How (and Why) I Make a Five Year Plan

How (And Why) I Make a Five Year Plan // Amy Elizabeth

 

Cathryn Lavery

Why Make a Plan? 

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that no one can predict the future. You cannot make a concrete plan for the next year, let alone the next five years. Five years is such a long time, and even if life doesn’t throw you any major curveballs, you have no idea what you will want and feel or even who you will be in five years time. 

However, I find having a five year plan to be useful for helping to make decisions and put in place the foundations for where I’d like to be in the future. This isn’t a concrete plan; for the reasons cited above, it has to be a flexible one but if you want to make things happen then you need to start today, and it’s a whole lot easier to start when you know what you want the end goal to be. Five years is a long enough time that you can make some serious progress, but also not so long that you don’t need to start looking at working on those dreams right now. 

Our First Five Year Plan

Paul and I are just coming to the end of the first five year plan that we made together; the basic tenets of which were to get married, buy a house and have a baby, all of which we’ve managed to achieve. This isn’t a humble brag, it’s just an acknowledgement that it was only by setting those goals and then working towards them that we got to where we are today. We’ve also been lucky, don’t get me wrong, but having some concrete aims definitely contributed massively. 

I don’t believe that things happen by accident; you need to make them happen. If you want to buy a house, you need to start saving. If you want to have a baby, well, you know what you need to do. It helped to have those goals in mind when we were faced with decisions; for example, it wouldn’t have been a good idea for me to switch jobs last year when I was contacted by a recruiter, mostly because I love my current job but also because I knew that it would be easier to take maternity leave when I’ve been working somewhere for years than it would at a new position. 

So now we’re ready to make a new five year plan, and this one is a little trickier. Getting married, buying a house and having a baby are all obvious milestones for your twenties and thirties; they’re hardly out of the ordinary. But what’s next? Well, that’s what we’re working on now. 

How We Make a Five Year Plan

To make our plan, we mostly just do a lot of talking. It’s not one big, regimented sit down discussion, but a series of chats about various areas of our life and where we’d like to be. We start with the things we *know* are going to happen (as far as you can ever know anything). That’s going to be different for everyone, and some people might have nothing concrete. For us, that looks like my going back to work after maternity leave and Ben starting nursery, some landmark birthdays (30 for me, 40 for Paul) and Ben eventually starting school. All being well, those things will definitely happen within the next five years, and in various ways they impact the kind of plans we want to make.

Then we go through all of the areas of our life where we want to make goals. Some of the areas are individual (career, in particular) and some are joint or family goals. Some are goals for right now and some are for in a few years time. But after all of our discussion, we usually come to an agreement on what we want to work towards in each area, from travel and other fun plans to financial and career goals. That’s when the fun starts. Once we have our goals down on paper (or just in our heads), we start thinking about what steps we can take today / this week / this month / this year in order to make them happen.

This isn’t a one-time process; it’s constantly being revised over the course of those five years as circumstances change and *we* change. We’re not working on all the goals all the time, but we bear them in mind in the course of our life and let them guide us. 

What’s On Our Next Five Year Plan (So Far)

A lot of our goals are financial ones right now; we’ve had an expensive few years due to weddings / house buying / baby so now we’re looking to channel our efforts into savings and, potentially, investments instead. We’re not fully set on exactly what this looks like, as it’s so dependent on other factors, but to start with we need to build back up that three-month-salary buffer that everyone in the know says you need. This is going to be a lot easier when I’m no longer on maternity leave, so it’s on the back burner for now. 

We’re also looking at improving our house and getting it fit for the next ten years of family life. Depending on finances, we’re hoping to extend into the roof to make a master suite, so we can convert one of the bigger bedrooms into a bedroom-slash-playroom for Ben, leaving the downstairs as a bit more of an adult-friendly space (basically, I just want somewhere to shove all the inevitable plastic tat each evening!). We also need to get the back garden sorted, and renovate the rather sad family bathroom at the very least. We have some bigger plans for if we get all of that done, too, but I think that’s enough to be getting on with in the next five years! 

