Do you have one? It is okay if you don’t yet. Making a plan can feel like a daunting task, but the benefits can be endless. Have you thought about what you want your life to look like in 5 years? Let’s dive into how to start creating a 5-year plan for your paralegal career and personal life.
Prefer to Listen Instead of Read?
I was doing my “annual clean out the desk drawers and piles of paper” the other day – in other words, I was procrastinating and coming up with another excuse I could use so that I did not have to start a big project.
You know that excuse! It’s the one where we tell ourselves we’ll be much more productive once we get all this other stuff done first.
It sounded like a good idea, though, because it’s a new year, and you want to start with a clean, organized office, right?!
Well, I came across this planner that I had purchased back in 2017 when I’d just moved from Atlanta to Florida. This was actually more than just a planner. It had a section for writing out your goals and a vision for the company. Plus, it had a section for a 5-year plan, a 1-year plan, and then quarterly planning that was going to get you to that 1-year plan.
I haven’t used that planner in a few years. I think at some point, I just decided that I was too busy to write all that stuff out, and I just needed to get the work done. You know what they say: less time planning and more time working.
I actually forgot that I had it and flipped to the 5-year plan section at the back of the planner, and I am literally shocked at what was on the paper. I remember back in 2017 when I bought this planner, it was after listening to some podcast episodes about goal-setting, visualizing, etc.
Making A Plan Works
Keep in mind that I haven’t used this planner or even looked at it for at least a few years. I’m looking at it now, and the 5-year plan I wrote is EXACTLY what my life looks like today! I am not kidding or exaggerating at all. I’m talking right down to the details of the house we bought last year.
Do you know what else was in there? That I was going to have a podcast show! At the time, I’d just started listening to podcasts and could see how that could be a huge value to paralegals if they had a podcast that gave them strategies and tips. I had no idea how to start a podcast show or what it would take to put out a show every week. But it was there, clear as day on that 5-year plan. I started my podcast show in the fall of 2021, so I got there a year early.
Do you know what came in the summer of 2022, right at the 5-year mark? The house we bought – it was in the middle of the worst time ever to buy a house – but we did it, and it is EXACTLY as I described it. Let me share one of those details with you. This one freaked me out a little. In my 5-year plan, the new house would have a bigger yard and space for me to garden (not a vegetable garden, just plants). A space to take care of my orchids, hoyas, monsters, and other plants and flowers.
When we bought this house, it had this ugly outdoor bar area that was essentially a 3-sided kind of covered shed. The previous owner had his beer decals and other things on it. I suggested we tear it down because neither one of us is going to sit out in the Florida sun to have a drink in something like then when we have a great covered patio that’s screened in.
My husband suggested that I turn the ugly outdoor bar area into a garden shed (a SHE SHED!) for me to hang my orchids and store my garden tools and things. So I painted it, drew some flower stencils, and loaded it up with hanging plants and flowers. I’m looking outside my office window at it right now as I’m looking at this 5-year plan that I wrote in 2017. It’s crazy!
It wasn’t just the space to garden; there are so many things on this 5-year plan that ALL happened.
Where I wanted my business to be in 5 years.
Who I would be spending my time with.
The people I would hire.
ALL of it!
But here’s the thing. It’s not that I wrote all that out and did some magical voodoo chant in the mirror every morning. I followed the advice I heard, which was: Write it out in detail and then live as if you’re already there. Have the mindset that it’s not just possible – it is happening; it is already in the works.
That got me thinking.
What if you could do that for your paralegal career and personal life?
How To Get Started On Your 5-Year Plan
Now, before you jump to another webpage because you think this about all that manifesting and visualization stuff – hold up – that is not what I’m talking about. And that is nothing against people who do manifest and visualize. If it works for you, then keep doing it. I’ve never really tried it because, as I said, it’s been a few years since I’ve even looked at that planner.
Here’s what I did and you can decide if it’s something you want to do.
Write out what you want your life to look like in 5 years in as much detail as possible.
- Create a section for each major area of your life: career, family, friends, home, health, and spiritual.
- For the health section, what does your health look like? Maybe you write something like, “I’m healthier now than ever.” Instead, get more specific. Do you see yourself 20 pounds lighter and running your first marathon? Remember, this is where you expect to be in 5 years. Have you added a daily meditation practice? Or you’re finally getting to that Saturday Sunrise Yoga that you’ve been talking about doing for a while?
- For your career section, how much money are you making at work by then? Where are you working? What kind of work are you doing? Be as specific as you can.
- For your family section, are you married in 5 years? Or are you on a fabulous trip celebrating your 20th wedding anniversary? Are you enjoying your new solo life with just you and your Golden Retriever (been there!)?
- For the section on friends – have you made new ones? Maybe made more time for the old friends in your life? Are you celebrating important milestones with them? Maybe going on a long weekend trip to reconnect with them?
- For the home section – where are you living? What does your house look like? What does it feel like? Does it have a pool that you and the kids enjoy on the weekends? Write it all down!
Try to stretch things as you’re writing it all down. In other words, these are things that you would look at in 5 years and say, “Wow! This is my life!” I’m not saying you should have a 5-year plan that you’re going to hit the lotto and be an overnight billionaire. But I do want you to think big about some of these things.
What Does a 5-Year Plan Look Like?
Here’s an example. If you’re just starting your paralegal career this year, and you’re writing that 5-year plan, don’t write down there that you’re going to get 3% raises for the next five years and be at X salary.
Instead, what if your 5-year plan was to double your income? Whether that’s through raises, bonuses, finding a new job that gives you a huge bump, or maybe it’s doubled because, on the side, you’ve started that cooking website.
There are many reasons why something like a 5-year plan could benefit the personal side of things, but this is a paralegal career blog, so I’ll focus on that aspect.
If you write something like:
In 5 years, I am:
A rockstar paralegal known in the firm as the go-to person for eDiscovery projects. AND
My attorney respects and values me. AND
I’ve doubled my income. AND
I have a bigger office or a window office, or I work from home most of the time.
Whatever it is. Write it down.
Then, have the mindset and the behaviors that you’re there.
Read: It’s About More Than Just Skills
Taking the Next Steps
What do you need to achieve your 5-year plan?
You’re going to go get the skills you need to feel confident in what you do. You’re not going to sit in your office and complain on social media that no one is taking the time to train you. If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you know what I say: This is your career! Do not leave the success or failure of it in anyone else’s hands. Listen to the podcast episode “Forget About Job Security, Let’s Talk About Career Security.”
It also means that you have a positive outlook on where your career is going. Where you are now is only temporary. It’s always temporary. No matter where you are right now…you are on your way to greatness. Write it down – what that greatness looks like to you, and then live it and breathe it.
Actively do things that will get you there. And then look back at that planner five years from now and send me an email or a direct message on LinkedIn! I want to hear from you! Until then, I’ll be here for you being your biggest cheerleader and giving you the tough stuff when I have to because I think we all need that every once in a while if we want to get there.
Go write a detailed vision of what your life will be like in 5 years, and then start living as if it’s already here. You’ll be amazed at how much of that plan will come to fruition.
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Meet the Author
Ann Pearson is the Founder of the Paralegal Boot Camp, and host of the Paralegals on Fire! Podcast Show, and passionate about promoting the paralegal profession.
Ann spent 20 years working as a paralegal manager and a litigation paralegal before opening the Paralegal Boot Camp in 2010. Her training programs focus on adding immediate value to a paralegal’s career and bridging the gap between what a paralegal learns in school and what they actually do on the job.
When Ann is not working, you can usually find her somewhere near the ocean, either boating, scuba diving, or rescuing sea turtles.