How to set life goals with a napkin plan

The start of a new year is a great time to check on your life goals, and maybe set some new ones. Here’s how to do it on a napkin! …a napkin plan, if you will.

A duotoned dark purple and beige version of the Apple ABCD emoji, in front of a light blue zig zag shape across the bottom of the image

I’m the kind of person who gets a kick out of goal setting, and putting systems in place to achieve them. The ‘napkin plan’ approach to setting life goals is a quick n’ dirty exercise you can do in half an hour or less — like on a date night, with your Sunday morning coffee, at the start of a new year, or on a milestone birthday!

Here’s a quick video (7min) explaining how you do it:

And this is the kind of thing you end up with:

Photo of a 5 year napkin plan divided into four quadrants showing the 5 year, 1 year, 6 month and 1 month goals
My January 2023 napkin plan

The steps to create one for yourself are:

  1. Draw lines on a napkin (or piece of paper!) to divide it into four sections
  2. Choose whatever timeframe you want to look at to apply a timeframe for each section (e.g. 1 month, 6 months, 1 year, 5 years, OR 1 week, 1 month, 6 months, 1 year)
  3. Start at the far end (e.g. 5 years section) and set some lofty high-level goals; these can be whatever, but I aim for 1-2 goals per category: health, relationship, personal, career.
  4. For each of those goals, figure out what would be the steps in each timeframe

Example:

  • 5 year goal: buy a house!
  • 1 year goal: have a deposit saved and finance approved
  • 6 month goal: have your ‘hit zone’ selected (what location meetings your budget, and is in a place you want to live?) and wishlist confirmed (what does this house need to have?)
  • 1 month goal: setup a savings plan, sign up to real estate emails and apps, and start attending inspections.

It’s not really about needing to stick to the same goals forever but more to prompt yourself to examine and articulate what it is what you want out of life. Deep, huh.

You know I love a template so here’s one you can use — either make a copy of the Google Slide, or download the PDF 😘

Four quadrants saying 1 month, 6 months, 1 year and 5 years
The Napkin Plan template

We have some other free templates if you’re interested, check ’em out.