As someone who is frequently guilty of making plans, following them really well for around two to four days, and then falling off because of mental exhaustion, I understand the need for pacing when it comes to successfully following a long term plan. One of the great things about a Five Year Plan (FYP) is how much flexibility it allows. None of us are capable of go-go-go 24/7/365. A FYP allows you to be kind to yourself when you need it.
My current FYP moves towards a published novel in five years, but I have many other objectives in the meantime. This means I have a hard goal of publishing my novel by the end of 2021, which seems very far away at the moment. However, since the novel is only the end goal, I have other writing goals I’m working on in the meantime. One of those is this blog, with a stated intention of at least a post a week. If I miss a week, for whatever reason, it isn’t a big deal. It’s a Five Year Plan. If I miss one week because of being sick, it doesn’t destroy my overall plan.
Keep this kindness and forgiveness in mind with all of your goals. It doesn’t matter if it’s a weekly or monthly goal, one time or repetitive; in the end everything is building towards your final goal. If, for whatever reason, you miss a soft deadline (any deadline you set and self-enforce is soft; any deadline you cannot control is hard), don’t worry about it! This is a marathon not a sprint. Be flexible. Take a week off every now and then; don’t feel bad about it.
For myself, I’m currently building up to a full-swing weekly schedule with sustainability being my key focus. In a few years I see myself spending anywhere from 10-30 hours a week on my FYP. Right now a time investment that big would be overwhelming, unsustainable, and disheartening. Spending even 10 hours a week working on it would be counter-productive. Later I will need that time for maintenance, but right now it would be counterproductive. I could throw myself into early projects for that much time, but without any noticeable rewards I would burn out long before completing anything.
Back to deadlines for a moment. Specifically, hard versus soft deadlines. Hard deadlines include application deadlines, appointments, and other external timelines. These cannot be missed lightly. Use extensions if you can, but try to make all hard deadlines. If you miss one, keep moving forward, but allow for the missed cycle to be added on to the end of your FYP. Soft deadlines are entirely self-enforced. No one else will care whether it gets done or not. Most FYPs are predominately soft deadlines with a few hard ones.
My current FYP is all soft deadlines, allowing me a lot of flexibility. Focus on sustainability, consistency, and forward motion. This isn’t a race to the finish line; it’s a marathon of self-improvement. You’ve totally got this!