Here’s the truth. Traditional career planning is something I never got into.
I know, I know- I’m a career coach! If there’s anyone who is into career planning, it should be me.
As a big-picture INFP, I find that creating detailed future plans do not motivate me. Instead, I enjoy starting with a general idea of the direction I want to go in and narrowing down a few major short-term and long-term goals to work towards. Then, I jump into the year hand-in-hand with my intuition, tackling each step towards my goals as they emerge. Although my approach is not the well-plotted 10-year plan, I have found it creative yet organized, flexible yet focused, fun yet intentional.
To cultivate focus and intention, I’ve gathered a mixture of creative career planning tools and exercises to plan for the year and maximize momentum. Having goals and direction is a great start, but to take massive action, we need specifics, a plan of execution, motivation, and accountability. Without them, goals can (and will) recede into the background as day-to-day tasks, personal and social commitments, and other people’s priorities get shoved in your face.
I want to break down 4 easy steps to a career planning exercise that I’ve found work wonders for people that don’t prefer tons of structured and logical planning. These exercises or approaches can illuminate insights, maximize creative thinking, and create a focused path forward.
If you are unclear on what your career goals are, try these steps out, and let me know what you think!
1. Do a Brain Dump of Your Goals
Brain dumps are the best because you don’t have to organize anything yet. There’s no pressure to figure it all out or think about the “how”. This is a fun exercise that simplifies the planning process. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, start with the following:
Do a complete brain dump of everything you’d like to achieve in your lifetime. This can include career goals, financial goals, life goals and everything in between. Think about what is most important to you to accomplish in your lifetime, and get specific. Resist the urge to self-edit and imagine all limitations were removed. Also discern between conscious goals and goals you think you “should” have based on other people’s expectations. You want to focus on the quality of your goals rather than the quantity. The goals on that list should feel consciously created and authentic to you. Now, go for it!
2. Categorize each goal under 1 year, 5 year, or 10 year
Now that you have a brain dump of goals, it’s time to organize them into immediate, short, or long term time chunks. Create 3 columns and label them “1 year”, “5 years”, and “10 years”.
Start moving each goal into one of the columns, depending on when you’d like to have accomplished it. For example, if a goal you listed was to write a book and you’d like to accomplish it within 10 years, place it under “10 years”. Again, don’t worry too much about how it’s all going to happen. Just place them into the respective time chunks that are ideal for you. Once you’ve moved all your goals into its respective column, take a look at each column:
1 year- These are immediate goals for the year.
5 years- These are short-term goals to work towards.
10 years- These are long-term goals or visions to serve as north stars to guide the direction of your work and decisions.
3. Do a Visualization to Meet Your Future Self
Now that you have a general idea of some milestones you’d like to reach in the short term and the long term, the next step is to create a vision.
Visioning is a powerful tool in planning. Visioning connects us with the feelings we want to achieve and activates the peak state that helps us to get there. When we envision specifics of our preferred future, we increase our buy-in by having a clear and inspiring picture of what we want. Often, we get wrapped up in the left-brain analytical and logical task of goal-setting that we lose touch with the emotional experience we want to achieve through these goals. Visioning allows us to access our subconscious to connect with what is most important to us and how we can move forward.
One way to write your vision statement is to close your eyes, and imagine what your ideal day looks like in the future. Use my visualization recording to guide you through this experience to see your future day. Choose a time in the future (between 1 year to 20 years), and do my 30-minute future visualization to see what comes up for you.
In my visualization, I will invite you to experience a day in your ideal future from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed. Visualization is best if you carve out time where you will not be interrupted in a quiet, peaceful, comfortable space. Some ways to prepare is to meditate, take a bath, and place a journal and pen next to you for journaling after. Get in a comfortable position and enjoy the visualization. Note the details, the colors, the people, the work you’re doing, and most importantly, the feelings you experience as you imagine this.
From here, journal on the questions I’ve provided with the download. Is there anything from your visualization you’d like to add to your conscious list of goals? Add, remove, or edit anything you need.
4. Design Action-Focused Pathways To Achieve your Goals
Now that you’ve put together a list of conscious goals and also tapped into your subconscious to connect with the feelings you want to experience in your future, it’s time to design pathways.
Designing pathways is simple. First, choose a goal. Then, do the following:
Describe where you are now with this goal. Be as detailed as you can be regarding the actual goal, emotional experience, and challenges. (Point A)
Describe what will it be like once you’ve accomplished your goal (Point B)
Brainstorm actions, ideas, or steps that will take you from where you are to where you want to be. (Point A to Point B)
List out potential barriers or limitations you may face and ways you can overcome or transform them.
Take it a step further by turning it now into a SMART Goal and find an accountability partner to check in with. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound)
Career and life planning can be simple and creative. These four steps show that you don’t need to adhere to rigid career plans in order to feel focused and clear. Career planning can be fun, inspiring, and allow for evolution. Are you struggling in making a career plan?
I recommend doing a foundational goal-setting session with a coach that can provide unbiased perspective, confidentiality, creativity, and complete focus on you as an individual contributor. Doing this with a thought partner can help you dig deeper, make clear actions towards your top goals, and create a system of accountability to support you make consistent progress. Learn more