It’s not all serious, though. We’re also planning a big first birthday party for Ben; as we’re not religious we aren’t going to be having any sort of christening or baptism but we’d like to celebrate him properly with our family and friends at some point. We’re also thinking ahead to our big birthdays in 2020; chances are that’s going to be a big party and a trip to Las Vegas. We’d also like to visit a few more European cities with Benjamin, and get back to New York at least once over the next five years. 

Do you have a five year plan? If so, what’s on it? (Tell me, I’m nosy!) 

How (And Why) I Make a Five Year Plan // Amy Elizabeth

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The Lottery Game

How playing the lottery game can help get you on track with your dreams and goals...

Do you ever play the lottery game? It’s a bit of a fruitless past-time, given the odds, but it’s sometimes fun to imagine just what you would spend all that money on, if given the chance. Paul and I like to get very specific, choosing our houses on Rightmove and plotting just exactly where we would travel first, depending on the size of the jackpot. It’s fun to dream about, but I think it might serve another purpose, too… 

Whilst there’s no doubt that we would buy *stuff* (mostly pretty houses and wine cellars full of booze for parties…), what winning the lottery would really do would be to buy us opportunity and time to explore the things we really care about. It begs the question, what would you dedicate yourself to if you didn’t have to work or worry about money? 

Just off the top of my head… I would travel more, try my hand at writing a book, be more conscientious about this blog, spend more time with my family and friends, start a supper club. I would want to open up my home, to host friends and family but also strangers. Maybe some sort of writers retreat situation, supper-club-slash-bed-and-breakfast. Some way of sharing and meeting people and having the kind of home where the door is always open and there’s always a bottle of champagne ready to pop. I would maybe want to own a bookshop, or some kind of beautiful space that people could hire for parties and weddings or just because. 

None of those things are impossible without a lottery win, of course. Thankfully, my dreams are not all that expensive, but to achieve them without the backing of my imaginary millions would take more dedication and work. They need to be fitted into a smaller space of time, since I do have to go to my day job and do (some of) my own chores. They’d need more careful thinking to fund and maybe I’d need to choose one or two to start with, rather than jumping in at the deep end with all of them. 

But playing the lottery game, and allowing yourself to dream big and imagine the ‘best case scenario’ can really help solidify your thinking on what you’d like to dedicate your time and energy to in the long run. Whilst it would be ideal for millions to land in your lap so you could see it all through, the chance of that is unlikely so it’s far better to start small(er) now and make some steps towards incorporating those things without the lottery win. I’m hoping to start with this blog (baby-clingy-ness-dependent) over the next few months but you can be sure that I’ve made a note of the other things on my list to start checking off… 

What would you be doing if you won the lottery?

How playing the lottery game can help get you on track with your dreams and goals...

How playing the lottery game can help get you on track with your dreams and goals...

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New Year’s Resolutions

So, here we are. 2017. It feels like it’s been a long time coming but I’m glad that we made it. This year will mark my 10 year anniversary of ‘blogging’ in one form or another; a hobby that has changed my life in so many ways. Without blogging I wouldn’t have my Masters degree, my job in Leeds, or my husband, as well as a whole host of online friends and interests that have come from hanging out online for years. It’s funny to think about that, really. How different my life would be. And, whilst, it’s not a resolution as such, I would like to blog more regularly this year. I go through spurts where I’m inspired and I have the time to spare for this little space, but then it all goes awry as it did so spectacularly at the end of last year (although it was for good reasons that it went awry – but hosting five sets of guests in four weeks doesn’t leave much time for tapping out thoughts here). This is a constant goal of mine, and one I am trying not to beat myself up for constantly failing – but with January looking at least a little quieter than December I’m hoping to start off on a good footing. 

