Published on December 2, 2021

How to Plan Your Life with the 1-3-5 Rule

How to Plan Your Life with the 1-3-5 Rule

Planning is key to success. Still, many people feel that committing to a plan can either constrain them or defeat them if they are not successful. But here’s the thing—when you create a plan, you are more likely to make progress because you are providing clarity to your vision and personally committing to trying. This is true even if you don’t meet all your goals because a little progress is far better than no progress at all.

There are many ways to make progress with a plan. You may have a long to-do list or work with an accountability partner to achieve bigger goals. If you are employed, you’re probably creating a plan for your work goals, reflecting on them, and evaluating them regularly. So, planning really isn’t a foreign concept. The trick is finding one that works for you.

Enter the 1-3-5-year plan template built on the 1-3-5 Rule. This plan is a gentle way to build you up to success without bringing you down when you don’t hit your daily target. Imagine working with a tool that gives a clear direction to your personal and professional life and moves the needle on progress every day. When used regularly, it will help you reinforce the productive habit of planning, which, as you know, heightens your chance for success.

To help you develop your personal 1-3-5-year plan template and get you motivated to put it into practice, here are a few things you should know:

1. A 1-3-5-Year Plan Is Built on the 1-3-5 Rule

The 1-3-5 rule is designed around the reality that you don’t often hit all your daily goals but most likely will get at least one thing done. To help you achieve that objective, you set up your to-do list with one big thing that you plan to do. Next, you add three medium things and five small things.


The “big,” “medium” and “small” monikers imply both the size and the impact. These are three things that are weighty and important but not urgent or critical. The five that follow would be nice to complete but if you don’t, no sweat. When you create your 1-3-5 plan, list these out in crescendos of size so that one big thing is the first thing on your list as it is your biggest priority.

2. The 1-3-5 Rule Takes Stress Out of Planning

With its simplicity, you can see how easy this is to create and act on. One thing each day is something everyone can achieve. But the three and five other items encourage you to push yourself a little bit further, and the win comes in the one big thing. You make that happen and guess what? In a year, you’ve accomplished 365 things you may not have done so without this stress-free plan.

3. Your 1-3-5-Year Plan Starts Today

Planning for your year or even your life may seem a little daunting. But planning for a day? Easy peasy. That’s why today is a perfect day to start your 1-3-5- year-plan templates with a daily action plan. Before you progress to a week, a month, year, and onto three and five years out, start with each day.

So, start today or, at the very latest, tomorrow. This allows you to experiment with the 1-3-5-year plan template so that you can build up your confidence. The more you get into the habit, the easier it will be to go big.

4. A Goal Dump Will Get You Started

Don’t worry about all the things that you want to achieve and the goals you want out of life right now. There is plenty of time to accomplish them all. But what will help free your mind and get you enthused about planning is a goal dump. A goal dump helps you create your daily list and your 1-3-5-year plan template. A goal dump is just that—dumping all the goals you have swimming around in your mind onto paper.


Simply pull out your journal or a notepad or even a file on your computer, and create at least two columns entitled “Tasks” and “Goals.” Then, dump all those goals, tasks, dreams, and to-do’s that are swirling around and weighing down your brain. Now, you have a lot of wonderful objectives to pull from for your 1-3-5-year template and your daily 1-3-5 list. That makes planning even easier now that you have done some brainstorming, and you won’t forget what you are dreaming about achieving as you journey through life.

5. There Are Good Feelings Associated With Planning

Now, before you balk at the idea of planning and it being too restrictive and regimental, there’s a lot of good benefits associated with planning. The process of working through a plan, even your daily to-do list, gives you an emotional high. That little release of dopamine that comes from crossing off a completed item brings a hit of emotional satisfaction and accomplishment that can carry you through to the next task at hand.[1]

6. Written Goals Increase Your Odds for Success

I’ve known for years the power of writing down goals. In my personal life, as well as when I work with clients, I’ve experienced first and secondhand how putting pen to paper increases the odds of achieving what you set out to accomplish. It’s proven that when you write something down, you are more likely to commit to following through.[2]

Master motivators and success icons continuously tout the power of written goals in relation to success. Mark Murphy, the founder of Leadership IQ, a research-based leadership and employee engagement company, shares that “people who very vividly describe or picture their goals are anywhere from 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to successfully accomplish them.” He explains how various biological and neurological activities take place when one writes down a goal, elevating one’s success rate. With science supporting your success, you can’t fail.

7. Journaling Helps You Make Progress

People on nutritional plans, fitness regimes, and athletes with competitive goals achieve greater success when writing down goals and journaling on their progress. Health, medical, and performance experts such as sports psychologists encourage their clients to use journals to explore what’s working and what isn’t.


Through tracking and earmarking wins and obstacles, self-awareness is heightened, confidence soars, and breakthroughs happen and as mentioned above, positive habits are honed. So, journaling on your progress can help you stay on course for your personal and professional success.

