How to Make a Life Plan in 6 Steps
Creating a life plan can help you feel more in control of your life and provide a clear path toward the things you want. The process of making a life plan starts with creating a document to record your thoughts and ideas either with pen and paper or electronically. However you choose to document your life plan, make sure it is easily accessible where you will remember to review it often. Use this guide to help you make a life plan.
A life plan is a roadmap for your life that helps you prioritize what is important to you, make decisions based on your priorities and move toward the life you want. It should provide a clear path for your life, but it should also be flexible. As your life changes, your values and priorities may also change. A life plan is a living, breathing document that requires periodic attention to ensure it accurately reflects your life. It is your own personal guide to how you want to live, what is important to you and what you need to do to achieve the life you want.
How to make a life plan
Creating a life plan is one of the best things you can do to identify the things you most want in your life and develop the strategy to make them happen. Here are the steps to help you create a life plan:
1. Create a vision
Allow yourself to dream big. Imagine what an average day in your ideal life looks like. Imagine where you work, what kind of work you do and the income you earn. Imagine your relationships with friends and family. Maybe your ideal life means gaining new skills to find a more fulfilling job. Maybe it is honing your skills to increase your marketability and find a higher paying job. Maybe it’s working from home to spend more time with your family.
Imagine the kind of person you want to be and how you want others to perceive you. For example, you may want your colleagues to know that you are reliable in delivering your work. You may want your manager to respect you as someone punctual in meeting deadlines and accountable for your quality of work.
Think about the things you want to improve in your life. This can include different areas in life, such as finances, career or health. It may entail some weaknesses you want to overcome. Consider how you will measure your improvement and define success. Clearly define what success means to you.
2. Perform a self-assessment
To perform a thorough life assessment, you need to be honest with yourself and what you want. A life assessment includes considering factors like the roles you have in life, your satisfaction with different areas of your life and your various strengths and weaknesses. Reviewing your life from different perspectives allows you to develop a holistic evaluation. Practice self-reflection to clarify your roles and satisfaction in different areas of life. If you struggle with assessing your strengths and weaknesses, ask several people close to you who will give you an objective opinion.
Everyone fills different roles in life. Brainstorm a list of the different roles you play. Examples of roles include student, coworker, employee, manager, entrepreneur, volunteer, spouse, parent and sibling. In the next step, you’ll prioritize these roles and identify the values you want to bring to each one.
Consider different areas of your life such as career, finances, personal development, community, health, relationships and faith. Look at each area of your life and rank your satisfaction in that area on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being ‘needs a lot of work’ and 10 being ‘best’.
Identify your strengths and weaknesses. These can be either technical skills or soft skills. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses allows you to decide where to focus your energy—which weaknesses to improve or which strengths to highlight.
3. Prioritize your life
Now that you have identified the roles you play in life, the areas you want to improve and your strengths and weaknesses, you can prioritize these to discover what is most important to you.
Review your list of roles and reorder them according to what is most important in your life. For example, your role as a parent or a manager may be more important to you than your role as an employee or student.
Also, prioritize the areas of your life to identify what is most important to you. For example, your health and family may be more important than your work or hobbies. When prioritizing areas of life, it’s also important to consider how different areas are related. For example, you may prioritize family over finances, but some financial goals are necessary to care for your family. Establishing that one is more important to you does not decrease the value of another; it simply indicates the areas you want to focus more attention on.
Prioritizing your roles and the areas you want to focus on will help you identify your values and non-negotiables when it comes to your career. For example, if your family is among your top priorities, you may prefer a career with a good work/life balance that requires little or no travel for an organization that is close to home and respects employees’ non-working hours.
4. Identify your values
Comparing how your life is now and what you want your life to be will help you identify your values. Allowing yourself to feel and analyze the difference clarifies your core values. The person you imagine yourself to be—with the life you imagine—lives by these values. They represent who you are as a person even if you’re still working to realize them.
When you identify your values and what is important in your life, they become a measuring tool for every decision. Decisions become much easier because you can clearly see what does and does not align with your values. For example, you might value work that is gratifying and serves your purpose more than you value the size of your paycheck. Understanding this helps you narrow your job search to opportunities that are more gratifying instead of any position with a higher salary.
Look at What’s Not Working
When you’re figuring out how to make a life plan, it helps to know what you want to change, and in what areas of your life. Here’s where it helps to get out a journal and assess different areas of your life. This can be in list form, narrative form, created like a mind map, or in another format, but should cover the areas of life that are most important to you. For most people, that means a job, family, wellness, finances, other areas of stress, and even home environment. Think about what your values are in life, and assess how those areas of life are currently working for you.
When you’re making a life plan, you should work around your values–what’s important to you, and what you hope to maintain in your life. Do you value family, but find yourself spending too little time with your family because you’re working overtime at a job you hate? Do you value fitness, but find yourself watching too much t.v. instead? Oftentimes, people include activities in their lives that have little value to them without realizing it. To be sure you’re spending your time wisely, assess what you value the most in life, and pay attention to how you actually behave around the expression of these values in your real life; be sure you include activities that fulfill those values.
