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Fragments and Shrapnel: 5 Year Plan

We’ve all had that dreaded question at job interviews: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? We blink, take a deep breath, and give our canned answer: I do have goals, I do have ambitions and most of them have nothing to do with this job but I’m catering my answer so you’ll hire me.

With the exception of putting aside money for retirement, the idea of planning for anything 5 years in advance never appealed to me. When I was in high school, I liked to write and found working on the school newspaper to be very rewarding. I wanted to be a journalist. I went to college and learned about the craft and still wanted to be a journalist when I graduated. But when I actually started working in the industry, the four a.m. wake up calls, alcoholic bosses, and writing about boring committee meetings changed my mind. I was challenged each day to come up with good stories but the stress and low pay just wasn’t worth it. So I quit. I didn’t have much of a Plan B only that I just didn’t want to radio anymore.

I am of the mind that instead of a 5 year plan, we should have one-month and one-year plans. A one-year plan allows you to paint a big picture and the one month plan can turn the picture into bite-sized chunks. For example, let’s say I want to climb Mt. Everest by the time I’m 40. Great! Right now, however, I need to lose some weight and get in good enough shape so I don’t show up in Nepal unprepared. Get it?

The New York Times recently printed an article on what to do when our Plan B falls apart. It’s not enough to have a dream, but you have to be able to live the dream and make tough decisions when the dream doesn’t materialize the way you envisioned it.

Recently on A Closer Look Radio, Pam interviewed Michael Feuer, the co-founder of Office Max. Michael parted with great wisdom and business office but one thing he said really rang true with me: Smart business owners need stop focusing on the 5 year plan and instead develop a one-month and one year plan. He said having a 5 year plan isn’t bad, but you need to be able to switch gears as the economy and business dictates. You can listen to this fascinating interview here.

I took Michael’s advice this weekend and sat down and wrote out a list of things that need immediate attention in my own freelance business and articles that need to be written. Like any Virgo, I felt accomplished when I finished the list but was pleased to have a clearer picture.

As for how to answer the question of where you see yourself in 5 years, I prefer the answer given to my husband by his project management professors: A lot can happen in 5 years as markets and economies change. So, all I can really do is focus the now and what I can do to help your business grow and this is how.


About Anna Alexander

I get ideas. I write things. I sometimes follow through with those ideas. I also run long distances and live in the Pacific Northwest with my husband cat who lets us pay the mortgage on his house.

One response »

  1. I agree – the 5 or 10 yr plan idea has gone right out the window. As Virgo as I am and for all the lists, minimalist Leo has finally come to my way of thinking as well. He’s given up goals. I don’t recall ever HAVING long-range goals to tell the truth. Get married? Maybe eventually. Kids? Who knows. Both sort of found me when the time was right. Fortunately, I never had the stopwatch out for those or I’d likely have nose-dived into depression and frustration when the timer dinged. I sort of go thru enjoying life – that’s it. Enjoy the day and make the most of each one. Each are often filled with To Do lists of activities that move projects along. I also regularly veer off of those and do what strikes me. I review the days as the week goes, trying to slot back in the “re-schedule” items – or drop them – but the days are focused on enjoying (for the most part) each day as it comes. Sure, some come with “frogs” to swallow – but I try to balance those “frogs” with much more fun/interesting things. I look at a week, I look at a month for what’s on the horizon in my life, planning days as needed to get thru. Performing with any goals of where I’ll end up in 5-10 or even ONE year? Not a clue. I’m just walking along enjoying life the best I can and whatever the Lord puts on my plate. I DO what I enjoy, what makes me and my family happy for the now. I figure it’ll all work out in the end and I’ll enjoy looking back to see the path that brought me. Relax and go with the flow. Any “plan” is bigger than us and we can’t begin to really know what it is. Do what feels right and do what you enjoy – what comes out of it is ice cream. Go to bed satisfied it was a good day – they all add up.


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