Creating a 5 Year Plan – Part 3A (Health)

If you’ve been following along as I attempt to build a comprehensive 5 year plan, you’ll know that I started piecing together the plan by writing out my overall life goals, with a plan to then break each goal down into sub-goals and smaller sub-goals. Are those called sub-sub-goals? Tasks? Mini-goals? I don’t know. Give me a break, I’m still figuring this stuff out.

Anyway, my first stab at this was all about debt, and getting out of it. You’ll be happy to know that since I last posted, I’ve generally been pretty good about staying on target – I’ve cut back on social spending, stopped buying so much food, and I’m set up to start making more money in the near future. All of these are good things, and actually affect some of my other major life goals, like going on pilgrimage, seeing the world, and eventually having the freedom to do more writing, sing in a band, and who knows, perhaps even have my own home. We’ll see. It’s going to be a slow and steady process – at least 5 years, lol. (See what I did there?)

I’ve been holding off on writing this post for a couple of weeks now, mostly because I had some kind of harebrained idea that if I just took a little more time to think about it, I’d magically come up with all of my health-related subgoals and how to achieve them. Since the point of constructing a 5 year plan is to help you effectively sketch out your goals and start mapping out how to achieve them, procrastination didn’t get me anywhere but two weeks late on posting. That being the case, I’m just going to start throwing out ideas, and possibly have more than two blog posts related to the goal of health. It’s not like there are solid rules here, so let’s get going!

One of the things that’s had me stumped is that there are a few different things going on in my head when I think about my health. Health can be physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, so beauty and femininity and lifestyle issues all kind of fall into the “health” category for me. It’s a LOT to digest. Here are some of the things I’ve been considering, in no particular order. Many of them overlap, so bear with me, here:

  • Legitimate health concerns, based on family history (Hypothyroidism, Anxiety, Obesity, Macular Degeneration, Cancer, and High Blood Pressure, for instance)
  • Legitimate health concerns, based on current physical/mental symptoms (Hypothyroidism, Anxiety, Obesity, Back Pain, Eating Issues, Concentration Issues)
  • Other health concerns, not based on family history or personal history, but rather just general fear (Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Type II Diabetes, Cancer, Fertility Issues, Autism (potential future children))
  • Beauty / Perception of Femininity, which includes elective procedures based solely on vanity (braces, Lasik surgery, laser hair removal) plus other pretty regular stuff, like hair styling, mani/pedis, facials, waxing, makeup application, and of course, my weight.
  • Living a chemical-free lifestyle (household products and health & beauty products)
  • Being in great physical shape, then maintaining that to age gracefully
  • Obtaining a greater range of motion
  • Stress-relief
  • Mental wellbeing
  • Sleep issues that affect my daily routine (mostly not being able to wake up before 10, no matter how early I go to bed)
  • Reproductive health
  • Aging concerns (mostly vanity-related, but also related to mobility and weight)
  • Sexuality

That’s a lot of stuff to think about, and I’m having trouble finding a good way to break it all down into bite-sized chunks. Most of it seriously overlaps in multiple ways, as well. For instance, my sleep issues and procrastination are intertwined, and cause major stress on a daily basis. Both of those most likely affect my concentration, and definitely affect my eating issues. Those, in turn, affect my weight, which affects my mobility and perceived beauty, leading to more stress/mental issues/aging concerns, PLUS negatively impacting my health and leading to Diabetes, heart issues, impaired thyroid function (which is a two-way street, since it’s possibly the reason I’ve got the sleep issues and anxiety to begin with)…and so on.

It’s way too much to nail down in one blog post, but since I’ve been holding back on finishing this one up for so long, I’m just gonna go ahead and post it, then move forward with maybe revising the way I’m thinking about all of the different layers of health. Maybe I should think head to toe, inside out, and ignore diseases while looking to repair the core issues first. Whatever that means. Have patience with me, folks! And in the mean time, let me know if you’re working on your own 5 year plan for health and wellbeing, and how you’ve tackled it. I’d LOVE to know what other people are doing in this realm.


Creating a Five Year Plan – Part 2A (Debt)

Since I spent the greater part of the day obsessing about my current state of debt, I decided that tonight’s foray into the confusing business of creating a five year plan would be to think about said debt and come up with some solid strategies to start eliminating it. Here’s what I said about debt in yesterday’s blog post…namely that it was time to: “Get my debt under control. It’s going to kill me. Literally – the stress will kill me if I don’t get it under control, and the #1 thing that’s on my mind 24/7 is student loan, credit card, and tax debt.”

