How to Start a Life-Changing Planning Routine In 10 Minutes Flat

You’ve heard that goal-setting and planning are kind of like eating an elephant: you gotta do it one bite at a time. But most of us were never taught how to hack up the elephant and slice it down to digestible bites. So we approach our longterm goals a little different:

We spot the elephant, lick our chops, maybe even grab a bib; then we kamikaze attack the 6-ton mound of flesh with nothing but a fork and attempt to gormandize it in one sitting!

But not even Takeru Kobayashi (the guy who gobbles 70 hotdogs in 10 minutes) can chow down like that. So we fail—and we fail hard. That’s how most of us adopt this wrong idea that we can’t goal-set.

Next time we see another appetizing elephant, we have a programmed response that says,

“Don’t bother yourself…you’ve already tried.”

Every non-planning person has this defeatist attitude when it comes to their most meaningful goals—even the financially successful non-planners. But no matter where you’re at in life, you can create the confidence and success you need if you learn how to start a planning practice based on weekly, monthly, and yearly goals.

This is actually a ton easier than you think. And because I instruct planning for a living, I’m going to teach it to you in ten minutes flat. So get a journal or blank sketchbook and let’s go!

Define your longterm goals, your “elephants”

Switching careers, starting your own business, getting six-pack fit, learning a new language—your elephant could be any number of things, but they’ll all be big. Big enough to scare you a little. (That’s how you know they’re worth chasing after!)

So what are they?

Longterm goals will generally fall into one of five categories:

  • Career
  • Health/Fitness
  • Fun/Self Love
  • Learning, and
  • Giving

Get a journal or sketchbook and it down for thirty minutes to get crystal clarity on your elephants, because these are the things you’ll be nibbling on every single day! The most important thing is that you pick very specific (not vague) longterm goals; otherwise you’ll lack concrete action steps to attain your goal, and you’d never know even if you did reach it.

Setting your sites on an elephant means that you have courage and that you’re striving for something bigger. Good for you. That’s the first step in goal setting—and also the one that eeeeevery one else does.

But the next step is even more important.

Set realistic monthly goals

The most important part of goal setting is seeing your progress. But if you dance around your elephant, picking away here, nibbling there, you could eat a metric ton and still not see any of your progress—which is how everyone comes to quit. That’s why you’ve got to cut off one leg first and focus only on that.

So pick out one aspect for each of your longterm goals that can realistically be accomplished in a month.

To do this, you’ll need to schedule a recurring appointment with yourself for one Sunday each month to sit down for 10-30 minutes, reflect on your longterm goals, and decide how you can break those down into realistic goals that can be accomplished in thirty days.

Let’s say you want to get six-pack fit.

You’re not likely to “get” chiseled in the span of thirty days no matter how hard you work. But you can drop a couple pounds of fat; and you can add a couple pounds of muscle. So a more realistic monthly goal would be to reduce your Body Mass Index by two points.

If you accomplish that in thirty days, you’ve eaten an entire leg. That takes care of your “health/fitness goal.” You’ll also want to create monthly goals for your career, for fun/self love, for learning, and for giving on your monthly planning page. Here’s what that page will look like:


The next leg of your six-pack goal might be dropping another two BMI points. But before we worry about the next one, we have to figure out the action steps that constitute our monthly goal—because “drop two BMI points” still isn’t actionable.

Make a weekly action plan

For each of your monthly goals, you have to decide which parts of those goals you can accomplish in a week’s time. So set another recurring reminder each Sunday to sit down for 10-20 minutes and create a weekly planning page, deciding which action steps from your monthly goals you can realistically complete in seven days.

For the first leg of your six-pack goal, that might include

• Doing bulletproof coffee every morning and fasting until lunch
• Doing sprints three times a week to ramp up your metabolism
• Doing daily core-strengthening exercises, like pullups, planks, squats, and burpees.
• Partnering with a workout buddy, if you need the accountability.
• And hiring someone who can help you drop weight on a ketogenic diet. (My clients lose bowling ball after bowling ball of fat on this stuff.)

You don’t have washboard abs yet. (Don’t worry, I still think you’re sexy 😉 But if you complete all these actions in a week, you’ll be steamrolling your way to dropping at least two BMI points—you’ll have momentum. You’ll also have more confidence than you would otherwise, because you know that you have a plan for incredible results next week too. Now success is becoming a repeatable thing.

When you craft your weekly action plan, you’ll want to break your page into the same categories as before:

career, health/fitness, fun/self love, learning, and giving goals

You’ll also want to include a section for “daily non-negotiables” in your weekly planner—the things you’ll do every day this week. Those are typically the most important steps, so you’ll want to have them in a separate category for them that stands out. This makes daily planning easier and more effective. Here’s the format for your weekly action plan:


Define your daily goals

You can have all the yearly, monthly, and weekly goals you want. But if you don’t have a daily planning practice–one that decides how many pieces of the elephant you’ll consume in twenty-four hours, and puts those succulent morsels right in front of you–you’ll always find yourself eating something other than your elephant. That’s how everyone winds up starving for purpose and accomplishment.

So, every morning, spend a minute or two defining your top 5-8 daily goals. (This is the most important part of the planning process!)

This is really easy thing to do once you’ve drafted a weekly action plan. Because then you’re not scratching your head about what you should really be doing…you’ve got all your action steps for every part of your life right there in front of you! All you have to do is transfer them from your weekly page to your daily page—which is the thing you’ll be referring to all throughout the day for direction. Just make sure to look at your weekly planning page while you sit down and plan out your day.

Here’s what your daily planning page should look like:


When you accomplish action steps from this daily planner, you know that those are connected to your weekly action steps, which are connected to your monthly plans, which are connected to your dreams for the entire year. So now you don’t have to worry about whether you’re doing enough or not! You don’t have to have anxiety or fear of missing out. You just have to check off your daily goals and enjoy the confidence and success you’ve planned hard for.

Enjoy your elephants!


Your accomplishments and success are products of monthly, weekly, and daily planning. And if you want to succeed in one area of life, you have to be a balanced person in general—otherwise you’ll burn out. That’s why during your monthly and weekly planning session, you need to create balanced goals for your

  • career
  • health and fitness
  • fun and self love
  • learning
  • and giving.

I call this holistic planning. And when you reflect on your weekly action plan every single morning, picking out a balanced selection of goals for that day, you will become a balanced and successful human being who is capable of persisting in his or her longterm goals despite any and all setbacks. That’s my promise to you as a reader, and my guarantee to you as a coaching client.

Hope you enjoyed the article!

If you’re serious about changing your life and becoming your most successful self, you’ve got to put this planning advice into action. So get a blank-paged, hard-backed sketchbook that’s in the 6×8 ballpark for size. This is what you’ll carry around with you every day and put your daily, weekly, and monthly goals on. Then do your yearly, monthly, and weekly planning session as soon as humanly possible. If you know you need the accountability and guidance, contact me for coaching.

Written by Daniel Dowling
As a former couch-surfing millennial turned solopreneur writer and coach, I write on massive personal development for sites including Entrepreneur, Fitbit and Fast Company, and I teach ambitious people how to become successful solopreneurs and balanced human beings here at Millennial Success. Thanks for spending your valuable time here with us!!