Look at the Future
As you make a life plan, it helps to plan not only months into the future but for years. Looking at your values and thinking about how you want the next few months, year, and five years to be (even up to ten years!) and then working backward can really clarify what next steps will bring you a payoff, and can help you decide where to put your time. For example, if you want to be working in a new field, maybe now is time to make connections and look for work experience that you can gain in your off-hours; you can take small steps to build up for a bigger change in the future.
Looking at where you’d like to be, and at where you are now, you can break down the path from “here” to “there” into small, manageable steps that you can more easily take. This way, you can more easily experience successes that can sustain your motivation, can look at where you may need to change your plan as you go, and can consistently put one step in front of the other and move forward. (See this for more on setting goals.)
Press Play for Advice On Dealing With Perfectionism
Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast, featuring Peloton instructor Ally Love, shares how to focus on progress instead of aiming for perfection. Click below to listen now.
Next steps for writing your business plan
Whether you’re writing a plan to explore a new business idea, establishing steps to start a business, looking to raise money from investors, seeking a loan, or just trying to run your business better—a solid business plan will help get you there.
Business planning is a continuous process that can help you validate your idea, set goals, manage, and successfully pitch your business. One of the most helpful things you can do to build a successful business is to jump in and start planning. If you’re looking for a more comprehensive step-by-step walkthrough for writing a business plan, check out our Business Planning Guide.
If you need more than a template, we recommend exploring business planning software, such as LivePlan. It features step-by-step guidance that ensures you include only what you need in your plan and reduces the time you spend on formatting and presenting.
You’ll also get help building solid financial models that you can trust, without having to worry about getting everything right in a spreadsheet. Finally, it will transform your plan into a management tool that will help you easily compare your forecasts to your actual results. This makes it easy to track your progress and make adjustments as you go.
Business plan FAQ
A business plan helps you understand where you want to go with your business and what it will take to get there. It reduces your overall risk, helps you uncover your business’s potential, attracts investor, and identify areas for growth. Having a business plan ultimately makes you more confident as a business owner and more likely to succeed for a longer period of time.
1. Write a brief executive summary.
2. Describe your products and services.
3. Conduct market research and compile data into a cohesive market analysis.
4. Describe your marketing and sales strategy.
5. Outline your organizational structure and management team.
6. Develop financial projections for sales, revenue, and cash flow.
7. Add any additional documents to your appendix.
1. Not taking the planning process seriously.
2. Having unrealistic financial projections or incomplete financial information.
3. Inconsistent information or simple mistakes.
4. Failing to establish a sound business model.
5. Not having a defined purpose for your business plan.
Writing a business plan is all about asking yourself questions about your business and being able to answer them through the planning process. You’ll likely be asking dozens and dozens of questions for each section of your plan. However, these are the key questions you should ask and answer with your business plan:
– How will your business make money?
– Is there a need for your product or service?
– Who are your customers?
– How are you different from the competition?
– How will you reach your customers?
– How will you measure success?
The length of your business plan fully depends on what you intend to do with it. From the SBA and traditional lender point of view, a business plan needs to be whatever length necessary to fully explain your business. This means that you prove the viability of your business, show that you understand the market, and have a detailed strategy in place.
If you intend to use your business plan for internal management purposes, you don’t necessarily need a full 25-50 page business plan. Instead, you can start with a one-page plan or a 3-10 page Lean Plan to get all of the necessary information in place.
While all business plans cover similar categories, the style and function fully depend on how you intend to use your plan. Here are a few common business plan types worth considering.
Traditional business plan: The tried-and-true traditional business plan is a formal document meant to be used when applying for funding or pitching to investors. This type of business plan follows the outline above and can be anywhere from 10-50 pages depending on the amount of detail included, the complexity of your business, and what you include in your appendix.
Business model canvas: The business model canvas is a one-page template designed to demystify the business planning process. It removes the need for a traditional, copy-heavy business plan, in favor of a single-page outline that can help you and outside parties better explore your business idea.
One-page business plan: This format is a simplified version of the traditional plan that focuses on the core aspects of your business. You’ll typically stick with bullet points and single sentences. It’s most useful for those exploring ideas, needing to validate their business model, or who need an internal plan to help them run and manage their business.
Lean Plan: The Lean Plan is less of a specific document type and more of a methodology. It takes the simplicity and styling of the one-page business plan and turns it into a process for you to continuously plan, test, review, refine, and take action based on performance. It’s faster, keeps your plan concise, and ensures that your plan is always up-to-date.
A business plan covers the “who” and “what” of your business. It explains what your business is doing right now and how it functions. The strategic plan explores long-term goals and explains “how” the business will get there. It encourages you to look more intently toward the future and how you will achieve your vision.
However, when approached correctly, your business plan can actually function as a strategic plan as well. If kept lean, you can define your business, outline strategic steps, and track ongoing operations all with a single plan.
The core elements of business planning are the same for nonprofit organizations and for-profit businesses. The main difference between the two is that nonprofits are primarily driven by a specific mission or purpose. While a for-profit organization is typically driven by growth and improved performance.
Additionally, nonprofit organizations will need to intently focus on their promotional, partnership, and fundraising strategies. While some of this is present in for-profit businesses, the need to thoroughly outline how and who you will continue to receive funding is far more important as a nonprofit.