So where do we start? I can identify a few different reasons that I’m currently experiencing so much stress re: my debt. While some things can never be changed (off the top of my head, I’d tell my young self to go to state school instead of a Southern ivy, avoid wasting money on pointless bouts of graduate school at all costs, and to never, ever get more than one credit card), there are definitely some goals that I can set right now and then try to work towards. These are (in no particular order):

  • Make more money.
  • Spend less money.
  • Make paying off debt my top priority.

See, that was easy, right? Totally. Kinda. Not really. But whatever, I have to try. So let’s break those major goals into smaller tidbits that start giving me at least the semblance of a debt-destroying road map, shall we?

Make more money.

  • Earn more money at my job. This could entail getting a new job that pays me more, getting a second job, asking my clients for more money, or any of the above. I happen to like the freedom of my freelancing schedule, and I’m counting on that freedom to give me the ability to take off for Santiago de Compostela one day in the next couple of years, so I’d like to keep the job I have. This means that I need to get a second job. However, since my primary job isn’t paying me what I’d like, to make it viable I also need to ask my clients for more money. 
  • Sell things that I own. I’m getting ready to go home and do this tonight, in fact. I’ve been a collector for much of my life. I’m constantly picking up knick knacks and trinkets and electronics that I really want at the time, but later just leave laying about the house. When I first moved into my own place a few months ago, I sold some of those things. Now it’s time to catalog and sell the rest. 

Spend less money.

  • Keep a budget document. I have a budget in an Excel file. It helps me keep track of my bills, but it’s not helping me keep track of how to cut costs.
  • Stop overspending on food. It’s my #1 expenditure each month. I spend WAY too much money on food, and that’s got to stop. As much as it pains me, I need to create a strict weekly budget for groceries and entertainment, and stick to it. $50 a week ($200 a month) should be about right for groceries, one movie a month, and a cocktail with friends every now and then. 
  • Switch to Simple. I’ve already signed up for a Simple account, and have the card, but I’ve yet to have enough money in the bank to switch my funds over to Simple full time. When I do, though, I’ll have a system through which to estimate savings goals and spending limits, and a card that will straight up tell me “No, you can’t spend any more money if you want to be out of debt any time this century.”
  • Pay bills first. From now on, bills have to be paid first, while I have the money. Being a freelancer means that you never know when you’re going to get paid next. Luckily, I work for a great company that pays me every two weeks, like a regular employee, almost. But since they’re freelancers, too, sometimes they’re not paid on time, which means that it’s inevitable that there will be times my paycheck will be late. Every time that happens, I’m going to be subject to late fees and overdraft fees for bills due during that pay period. To keep this from happening, I’ve got to pay my bills first, and worry about everything else later.
  • Cut back on expenses. I can quit Massage Envy, Netflix, and dance classes, plus cut back on data use on my phone. If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to get rid of my storage unit soon, too. All of that would save me about $150 a month, maybe a little more. I still want to join the gym eventually, but we’ll figure that out when I get there.

Make paying off debt my top priority.

  • Pay more than the minimum fee. The longer I pay the bare minimum for credit cards, the longer I’ll be paying them – and the more money I’ll eventually have wasted on them.
  • Don’t use credit cards unless it’s an absolute emergency. Lately, I’ve fallen back into using my credit cards when there’s a gap between pay periods. This can’t happen anymore. If I’m not going to be able to eat, I’ve just got to suck it up and deal with it. The credit card is not a solution. Making more REAL money is. I can keep a credit card around for dire emergencies, like the loss of a limb or something, but really craving a cheeseburger does not an emergency constitute.
  • Make a plan (with dates) for paying everything off.
  • Put all of second income into savings account for debt. If I’m honest about what it takes to scrape by, my primary job will allow me to pay the minimums of all of my bills, eat a simple diet, and go to the movies or out to a friends’ house now and then. If I could double my current income, I’m pretty sure that I could pay off all of my tax debt from last year and put away at least a little bit of money to pay this year’s taxes. It won’t be everything I need to cut my debt by the end of the year – not even close – but it will be considerably closer than where I am now.
  • Cut back on life. There has to be a balance. I need to look good to get ahead in my career, but I need to stick within a budget. Maybe $100 a month could go to my upkeep. That would let me get my hair cut every three months, buy most of an outfit every three months, and get my nails done every three months. OK, I need to budget more than that. But we’ll just have to work on that in the budget document, shall we?