In the few short years that I have been making resolutions, I have found that it is much easier to stick to goals and challenges when they add something to my life, rather than take it away. Reading 100 books in 2015 changed my life, although in a small way, and it was a resolution that, whilst tricky at times, added joy and relaxation to my life – so why wouldn’t I want to do it? Resolutions that have been more about subtracting things, particularly vague ‘healthy eating’ ones, have fallen at the first hurdle because they’re just not really any fun – particularly in January, the most joyless month of all. Which is why I love Rachel’s 2016 resolution to make use of her extensive cookbook collection by cooking a new recipe every week – and I’ll definitely be trying to do something similar (although it may be more like fortnightly than weekly). I’ve been neglecting baking, in particular, over the past couple of months, and we’ve got into a bit of a meal planning rut so I’m hoping a little inspiration from my cookbook stash will put paid to those issues. 

There are so many little things I’d like to achieve this year. Sorting the last few bits of house renovation. Buying some cushions. Maybe trying out some new knitting patterns. Baking more bread. Getting outside more. Going on a proper holiday. But none of them feel big enough for resolutions. I guess they’re all just part of an overarching life resolution of making the most of things, and not wasting time (unless wasting time is exactly what you plan to do). And I guess you can’t argue with that one. 

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November Goals

book

So, I didn’t exactly plan my NaNoWriMo novel like I had anticipated. October ran away with me, and November is shaping up even busier, so I think I might have to leave it for this year. I still have a few ideas so I might have another look at it another time. But 50,000 words in a month? So not going to happen when I’ve got four different sets of guests over November (not panicking…). I did manage to finish my 101 books challenge, though! 

So… what will November have in store? 

Have A Relaxing Week Off 

I have a week off work in the middle of November and absolutely no plans. I don’t want to waste it trying to be productive; I am going to watch Gilmore Girls, read books, bake pies and explore a little bit more of Yorkshire. Some low-key staycation fun to gear me up for all of the festive fun coming up. 

Finish A Blanket 

All the babies are making their way into my life over the next few months (by which I mean that friends are due, not that I’m about to have triplets!) and I’m halfway through a baby blanket for one of them. So this is a pretty easy goal, but one I need to keep! 

Be The Hostess With The Mostest 

As I mentioned, we have four sets of guests coming to our house in November. I’m also hosting a bonfire night bonanza on Saturday, and Friendsgiving later in the month, so we’ll be inundated. Nothing makes me feel happier than feeding my favourite people, and organising fun things for them to do. So my aim is to make sure everyone leaves the house feeling happier than they entered, and well-fed to boot. 

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October Goals

writing

[Photo by Freddy Castro]

So, October. How did this happen? I think we might blink and it will be Christmas. I hope we don’t, because I am so not prepared, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I woke up and 2016 was drawing to a close. It’s a cliche, but it really does feel like time speeds up the older I get. Which is scary, because life also gets so much more awesome with every passing year and I want to hold onto it. I am pretty proud that I managed to keep up with my Couch to 10k programme in September, especially since things were so busy, but I failed pretty miserably at my other two goals. I did get a nice photo of me and Paul all dressed up for a wedding, though, which is a rare occurrence. I’m usually far too busy having fun to pose at weddings. So this month, I want to…

Keep Up with Couch to 10K

With the Abbey Dash coming up fast, I don’t want to lose momentum with this one. I’m really pleased with the progress I’ve made – I can now run for 15 minutes straight (!) and, dare I say it, I’m actually enjoying exercising for once so it would be a shame to lose that. It’s my aim to be able to run the whole way round the Abbey Dash, which I managed two years ago but failed spectacularly at last year – even if I am the slowest person by miles, that would feel like a big achievement.

Plan my NaNoWriMo Book 

Every year I think about doing NaNoWriMo (for those not in the know, it’s where you commit to writing 50,000 words of a novel in November – 1,667 words per day, or thereabouts) but always chicken out. I talk big about being able to write a book, but I’m not actually convinced that I really can. But this year I am going to do it – even if I end up with 50,000 words of total crap that I never want to look at again. And that means I need to do a little advance planning. I am better with a plan and I don’t want any excuse to procrastinate when it actually comes to November. 

Finish my Reading Challenge 

As I type this, I’ve read 92 books out of the 101 I planned to read this year. It may be more by the time I come to publish this, which means I’m almost at the end. I’m not going to stop reading in November & December but things are likely to be pretty busy so it would be cool to get the ‘challenge’ part out of the way so any reading I do at the end of the year is just an added bonus! 

