How To Design Your Life Backwards

How To Design Your Life Backwards | Productivity Tips | The Elgin Avenue Blog

It’s been a long’ol time since I’ve had a guest post here on The Elgin Avenue, but when Erin reached out to share her take on how to ‘design your life backwards’, I was ALL ears.

Productivity and goal-setting are things which regularly rotate here on the blog, and when Erin told me about her method below, I couldn’t wait to share it with you. Without further adieu, over to Erin . . . !

How To Design Your Life Backwards

How To Design Your Life Backwards | Productivity Tips | The Elgin Avenue Blog

Backwards design is something I do almost daily in my classroom as a high school teacher. The premise, in education, is to consider what you want the students to understand or produce at the end of a unit first, and then work backwards to create manageable learning goals and scaffolded steps for all your students to achieve that end goal. I have been applying that thought process to my life outside of the classroom, and it has made a huge difference. In fact, this is the method I am using to plan my Fall 2020 wedding! In my endless mission to find ways to work smarter, not harder, I wanted to share that process with you too.

What is your end goal?

What is something you are passionate about learning, or just love doing? When you look into your future, who is the person looking back at you? Your end goal could be a big life change, like getting that corner office or starting a family. Or, it could be a skill, like learning how to make bread or starting a blog. Then, set yourself a timeframe. Do you want to climb the corporate ladder in one year, or in five? Do you want your blog to launch in six months or six weeks?

Visualizing this end goal is the most important step of the process, because if you can’t see yourself at the finish line you will never start. Consider writing down what that image looks like; what you feel when you see yourself accomplishing that goal, what you hope to have gained in the process, and what your life might look like because of that success. Save this for when you face challenges in your journey, because those struggles will be there, and this vision will help push you forward.

Set intentional (and achievable) benchmarks

Now that you have the end in sight, what are the steps you need to take to achieve that goal? Write down as many obstacles that you can imagine that stand between you and the finish line. When your list is done, set your timer for 30 minutes and do some research. Don’t go down a rabbit hole! Odds are, learning more about your goal is probably one of the steps you will need to take!

Each of these challenge points is going to become a stepping stone in your journey. Organize these in a chronological manner. Then, under each of those points, assign yourself manageable tasks that you can literally check off as you slowly start to conquer these challenges. I love going old-school and literally checking off boxes, and recommend that once you’ve drawn out this list, write it down! Grab a piece of paper and your favorite pen, and make a nice copy of your to-do lists. Thinking over your process a second time, as you write it down, ensures that the journey you are creating is intentional and achievable.

Finally, create a timeframe that you can stick to.

Give each of your smaller tasks a deadline that you can reasonably meet, while keeping in mind all of the other responsibilities in your life. Sometimes, like in the case of my wedding, you have to stick to a hard end date. In other situations, you may find that you need more (or less!) time than you had initially envisioned in order to be truly successful. That is ok! You are taking a dream you have, and making it your life!

Stuck on where to start? Check out my FREE Backwards Design Template!


Erin is a secondary English Literature teacher, and the founder of the Young Educators Society; an organisation dedicated to supporting new teachers in the beginning of their career. When she’s not teaching, she’s either training for a half marathon or traveling around New England looking for the perfect vanilla latte. Follow her adventures at @erinhall47 on Twitter and Instagram!

Photography by Charlotte Bryer-Ash

How To Design Your Life Backwards | Productivity Tips | The Elgin Avenue Blog

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