Strategic planning for your future

5 March 2018

Jessica Abramovic

Jessica is the Communications and Events Coordinator at YWCA Canberra.

On Tuesday 27 February, we hosted 25 women for our first She Leads workshop for the year, on Setting and Meeting goals, facilitated by the founder of The Makers Co, the owner of Danvers Creative, and graphic design lecturer at University of Canberra, Mikaela Danvers.

The workshop assisted us to define our future goals and aspirations, through a series of visualisation, mapping, and writing exercises. These goals were then broken into segments that covered yearly milestones, quarterly markers, monthly indicators, weekly targets, and daily tasks. The overall effect was that we left feeling not only confident in the future direction we wanted to take, but could visually plan our daily tasks to achieve our long-term goals, thus making our five, ten, or 15-year plans ‘S.M.A.R.T’.

S.M.A.R.T goals, as we learnt, is a form of goal setting that brings structure and accountability into your life, clarifies timelines, and enables you to organise your tasks by importance and value. A S.M.A.R.T goal is: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. By considering these five elements when goal setting, you are required to analyse your goal in terms of yourself, others, and your reality, which makes the goal far more achievable.

Mikaela asked us to begin the evening by visualising our future. This included things like imagining yourself in the future five years from now; everything has gone right and it is a perfect day, you have your dream job, your dream family, and your dream income.

We were asked to imagine our workspace, its location – (is it a home office? Within walking distance? Perhaps a large corner office in Manhattan?), the layout of our office, the furniture within it, and the sounds and smells that made up our office. This visualisation exercise also asked us to imagine the steps we took to achieve our current job, and imagine what skills and experiences we had gained that led us to that position.

After we had visualised our future, we wrote down every detail that we could remember. We then shared our futures with the group, with some outcomes that surprised us. For example, one woman realised that in her future, she owned a creative business, which was never something she had imagined for herself before. Another woman realised that she wanted to own her own creative business part-time, while working as an interior designer.

This visualisation practice led us to our first mapping exercise, which was to divide our life into four segments: family, health, work, and wealth. The purpose of the quadrant was to map out how these sections of our life would realistically look in five years. For example, if we had children, they would be five years older and this in turn will affect our future childcare responsibilities. We may have achieved one or two promotions, which would affect our work and wealth, and we may have health and exercise goals today that could be realised and expanded on in five years’ time.

By being able to clearly visualise the reality of our future from this mapping exercise, and our future aspirations from the visualisation exercise, we could then move on to creating our timeline. The timeline is also broken into four sections: what I know now, what I’m currently learning, what I need to know, and where I’m going.

This timeline exercise involved working both forward and back. To start, we wrote where we currently are and where we are going. We then filled in the middle two sections based on the skills and experience we would need to get from A (where we are now) to B (where we want to be).

One woman in the class shared her timeline, which started as a registered nurse and ended as a nurse practitioner of mental health. Her timeline was straightforward, as she had a clear path forward that included further education and practical experience.

For others however, their timelines were more complex. For example, the woman who realised she wanted to own a creative business needed to create a timeline that involved moving away from her current job, acquiring a whole new skill set (including management, marketing, and budgeting), obtaining capital and potentially staff, and learning her new creative trade. As this included acquiring so many new skills, she extended her time line from five years to seven years.

Once our timeline was defined, setting our yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily tasks became much easier. For example, if we required further education, we could easily plan this into our year and work out how many hours of study would be required each week, and if we needed to market our business we could break this down into small manageable daily tasks, such as increasing newsletter subscribers by creating Facebook paid ads.

Mikaela’s final tip for us was to set yearly intentions, write that intention down, and place it somewhere that we would see every day. Mikaela shared her own intention, which was ‘make’. She had turned the word ‘make’ into her phone background, ensuring every time she looked at her phone she would be reminded to make something instead of spending her time on social media. We learnt that by setting yearly intentions, we can actualise our yearly goal and constantly be working towards it.

We all left the workshop with new ways to plan our futures, and felt invigorated to begin our new challenges.

You can learn more about goal setting and the facilitator, Mikaela Danvers, by reading our interview with her and vising the The Makers Co and Danvers Creative.

To view upcoming workshops, see the She Leads Workshops page, and ignite your leadership journey. Also be sure follow She Leads on Facebook and Twitter for more on women’s leadership, and subscribe to our monthly She Leads Newsletter.

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