take over the five years to accomplish your goals. In this article, we look at what a five-year plan is, why having one is beneficial, how to create your own and with examples.

Related: How to Create a Career Plan in 9 Steps

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What is a five-year plan?

A five-year plan is a list of professional or personal goals that you hope to achieve over the next five years. It breaks down your long-term goals into small steps or tasks with their own deadlines to make achieving them more manageable. Five-year plans are not unchangeable as you can alter them at any point in your life, they're just a good way to get you started on the right path.

Why is having a five-year plan beneficial?

If you already know what your long-term goals are and how you plan to achieve them, you may not see the value in creating a concrete five-year plan. But they can benefit anyone. Having a five-year plan clarifies general goals and allows you to measure your success in achieving them. You can refer to your five-year plan over time and determine if you're where you need to be to succeed. If not, adjust your plan or the actions you intend to take.

Outlining your short-term and long-term goals also gives you time to consider if they're what you really want, to create the best possible future.

Related: What Is Economic Forecasting? (Definition and Examples)

How to create a five-year plan

If you want to create your own five-year plan, here are the basic steps you should follow:

1. Think about what you want five years from now and write it down

Creating your five-year plan is easier if you do a bit of brainstorming first. Think about what you want your life to look like in five years and write anything you think of down. You don't need to limit yourself here, so consider all aspects of your life, including your health, career, finances, relationships, hobbies, family, home and more. No dream is too big while you're brainstorming, because you can narrow down your list later.

Related: Setting Goals to Improve Your Career

2. Create a list of your skills and experiences

To see which of your professional goals from the previous step are realistic, consider what skills and experience you have and what you can improve. Start by writing all your current skills and experience down on paper, even if they don't seem relevant to your goals. Then, write a list of skills and experience you need to achieve the goals you brainstormed in the last step. Highlight what you don't yet have so you can incorporate them into your five-year plan. For example, if you want to become a certified accountant, include the certification and education requirements in your five-year plan.

This step calls for some research about what exact skills or experience you need to achieve your goals. Looking through job boards and the requirements of a position is a good way to research if you're looking to switch careers. Talking to people who have first-hand experience in the career or industry you're interested in is another great way to research.

Look through career-related social media sites to find people you can reach out to. Message or email them to see if they're interested in meeting or answering your questions. They can offer you a more in-depth look into your future career. They may even offer some advice in shaping your five-year plan and share the steps they took to get to where they are today.

Related: How To Perform a Self-Assessment

3. Finalize your goals

Now that you brainstormed potential goals and researched what you need to do to achieve them, you can finalize your list. Follow the SMART goal-setting method when finalizing your goals. It stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. Ensuring every goal follows this guideline makes them easier to achieve.

Goals need to be specific and measurable so you know exactly what you need to do to achieve them. For example, a goal like, "earn more money," is too general. Narrow it down to, "earn an extra $5,000 per year." This makes your goal more specific and measurable, so you know when you've achieved it.

Making sure your goals are attainable and realistic will ensure that you can achieve them within five years. Having big dreams is great, but if they're too big and you don't achieve them, it can be discouraging. Create realistic goals with a timeline that you can follow.

Finally, your long-term goals have a timeline of five years, but your smaller goals should meet deadlines too. Breaking tasks down into yearly, monthly or weekly goals makes them easier to achieve.

Related: SMART Goals: Objectives for Your Career

4. Create your five-year plan

With all the information you compiled, you can now create a detailed five-year plan. Organize your goals into different sections, such as personal and professional. Create sub-goals with their own deadlines that contribute toward achieving your long-term goals. Identify the most important goals and emphasize them. For example, if your long-term goal is to run a marathon, sub-goals could be running a 5k, then running a half-marathon to build up to your long-term goal.

Give yourself space on your five-year plan to track your progress. Something as small as a checkbox, for example, gives you a sense of accomplishment when you cross off the task and encourage you to keep going. It also allows you to monitor your progress easily and see if you're up-to-date with the timeline you set.

Related: How to Write an Action Plan to Help You Achieve Your Goals

5. Be prepared for changes

Now that you have your five-year plan, it's important that you're prepared for it to change. Having a five-year plan is a great road map for achieving your goals, but it's not an exact guideline to living your life. You may discover halfway through that you want to switch careers, so your five-year plan will need to change to reflect that. Your smaller goals may take longer than you expected, so adjust your timeline. Just remember that your five-year plan is a guide, you don't need to follow it exactly, and it's okay to change it as you see fit. Only you decide what makes you successful.

Related: Career Planning Examples (With Template)

Five-year plan template

Here is a five-year plan template you can fill in with your own goals:

Long-term goal: (the main goal you want to accomplish in five years)

Short-term goals: (weekly, monthly or yearly goals you need to complete to achieve your long-term goal)

Timeline for goals: (a schedule of when you want to achieve your smaller goals)

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Five-year plan examples

Let's look at a professional and personal five-year plan to give you an idea of what it looks like:

Example 1

Long-term goal: become a certified ESL teacher

Short-term goals:

  • Finish bachelor degree program

  • Get my TESL Canada certification online

  • Find a practicum placement

  • Complete practicum

  • Research best countries in which to teach ESL

  • Apply for jobs in those countries

  • Interview for jobs

  • Move to the country of my choice and get acquainted with it

  • Train for the new job and start teaching

Timeline for goals:

  • Daily goal: attend classes and complete coursework

  • Weekly goal: prepare lesson plans for practicum placement

  • Monthly goal: finish assignments and exams

  • Year 1 goal: write final exams and obtain a bachelor's degree

  • Year 2 goal: complete the first half of the TESL program

  • Year 3 goal: graduate from the TESL program

  • Year 4 goal: research countries and apply for jobs there

  • Year 5 goal: move to the chosen country, get acquainted with it and start teaching

Example 2

Long-term goal: Save $75,000 for a down payment on a house

Short-term goals:

  • Pay off student loans

  • Pay off the car loan

  • Pay off credit card bills and stop using credit cards

  • Start working at your parents' grocery store on weekends for extra money

  • Create a new budget

  • Put at least $300 into savings every week

Timeline for goals:

  • Daily goal: stop using credit cards

  • Weekly goal: work at parents' grocery store every Saturday and put $300 into savings

  • Monthly goal: put money towards paying off loans

  • Year 1 goal: pay off all credit card bills

  • Year 2 goal: pay off the entire car loan

  • Year 3 goal: pay off all student loans

  • Year 4 goal: contribute more to savings

  • Year 5 goal: find a house and put the $75,000 saved towards a down payment

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