That’s as much patience as I have for this right now. Tomorrow I’ll start making micro goals for each of these. Right now I’m going home to sort through my things and see what I can get rid of. Maybe I’ll have a yard sale this weekend…

Click here for the second part of my post on creating a plan to get out of debt.

Creating a 5 Year Plan – Part 1


In five years, I’ll be nearing 38. Not old, by any means, but old enough to have accomplished a few things. From where I’m sitting, it doesn’t seem like I’m going to be that close to achieving any of my dreams at the rate I’m going. That being the case, I’ve decided to draft my 5 Year Plan. After reading multiple articles on the subject, it looks like the first thing I need to do is define my overall life goals, then start breaking them down. So today we’re going to start at the very beginning and sort out the overall life goals, then move on from there bit by bit. You with me?

First, here’s a list of things I think 85-year old me will be sad if I didn’t do:

  • See the world. I’ve seen a bit, but it’s far too early in my life to stop traveling. In fact, if I were able to figure out how, I’d be going on trips around the world until I’m old and decrepit…and hopefully then, too.
  • Go on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. This is technically part of “See the world,” but it’s deeper and more personal than just taking a vacation or learning about local architecture, so it gets its own bullet point.
  • Work in event coordination. I love to organize things and people, and I really “get” event logistics. Looking back over the last few years, the times I’ve been happiest are all centered around setting up events and making sure they run smoothly. To even get started in thinking about this kind of career move, I’d need to take care of the next bullet point…
  • Get my debt under control. It’s going to kill me. Literally – the stress will kill me if I don’t get it under control, and the #1 thing that’s on my mind 24/7 is student loan, credit card, and tax debt.
  • Stop feeling so dependent on everyone else. This one is hard to explain, but I guess what I’m really saying is that I want to be comfortable in my own skin, and not feel like I need everyone else’s approval to feel like I have a right to be here. It would be amazing to be the person that other people respected and looked to for advice and love, if only just sometimes. I always feel like I’m on the outskirts of the conversation, the edge of the in-crowd. I’d love to have the self-confidence to start feeling like I’m important, too.
  • Sing in a decent band. I have no illusions of grandeur on this point. I just want to sing with a group of musicians who like each other for the most part, and who can manage to have fun on stage together a couple of nights a week for any length of time longer than 6 months.
  • Be known as a writer. I know that I have several books in me, but I also know how difficult it is to get published AND noticed these days. I don’t want to win the Hugo or anything – I just want for people to know me for my writing. Right now I’d settle for a popular blog.
  • Make spiritual practice more central to my life. If life is about finding Truth, I should be seeking it out with more energy and consistency.
  • Build something solid and lasting with the right life partner.
  • Have children. This one is open to interpretation, I think. I’d really love to have children of my own, but I’m not opposed to adoption or fostering, given the proper resources. Also, if I never end up getting married, or if it becomes clear that children aren’t within my scope of physical or financial capabilities, maybe it just means moving closer to my friends’ children so I can be a spectacular aunt.
  • Be responsible for my carbon footprint / impact on my environment.
  • Stop putting so many chemicals in / on my body by choice. Obviously I can’t help everything that I’m exposed to, but I can do something.
  • Take care of my body, so that it’s in great condition for as long as possible. I deserve to be able to be physically active and pain free. It’s more than a right, though – it’s a requirement for a long life, full of adventure, where I can be present and active with my loved ones.
  • Learn to like food. Real food. Learn to eat vegetables and fruits and really like it, and to seek out fruits and vegetables for every meal. I’m already bored with this statement, but I’m pretty sure that it’s intrinsic to a bunch of the other goals on this list.
  • Have a house / condo / living space of my own. It doesn’t have to be extravagant. It just needs to be a place that I can live in when I’m old and unable to work any longer.
  • Have a reliable method of transportation that is not my own two feet. Although my own two feet are a perfectly great way to get around 90% of the time, and I hope to be using them for many years to come. But seriously, if I can’t afford to buy my own damn car at some point over the next 50 years, I’m going to be pissed.

That’s enough for now. Tomorrow I’ll work on narrowing in on the sub-goals for each (or maybe just a few) of these major life achievement-type goals. In the mean time, does anyone out there have any ideas or helpful hints for putting together a detailed 5 Year Plan? Tweet me at @compassandquill. I’d love to know how you created your own plan, and if there are any resources you’d suggest. Thanks!

Click here to read my next post about taking a personal stab at creating a 5 year plan.