If you are feeling like you are stumbling about into the future, you should build a vision board.
A vision board is a specific (and ideally a visual) agreement you make with yourself of key milestones you will accomplish in the future. It can take many shapes, but I will share with you a specific plan I use and have found really helpful.
Pick a Place for Building Your Vision Board
The Vision Board works really well in a tabular format (rows and columns). I personally use a free online tool called Trello. They have a paid option too (called Trello Gold) but it’s not required. (Note: the aforementioned link is a referral link, which is no cost to you and it helps me out, I appreciate you signing up through it if you choose to use Trello!).
Alternatively, you can use a spreadsheet application like Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel, or even just a basic list in a journal.
You can also use a physical board like a whiteboard or poster-board. If you have the means though, I strongly recommend going digital because (A) you can review it every morning, no matter where you are, and (B) it’s going to grow not only towards the right but also in the middle. If you really want to go physical, then you should make everything as modular and movable as possible.
Create Columns for your Vision Board
Create a column for each of several, specific dates out in the future. These will be your deadlines.
I recommend starting with the following future dates relative to today:
- 1 month
- 2 months
- 3 months
- 6 months
- 12 months
You can even include 18 months or more; plan as far out as you would like.
Be specific with your deadlines! Instead of simply declaring “June 20xx” for example, you should declare June 30, 20xx.
I also find it easier to remember the deadlines if I always use the first or last day of the month.
For example, let’s say today is December 28, 2099, and as a New Year’s Resolution I am going to start a Vision Board. so I would set up my columns like so:
|Aspect||January 31, 2100||February 29, 2100||March 31, 2100||June 30, 2100||December 31, 2100|
Decide the Aspects of Your Life to Focus On
Identify the 3-5 key aspects of your life where you want to grow. It should be significant enough that there will be at least one vision for that aspect each month. My aspects at this juncture of my life are:
- Business (Ex: where I want my new business to be, such as gross profit or business plans)
- Financial (Ex: how I want my personal financing situation to be, such as having a certain balance in a rainy day fund)
- Kindness (Ex: major things I want to do for others or making a plan to set aside part of my budget for charity/gifts)
- Lifestyle (Ex: exercise, places I want to visit in the world, or important new purchases to move towards like a house or car)
- Spiritual (Ex: steps I need to take to become a better Christian, such as religious books to read)
Tailor it to your life. Take time to think and pray about what you need to work on. It’s OK to have some visions that may fall into more than one aspect.
If it’s an aspect that won’t necessarily have a vision every month, you can bundle it with other aspects. For example, I included my “Physical” aspect (i.e., exercise and sleep) and my “Travel” aspect into the broader Lifestyle aspect because I knew I wouldn’t be traveling every month, and I wouldn’t have major Physical milestones each month.
For you, maybe you do want to travel somewhere monthly, or you want to really focus on your physical health, in which case it may warrant being its own aspect.
Tips Before Adding Your Visions
Take time to think about where you want to be in each aspect 1 month from now, and also 1 year from now. Then work from the outside in to fill out visions for 2, 3, and 6 months from now.
The visions should all cooperate with one another. For example, if you want to buy a new car in 1 year, that can be a Lifestyle vision, and then you can add Financial visions that breadcrumb your way towards having enough money saved up one year from now.
A vision like this would also likely have implications on your Business/Career aspect. Maybe you need to land a higher-paying job 6 months from now to make buying a car 12 months from now feasible.
A couple key tips when deciding on a vision:
- Be very specific. There should be a clear finish line that you completed it. Don’t leave it vague or you risk your future-self cutting corners.
- Ex: Instead of “Have Rainy Day Fund”, do “Save 5K for Rainy Day Fund”.
- Phrase it as an action. Every vision needs to be action-oriented.
- Ex: Instead of “Better Sleep”, do “Go to Bed Consistently from 10p – 6a for at least the final week.”
Add a Vision for each Aspect into Your Vision Board
Once you have some ideas, in each column, add at least one vision for each aspect:
- If you use Trello: add a card for each vision. You can then open the card and add a Label. Customize your Labels such that there is one Label for each aspect. Use colors to your advantage (Ex: make “Financial” green to represent money).
- It’s totally fine to assign multiple labels to a single card. Just make sure every aspect is represented at least once in each column.
- For example, a pilgrimage is both Spiritual and Lifestyle, while a major business revenue goal is both Business and Financial.
- If you use a spreadsheet or a physical board: This can be a little clunkier but you have some options:
- Dedicate each aspect to a single row. This only gives you one cell for each aspect and each deadline, but in both Google Sheets and Excel, you can add line breaks within a cell in order to add multiple visions. The keyboard shortcut is usually ALT+ENTER or COMMAND+ENTER.
- Allocate a few rows for each aspect, and then just put each vision in its own cell.
- Color code the cell to identify which aspect it belongs to.