8. The 1-3-5-Rule Transitions Smoothly Into a 1-3-5 Year Plan Template

Now that you’ve got the simplicity of the 1-3-5-rule mastered, you can build on a weekly, monthly, and even yearly plan. Pull out your goal dump and highlight some of the most important items that you’d like to achieve.

Now, build your 1-3-5-year plan template. You can do these two ways. First, you can take what you’ve done with your 1-3-5-rule that you apply each day and turn it into one of the years. Think about one big thing that you’d like to achieve this year, along with three medium goals and five smaller goals. Now you’ve got a 1-3-5-year plan template that you can work through each year. That’s it!

If you’d like to go one step further, you can do the same activity on what you want to achieve in three and five years. It builds on top of the 1-3-5-rule by multiplying it out sequentially.

This Is the Best Time of the Year to Plan

Of course, the end of the year is a great time to start planning for the next. Many are turned off by the idea of resolutions because they are often abandoned by spring. But by focusing on one big thing that you want to achieve with the use of the 1-3-5-year plan template, your New Year’s resolution is bullet-proof. You’re not overcomplicating your plan with too many objectives that are destined to fail but rather a simple crescendo of goals that fit into your timeline.


If this article has you reflecting and wondering why you didn’t accomplish everything that you wanted to this past year, you now know why. Now is the perfect time to start your New Year’s off strong with your 1-3-5-year plan template.

Just remember, the beauty of the 1-3-5-rule lies in its simplicity. That makes both planning and results easier to achieve. The easy-to-follow plan attracts even those who are reticent about planning because one can’t really fail. And building on the internal emotional high that accompanies the reward of achieving one big goal, the odds for ongoing success increase exponentially. So, if you want to make this year stellar, draft your 1-3-5-year plan template and get started applying the 1-3-5-rule today.

More Tips on How to Make a Life Plan

Featured photo credit: Covene via


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Kim Monaghan

Career Happiness Coach, HR Consultant, Trainer & Speaker

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An Inspiring Interview with Steve White, President, Special Counsel to the CEO of Comcast

An Inspiring Interview with Steve White,  President, Special Counsel to the CEO of Comcast

Do you let circumstances define who you are, or do you take charge of your life no matter how challenging it is?

I have the pleasure to interview Steve White, president, special counsel to the CEO of Comcast Cable. He works with executives on a number of important initiatives, including leadership development, strategic planning, diversity, equality, and inclusion (DE&I) and digital equality. As President of Comcast’s West Devision, he has led nearly thirty thousand employees, served almost ten million customers, and driven annual revenue nearly $18 billion.

steve white

    Steve started working as a young boy, helping his single mother clean motel rooms. He knew his mom was more capable than what she was doing, and he wondered what she and his three brothers could do if they had means and opportunities.

    Those early years taught Steve that an unwavering work ethic and commitment attracts opportunities that lead to an impactful life. His mother was living proof. If not for her determination to raise her four boys, Steve might never have gone through some of the life-changing moments.


    Steve developed an uncompromising mindset since he was young and now still apply the same will to keep his purpose front and center. That purpose is to create a table of prosperity that everyone can participate and enjoy.

    Let’s dive right into our interview conversaion and learn about Steve’s inspiring story and winning philosophy:

    1. In a nutshell, what made you decide to transition professionally to writing, speaking and inspiring others?


    I was inspired by a quote that’s often attributed to Mark Twain. “The two most important days in your life are the day you’re born and the day you find out why.” Through hardship, I was able to answer the second question. The reason I was placed on this earth is to create a table of prosperity for others. Sharing my life lessons—the successes and failures—is in service of my why.


    2. Is there something about helping people achieve personal and professional success that helped you discover something about yourself?


    Yes. We all want to be needed and counted on. I was the oldest of four boys raised by a single mother and she counted on me a great deal to assist, help and, in some cases, lead. I enjoyed and respected the responsibility. In some ways, I enjoyed receiving the approval of a job well done.

    3. How do you currently measure success?



    I measure success in the following ways:

    • Family = laughter
    • Giving back = gratitude
    • Business = Are we improving every day? Are we focused on “the process” and not just the results? Did my employees’ W2s increase year over year?

    4. Have there been any surprises along the way? Perhaps something that didn’t quite work out as planned?


    I wanted to be a sportscaster. No regrets but you never say never.

    5. Tell us more about your Daily Wins newsletter?



    Life is hard. The way you succeed in life is to focus on the process versus the outcome. As a result, you have to take each day as it comes and focus on being successful today so tomorrow will take care of itself. The Daily Wins provides that ongoing focus on the process. If you win today, tomorrow will take care of itself.

    6. Are there any leaders who continue to motivate and inspire you? How do you keep learning?


    The two most important women in my life: My Wife and My Mother. My joyful nine-year-old son and all leaders who overcome adversity inspire me. I keep learning by surrounding myself with successful people and accountability coaches who push me through love, support, and tough questions.


    I hope you enjoy my interview with Steve and are inspired by Steve’s story!

    If you want to know more about Steve, check out his website and his book Uncompromising: How an Unwavering Commitment to Your Why Leads to an Impactful Life and a Lasting Legacy.

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