Long-term planning

Max Miller
Max Miller
14 February 2024
6 min

Depending on the urgency, planning can be short-term, medium-term and long-term. In this article we will characterize long-term planning and analyze its peculiarities in detail.

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What is long-term planning

Long-term planning involves setting ambitious goals and developing a plan of action over a significant period of time. The planning horizon usually ranges from one to several years. Long-term planning involves a systematic approach to organizing one’s time, resources and efforts to achieve certain results in the future.

When it makes sense to make long-term plans:

  1. Career Development. Long-term career planning includes steps for advancement, learning new skills, participating in projects, and preparing for possible shifts in job or field.
  2. Financial Sustainability. Create a long-term financial plan that includes retirement, investments, saving for large purchases (real estate, car) and family financial security.
  3. Health and well-being. Planning a healthy lifestyle that includes regular medical check-ups, exercise, proper nutrition and self-care to ensure physical and psychological well-being.
  4. Personal development. Developing skills, hobbies or pastimes, learning new languages, traveling, cultural enrichment, can all be incorporated into a long-term personal growth plan.
  5. Business and Entrepreneurship. Develop the company’s strategy for several years ahead, including plans for market expansion, introduction of new products or services, risk management and stability.

Long-term planning helps to set clear goals, organize resources, define priorities and actions for the long term. It not only avoids impulsive decision-making, but also ensures systematic movement towards desired results.

What is long-term planning

When long-term planning is irrelevant

Long-term planning is not a one-size-fits-all solution for all situations. To decide whether this method is appropriate in your situation or not you first need to determine the context, circumstances, and your preferences and lifestyle. While forecasting is a powerful tool for achieving global goals and success, there are a few instances where its use may not be appropriate;

  1. Situations of uncertainty. If the environment or circumstances are too unstable or unclear, it is worth abandoning ambitious plans. For example, in technology or innovation, where trends change rapidly, plans may become irrelevant before they are realized.
  2. When high flexibility is needed. In entrepreneurship, a business is required to be flexible and able to adapt quickly to change. In this case, sticking too rigidly to plans can become an obstacle to making decisions as new factors emerge.
  3. Short-term goals or objectives. For the sake of tasks and goals that can be promptly accomplished within a short period of time (e.g., a few days or a week), it is not worthwhile to make ambitious plans.
  4. Emergency situations. In emergency situations where immediate action is required without the possibility of prior planning, responding to current circumstances becomes a priority. Long-term planning in such cases can be postponed in the name of speed and solving current problems.
  5. Individual preferences and work style. Some people find it difficult to adhere to the strict framework of large-scale planning because of their personal needs, thinking style, or comfort level. Instead, they prefer more flexible methods of time and task management.
board planning

Why a wish list isn’t enough

A wish list, wish list or dream list is a great start to transforming your life. A wish list encourages you to develop and move forward, but does not provide concrete steps to achieve results. However, realizing cherished desires and achieving long-term goals requires a more systematic and structured approach. Here’s why:

Lack of specificity. Often a wish list contains general items that are not elaborated into specific goals. It may include things like “become successful” or “travel a lot,” but without defining what exactly is meant by “success” or what places one wants to visit. Without specifics, goals can remain unrealizable.

Lack of an action plan. Simply listing desires does not include the steps or actions needed to achieve them. Planning and identifying specific steps are key to achieving goals.

Uncertainty and lack of motivation. Without clarity and awareness of why these goals are important, realizing them can be difficult. The more specific and meaningful the goal is to us, the stronger our motivation will be to follow a plan to achieve it.

Lack of prioritization. When your wish list is not structured or prioritized, it can lead to scattered effort and wasted time on less important things.

Lack of evaluation and correction of the plan. A simple wish list does not cover mechanisms for evaluating progress and correcting the plan when necessary. Regular review and correction are important steps in achieving long-term goals.

How to set goals wisely

The SMART method is a system of criteria that helps to formulate goals correctly. Each letter in the SMART abbreviation represents a certain aspect that the goal should fulfill:

  1. Specific – Certainty.
  2. Measurable – Measurable.
  3. Achievable – Achievable.
  4. Relevant – Relevance.
  5. Time-bound.

The SMART method helps to translate abstract desires into concrete and realizable goals, which are the basis for successful planning. The method structures the process of setting goals, makes them more conscious, measurable and controllable, which contributes to their more successful realization. This method is widely used in planning both personal and corporate goals due to its effectiveness and ease of application.

Steps in creating a long-term plan

Creating a long-term plan requires a systematic approach and strategic thinking. Let’s look at the key stages in creating a long-term plan.

1. Goal setting

Define your goals. Prioritize your goals with a 5, 10, or 20 year perspective. Break your goals into categories such as career, personal development, finances, health, relationships, and other aspects of life. 

2. Drawing up a plan

Develop an action plan. Break down the goals into specific steps to accomplish each one. Prioritize and start with the goals that matter most. Set deadlines for each sub-goal so you have a clear timeline for completion.

3. Evaluation and adjustment

Evaluate and adjust the plan regularly. Celebrate all achievements towards your long-term goals to keep you motivated. Review your goals regularly and track your progress. Modify the plan as needed based on changes in circumstances or your experience.

4. Continuous development

Continually develop and utilize experience. Incorporate learning and development of new skills into your plan to become more effective in achieving your goals. Use your past experience when setting new goals, taking into account previous successes and failures.

Making a long-term plan is a dynamic process that requires flexibility and a willingness to change. Don’t be afraid to review and adjust the plan to fit your current circumstances and growth.

Planning tools

There are many tools available to help you track your progress and reach your long-term goals. Here are some of them:

Eisenhower matrix

This method categorizes tasks into four categories of importance and urgency. Tasks are divided into:

  • Important and urgent: Requires immediate attention.
  • Important but not urgent: Scheduled for a specific time.
  • Important but unimportant: May be delegated.
  • Unimportant and non-urgent: Often distract from the main tasks. It helps to determine what to focus on first.

Pomodoro method

This is a time management technique that involves dividing work time into 25-minute intervals (tomatoes) followed by a five-minute break. After every four tomatoes, a longer break (usually 15-30 minutes) is taken. This method helps to maintain a high level of concentration and efficiency during the working day.

Planning applications

Electronic task management and scheduling tools offer a wide range of features that make it easy to organize to-do items and track progress. Such applications allow you to plan, create task lists, group tasks into projects or categories, set due dates, prioritize tasks, add additional details to tasks, and even share lists with other users for collaboration. Some task managers even allow you to create recurring tasks, rank cards by completion status, and split tasks into subtasks.

Planners and Diaries

Planners are usually calendars with preset sections for each day, week or month. They allow you to keep a record of plans for specific dates, set priorities, and mark important events and to-dos. Diaries, on the other hand, usually have more space for free writing, allow you to express more detailed thoughts and ideas for each day.

Planners and Diaries

Long-term planning is a powerful tool for achieving goals, although it is not universal. It is effective in stable environments where goals and circumstances are relatively predictable. However, in unstable or uncertain situations where flexibility and adaptability are required, long-term planning will not be effective.

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