If I were doing it spreadsheet-style and having a single row for each aspect, it might look like:
|Aspect||January 31, 2100||February 29, 2100||March 31, 2100||June 30, 2100||December 31, 2100|
|Business||Finish Business Course||Have Client Onboarding Plan Determined||Have at least 2 Clients|
|Gross 25K||Gross 75K|
|Financial||Create Budget for Every Dollar||Save 2K for Rainy Day Fund||Pay Off All Credit Card Debt|
Save 2K for New Car
|Save 5K for Rainy Day|
Save 5K for New Car
|Pay Off All Student Loan Debt|
Save 10K for New Car
|Kindness||Start Monthly Habit of Volunteering at Food Pantry||Allocate 3% of Budget for Kindness/Charity||Pay for Mom’s Flight Home||Allocate 5% of Budget for Kindness/Charity||Send Parents on Pilgrimage|
Allocate 10% of Budget for Kindness/Charity
|Lifestyle||Establish a Morning Routine and Adhere to it at Least the Final Week||Go to Bed Consistently from 10p – 6a for at Least the Final Week.||Finish Athlean-X Exercise Program||Identify 5 Car Makes/Models|
Finish Writing and Producing First Song
Launch Debut EP
|Spiritual||Finish Spiritual Discernment Book|
|Finish Exodus Day 91 Human Formation Range||Attend a National Conference||Finish Exodus Day 91 Spiritual Formation Range||Finish St. Bridget’s 15 Prayers|
Go on Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine
Add Pictures and Style to Your Vision Board
This is exciting stuff! This is your roadmap to a better version of yourself. It shouldn’t look drab.
Take some creative liberty here to add drawings/pictures/photos for each vision. You can also decorate it or add color.
For a digital board, you can include emoji in your vision’s title. Have fun with it!
Vision Board Style Tips Specifically for Trello
In Trello, you can add covers to each card (I highly recommend this), which are photos that show up on the board for that card. Select pictures that capture what achieving that vision looks like or will feel like to you.
Bonus: Trello also permits GIFs as covers. Trello Gold (their paid version) has a Power-Up for Giphy, to make it easy to find GIFs, but you can also upload them as attachments and then make them your card cover.
Trello Gold also lets you add a background image. This isn’t as critical as it gets pretty obfuscated by your cards, and I don’t suggest making it too noisy/busy. But it can be a nice touch.
Ongoing Motivation & Maintenance
You need to commit to this board and balance two elements: (1) keeping it realistic and (2) not compromising in your discipline towards achieving it.
You MUST make sure you are tracking towards completing each vision in the next deadline. DO NOT let fear paralyze you. Promise to yourself now you will not compromise. For some raw motivation on this topic, take 5 minutes to watch this:
Do not permit yourself to ever get to a deadline and say to yourself, “Darn, I guess I didn’t realize this vision, I will move it to next month.” You need to catch this well ahead of time. Read the daily and monthly commitments below on how to pivot when life throws curveballs.
Your Daily Commitment
Every morning, look at the column for the upcoming deadline, and:
- Remind yourself how important each vision in the next deadline is to you, and that you want to achieve it.
- Add checklist/to-do tasks (in Trello or elsewhere) to ensure you are tracking towards completing every single vision in the next deadline.
- For example, I had a vision of completing a business course in 1 month, which was a series of about 32 videos, so I used a to-do list app to ensure I was watching at least 1-2 videos everyday.
- Avoid pushing out visions that are in the next deadline, whenever possible. If something unexpected and major comes up, then exercise prudence and update your vision board now.
- For example, if you have a death in the family and that will take up your time and emotional bandwidth, then you can bump out an existing vision, and then add a Lifestyle vision that you will commit to being there for your family, and making this emotional event as burden-free for them as possible.
Your Monthly Commitment
Every month, after passing a deadline, review the entire board, and:
- Archive/hide the column you just passed. Don’t straight up delete it. It’s nice to have for historical purposes. It’s like a journal! You can look back at it 1, 3, or 10 years from today and you will blow yourself away.
- Add columns for new deadlines, and then add visions to it, adhering to the following rules:
- Always have 3 columns for the next 3 months. To use my year 2100 dates from earlier as an example: on February 1, 2100, I will create an April 30, 2100 deadline in a new column, after the March 31, 2100 column.
- Every 6 months, create a new column for 1 year later. The first time you do this, you will be 6 months in, so you’ll create a column that is 18 months after the date you started this exercise). For example, on July 1, 2100, I would create a June 30, 2101 column to the right of my December 31, 2100 column.
- You are permitted to create columns/deadlines beyond 1 year, if you fancy that.
Bonus: Add a Motivational Column
My first column (far left) on my Vision Board is dedicated solely to motivational cards. The card’s title is an inspirational quote and the cover is a GIF. I look at these each morning:
That’s all I got on this. Enough talk. Start doing!