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September Goals

camera

[Photo by Benjamin Combs

I didn’t do too badly with my August goals; I pretty much kept to my couch to 10k programme and managed to bring lunches into work with me for a whole week (and beyond). It’s nice to finally feel like we’re in a bit more of a routine – especially since September looks to be our busiest month of the year. Weddings, family visits, birthday celebrations, barbecues (weather permitting) and so much more. We’ll also be taking Ellie to Uni halfway through the month, which means things will feel pretty different around here. I love September; it feels like a new beginning in a way that January never does for me, and gives me an excuse to buy new stationary. 

Keep up with my Couch to 10K Programme

I’m bad at sticking to exercise regimes but this one is pretty manageable – and with the Abbey Dash looming on the horizon, I can’t afford to fall off the running wagon now! 

Put up shelves & unpack books 

We didn’t get round to doing this in August, but we did buy the wood. So now we need to stain and fit the shelves, and actually unpack all my poor books that have been waiting so patiently in boxes. 

Take More Photos 

Like I said, we have a lot of stuff going on in September and some of it is definitely worth documenting. I’ve gotten out of the habit of taking photos unless it’s of brunch, so I’d like to get more of people and events. 

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August Goals

lunch

[Photo by Katie Smith]

So, my July goals were kind of hit and miss. I got halfway there with the book blog (which I’m still hoping will launch today…) and with the decorating. We were scuppered by the builder not showing up for a full week so we’re behind with the kitchen and there’s mess everywhere – not conducive to putting things to rights. However, progress has definitely been made so I don’t feel too bummed out about it. The exercise though? Definitely didn’t happen. Not even one run. Not even a yoga class. Nada. In my defence, I have like two pairs of exercise clothes and no washing machine so it logistically it would have been a bit tricky. But we all know that’s just an excuse. Onwards and upwards, though! 

Start my Couch to 10K programme 

I bought a couch to 10k app this month as I’ve signed up the Abbey Dash and last year my performance as abysmal. I want to actually get it started (today in fact!) so that I have enough time to train and don’t find the whole thing so painful this year. 

Finish unpacking

Currently a lot of our stuff is still in boxes, but I’m hoping that we’ll be able to unpack fully by the end of the month. Enough decorating will have happened by then to get things on shelves so things aren’t lingering in the garage, and I’m desperate to put up some of the ace artwork I bought for this house but which has never seen the light of day. 

Take lunches to work for a full week

I’m hoping that this week we’ll finally have that kitchen I’ve been banging on about, which means no more eating out. I’m not going to pretend that I’m suddenly going to become super organised but if I can manage to take lunches to work with me for a full week I’ll save myself about £30 and hopefully feel a bit healthier. I’m starting small! 

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July Goals

july goals

[Photo by Death to the Stock Photo

Get my new book blog set up for launch in August 

I’ve been toying with the idea of setting up a separate book blog for a while, and I think it’s time to take the plunge. I do share little book reviews with you here on this blog but I’d like to do some more detailed ones and I don’t want them to take over the other content here. I’d like to keep this blog as more of a personal/foodie blog but we’ll see how things go! 

Finish basic decorating downstairs

We currently have two free weekends in July, so I’m hoping that we can put them to good use to actually finish some basic decorating downstairs. By that I mean painting the walls, laying the floor and putting things in their rightful place. This is maybe a bit of an ambitious goal but if we can at least make headway with things, I’ll feel a lot better. With our first guests coming to stay in early August, I want things to be as spic and span as possible! 

Go on at least 10 runs 

I have really let the exercise thing slide over the past couple of months. In all the chaos and exhaustion of house moving and DIY-ing, it’s easy to find excuses not to go out for a run. But, with the Abbey Dash coming up in November and me currently not even being able to run 3k without collapsing with exhaustion, things need to change. 10 runs is definitely do-able so I’m committing! 

