Nobody declares from their deathbed that they wished they had spent more time at the office

The focus of these columns has been on how to effectively run a business. But it is next to impossible to run businesses well if our personal lives are a mess. Accordingly, in addition to a business plan, a personal plan can be of great benefit.

This can be far harder than it may sound, but can be tackled with two steps I call the “two –ize” — categorize and prioritize.

A good personal plan spans the full spectrum of our lives. To help insure that the full breadth of that spectrum is addressed, create categories. While your list should be customized for your needs, here are five Fs to get you started:

Faith. Your spiritual life; your relationship with God; your worldview.

Family. Your relationship with those you care about the most.

Fitness. Your physical and emotional health.

Finances. Your career and how you manage your assets, now and into the future.

Fun. What you do to rejuvenate, relax and enjoy.

Your list will likely be different than this, but make sure that all of the important areas in your life are included in at least one category.

The next step is to establish priorities. This can be pretty difficult.

Put your list of categories in the order of your life priorities. Once done, as a test, you should be able to look at each category and ask yourself, if I fully addressed this item, but did not address any of the items below it, would I be okay with it? If the answer is yes, you have prioritized correctly.

Inversely, look at any category on your prioritized list and ask, if I got this one done but missed an item above it, would that be okay? If the answer is yes, then you need to adjust your priorities and try again.

Like any plan, one of the roles this plan can play is in facilitating communication. Show your prioritized list to the ones you love and ask what they think. Is it okay that my career is a higher priority than my family? Is it okay that fun is a higher priority than finances?

If your personal plan goes no further than this, it will enrich your life. If you take your personal plan at least one step further, you will be glad you did.

Next, set at least one annual goal for each category. For example, when our family was young, we set a goal to spend at least 30 nights under the stars each year as part of our “Fun” category. We hit that goal, and we are all glad we did. Many memories were formed in the process.

Do strive to balance short-term goals with long-term goals. Financial goals should be detailed for the current year, but retirement goals are super important as well.

Once all this is done, set an action item to review the list often. Monthly works for most people. Make sure you are making progress in each category, and that you are moving toward any goals you have set. Again, involved your loved ones in this process.

Lastly, as milestones are achieved, celebrate. Feel good about doing what needs to be done. Celebrations make achieving even more ambitious goals more likely.

Dave Bartholomew is retired after a career as a business adviser to leaders around the world. He and his wife Nancy also owned Simply Living Farm, a retailer of goods for a sustainable life. Prior to that he was CEO of several manufacturing companies in the outdoor recreation industry. He has authored three books, written numerous regular columns and taught at many universities. He can be reached at