Ondrej Markus

Entrepreneur in ed-tech, building the future of education as a founder and CEO at Playful.

I write about the future of education, designing learning games, and running a startup.

I'm a generalist, introvert, gamer, and optimizing to be useful.

stickman sitting at a desk

Design your lives

Create three different versions of the next five years of your life.

Design your lives

Designing your life is about realizing there is not just one ideal life for you, but many different meaningful lives you could enjoy.

Also, you don’t have to choose one path and stick with it for 30 years. It’s unlikely that’s going to work anyway because you don’t know what things are like until you try them.

That’s why we approach the problem of finding meaningful work we enjoy as designers:

  1. We come up with many potential life scenarios we might enjoy,
  2. Try and test as many things as quickly as we can.
  3. And then choose the option we want to commit to for now.

We will do the first one today and the next two in the following sessions.

Let’s get into it.

Visualize 5-year scenarios

Today, you will create three different versions of the next five years of your life.

Doing this will give you various options so you avoid getting stuck on your first idea and discover possible futures you might have never thought about before.

(This version of the exercise is a slightly changed version of what Bill and Dave describe in the book Designing Your Life.)

Exercise: Odyssey Planning

  1. Create a visual timeline of your next five years (template). Don’t focus just on work, but include personal events too: Do you want a family, run a marathon, or travel? Put it there.
  2. Write a six-word title describing the essence of this scenario.
  3. Make a dashboard where you judge the scenario in different aspects:
  1. Think about three questions you need to answer to increase your confidence this scenario could work for you.
Five-year timeline template

Five-year timeline template

Use every bit of insight you have from previous sessions to inspire your scenarios:

And now the most fun part: Every scenario will have a different theme:

  1. Scenario 1: Your plan A – Start by visualizing what is your current and/or most favored work-life scenario for the next five years.
  2. Scenario 2: If your plan A wasn’t possible – Imagine the first scenario is not viable for some reason. You have to do something else. What might happen then?
  3. Scenario 3: If money, status, and impact were no object – Let’s push things beyond limits and imagine all these things didn’t matter. What might you do then?

Don’t worry about creating perfectly organized visions. That’s not the point. The goal is to discover new ideas and potential futures you might not have otherwise realized were there.

Try it. It’s fun.

I did it too using the template, and I share my 5-year scenarios as examples:

My first option scenario

My first option scenario

My first option didn’t surprise me because I’ve already thought about it before (I’m living it). But it was still useful to look further into the future and connect the dots on a timeline.

Let’s go next.

My second option scenario

My second option scenario

This “plan B” scenario surprised me a little. I could imagine doing different things, but the game designer came to me first, so I rolled with it.

I’ve never actually thought about game design as a viable full-time work-life, and even though it might not work for me as a whole, I will borrow the best parts and add them to my life. Nice.

My third option scenario

My third option scenario

It’s weird to imagine a world where no external reason to work exists (money, status, impact), and it’s all about you and what you want to spend your time doing.

I struggled to come up with things because it was so different from how I usually think about life. But I embraced the experiment and tried something.

The result speaks for itself: My dashboard score doesn’t give this one high chance.

However, I learned from this that games are probably more important to me than I thought so I shouldn’t neglect them in my life (even if it’s not work-related).

In conclusion, this exercise isn’t about figuring out a perfect scenario from A to Z. Its purpose is to help you find insights for your work-life you might otherwise miss.

If you unleash your imagination, every scenario, however unrealistic, will teach you something_._

My third option scenario

My third option scenario

Try it. It’s a fascinating experiment to imagine different futures for yourself.

That’s it for today.

Next week, I will take a short break from life design articles and write something else. Then I will come back with Career prototyping.

(This is the fifth part of my Life Design Series. You can start with the first part.)