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8 Things I Think I Should Be Doing But Never Will

never do

Like any typical Millennial woman, I am constantly striving for self-improvement. My time spent feeling guilty for not continually improving my habits, efficiency and happiness is topped only by the time spent reading self-help articles online. I am a sucker for those life hacks, people. I know how basic I am, don’t worry. There’s always something that I *could* be doing, that I am very much not. Some of those are legitimate things that would make my life better – running more often, drinking more water, putting away my coat when I come in every night… Some of them, however? I’m never gonna do. 

Going ‘No ‘Poo’ 

For those in the know, the ‘no ‘poo’ movement actually refers to not shampooing your hair. According to evangelists, washing your hair with just water and occasionally some baking soda, will make your hair healthier and be better for the environment. Purging yourself of chemicals will mean your hair will start to self-clean and you’ll have Elle Macpherson locks without even trying. As someone who has to wash their hair everyday so they’re not standing in a grease puddle? This ain’t gonna happen. I’m drawn in by the promises of hair in better condition with more volume, believe me I am, but the weeks it takes to get there? Nope. 

Being Vegetarian (or Vegan) 

I do feel a lot of guilt around this, believe me. I know how terrible eating meat is for the environment, and how terrible these industries are. But I just cannot make that leap. I love steak. I love cheese. I am a foodie through and through, and that includes all foods (except avocados, soz). I definitely want to eat more vegetarian and vegan meals, moving forward – because they are delicious and wonderful and healthy. But I’m not going to go the whole hog (or without the whole hog, as it were). 

Meditating 

It’s good for your mental health, it helps you relax and de-stress, you all know the drill. As a highly strung person, I would benefit from meditation, there’s no doubt about it. But I know I’m not going to do it, despite the advice that everyone gives. 

Theming my Instagram 

This is a very ‘blogger’ problem to have, but I just cannot do it. However pretty it looks, and however much people want to follow themed accounts, I do not have the artistic skill or the patience for an Instagram theme. I just want to take pictures of my food and post them to uncaring people, just like the old days. 

Doing a Facebook Friend Cull 

I like having quite a lot of friends on Facebook. Sure, some of them I’ve not spoken to in years and probably would avoid if I saw them on the street due to potential awkwardness (or genuine lack of recognition) but sometimes it’s fun to spy on people that you went to primary school with. I don’t care if they unfriend me, but I’m probably not going to bother going through my friend list and selecting who I do and do not want to see my stuff. I’m not that interesting on Facebook, believe me.  

Solo Travelling

It’s something you’re supposed to do if you’re a strong, independent woman. It’ll change your life and make you a better person. Except, I hate spending time alone and would be bored senseless. Also, I’d be scared. Yep. I’m strong and independent but I’m a bad traveller and I would be pretty freaked out travelling on my own. I want to want to do some solo travelling, but I just don’t. There’s nowhere I want to go that I think would be better experienced alone than with a friend. 

Eating Packed Lunches 

I really try with this one. It’s healthier and saves you money, and basically every bit of budgeting advice ever lists taking your own lunches as the number one you can save money. I like cooking and so you’d think I’d be good at this one, but I just get very lazy and I’m also always tempted by the very delicious food on offer in the city centre. So much easier to pick up a jacket potato dripping in cheese or a box of sushi than fix myself the kind of lunch I would actually want to eat come midday. New aim? Bring lunch three days a week and treat yo’self the other two. 

LinkedIn 

Need I say more? 

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Resolutions

  resolutions

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that 2014 was a pretty good year for me. The best ever, probably. But it’s time to move forward and plan for 2015. Last year I didn’t set any goals but this year I want to set some intentions for the things I want to bring into my life. Some of them are vague, some more concrete – and none are set in stone. Life is prone to throwing curveballs, so nothing ever can be. Speaking things out loud is the first step to making them happen, right?

Blog Regularly 

Read 100 Books

Eat Breakfast Everyday

Exercise Regularly

Make More Pastry

Bake More Bread

Start a Podcast

Travel More  

Take a Photo Everyday

Connect More with my Long-Distance Friends

Learn to Crochet

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