Creating a roadmap for your life: a guide to take your life in the direction you want to go

Creating the roadmap 

This is roughly what a roadmap for your life looks like:

Career: have a fulfilling career as a hair stylist. 
Choose personal brand name
Set up social media accounts and blog

Arrange volunteer work experience at a salon. Watch YouTube videos about hair styling Ask friends to practice styling their hair

Training to get qualified Apply for hair stylist jobsAdvertise home visit hair stylistMake videos for social media Set up own salon
Relationships: surround myself with positive people.
Spend time with friendsFind an awesome boyfriend

Find more friendsSpend more time with family
Health: be able to run a marathon in 2022
Buy running gearPlan 1 mile route to run

Research training tipsJoin a running club.Plan 3 mile route to run

Sign up for a half marathon in 2021Sign up for a marathon in 2022

Eat a healthy meal every day

It has five columns, the first of which is for your goals, and then the other four (Now, Next, Later Done) hold the tasks that are going to help you in achieving your goal.

You can set up your roadmap however suits you, as postit notes on the wall, on a board, or in a spreadsheet, as long as you can see it all at once and it’s easy to move tasks around. 

Visualising what you are going to be doing on a board like the example above is important for being able to understand the big picture of the direction you are taking your life and what you are focusing on. 

Limiting your now

We all only have a certain amount of time in our lives, so in order for this to be effective we have to limit the number of things in our Now column. How much you limit it to depends on how much time you have and how many rows you are working on. The now column is all about focus, so it should only have the few things that you are actually working on.

Ordering your next

The Next column contains the tasks that you want to do soon. They are things that you know you want to do because you’ve been able to answer ‘yes’ to the decision-making question below. We try not to set dates for things as other stuff in life gets in the way and we feel bad about not achieving it by the deadline, but if its something that has a deadline from outside (like signing up for a marathon in the example above). The important thing about the Next column is that it is ordered so that the most important thing is at the top and the least important at the bottom. When you have completed a task in your Now column and moved it to the Done column you’ve opened up space to move the task from the top of the Next column into the Now column. As not all tasks take the same amount of time and effort it sometimes might mean that you have to complete a move to Done a few small tasks before you move a big task from the Next to Now column. 

Filling up your later

The Later column is for all your ideas. Whether they are sensible or wild ideas, you add them to your Later column so you don’t forget them. You can regularly spend some time looking through the ideas here and ask yourself the decision-making question below. If you answer ‘yes’ then you can move the task into Next so it can be ordered with all the other tasks. Sometimes ideas in this column are too big and so need to be broken down into a number of smaller more achievable tasks.

Smiling at your done

The Done column contains all the tasks you’ve completed. Look at it occasionally to appreciate how much you’ve achieved towards your goal 

Deciding on your goals

How do you decide on what goals to work towards? Start with the biggest problem in your life, the thing that frustrates you the most. This goes in the top box in the left hand column. In the example above its Career. 

Then we need to get a vision of how we’ll know if we’re achieving the goal. I say ‘achieving’ and not ‘achieved’ because the thing about life goals is that they are never ‘done’ or ‘finished’. In the example the vision is ‘have a fulfilling career as a hair stylist’. This is a good vision because it is specific enough to give some direction but not too prescriptive so that it doesn’t limit how the goal can be achieved. So, ‘have a fulfilling career’ isn’t specific enough, and ‘have a fulfilling career as a hair stylist at X salon’ is too specific. 

This works even if you don’t know what career you want, the vision becomes something like ‘figure out what I want to do with my life’.

I usually start by getting people to think big about what they want to do with their life by asking things like ‘how do you want to contribute to the world around you?’ rather than just ‘what do you want to do to make some money?’. This is because fulfilling careers usually come about when the person feels they are doing something useful and worthwhile in the world.

Then pick the second most unsatisfactory thing in your life and do the same exercise. Once you have your goals (hopefully not too many) you can then think about the tasks that are going to help you with achieving your goals.


How do you choose which tasks to add to the board? Because almost all tasks start as ideas in the Later column they don’t have to be fully formed and can be as wild as you like. When looking for ideas, for example about having a fulfilling career as a hair stylist, it’s easy to look around at what other hair stylists are doing. The wider you’re research the more ideas you’ll get. You can also look at what similar careers are doing, so if yoga teachers (similar because they are both about making people feel good about themselves) are selling training courses to help people become yoga instructors then you could apply the same idea to hair stylists and offer training for other hair stylists. Even if you don’t feel skilled enough right now, it doesn’t matter because the idea is going in the Later column.

Making decisions 

Once you have your roadmap set up, and have clear goals you can use it to help you make decisions by asking yourself the question, “Does doing this take me closer to achieving my goals?” This question applies mostly when ordering tasks, but it can also help with deciding what not to do. So, you might not have ‘Don’t eat lots of chocolate cake’ as a task on your board, but you recognise that eating too much cake is going to help in achieving your Health goal, so asking yourself the question helps you decide not to.

The hard part

For most people, getting their roadmap set up is the easy bit. The hard part is having the motivation to work on the tasks. It can help to have someone who holds you accountable and asks, what have you done today?, when are you going to do that? 

If the goals are inspiring enough, over time you’ll not only get used to having the self-discipline to work on tasks, but you’ll actually enjoy it because you’ll see that you are getting closer to your goal.

Life lesson 45

Five years ago, when I turned 40, I wrote about the forty lessons I’d learned.

This is my lesson for this year: Health is important, all the stuff you’ve told about diet, exercise, sleep, drinking water, not drinking too much alcohol and not smoking, but the thing I’ve learned this year is that posture should be on that list. Get your posture right and things like walking, running, even sitting will be a little bit easier, get a wrong and you’re in for a lifetime of neck and back ache.

A roadmap for my life 

I’ve created a public roadmap for my life.

Keeping it to the simple ‘To do, doing, done’ format, the roadmap shows some of the things I’ve done including past jobs, educational achievements and experiences, things that are current in my life such my job, voluntary work and books I’m reading, and things I want to do including places I’d like to visit and doing another university course.

Seeing all of these aspects of my life in one place, what I’m doing with my time now and what I’m thinking of for the future, will help me to focus and encourage me to do things to move each card along.

Life and limb – My year in mountainboarding


The first few months of the year passed uneventfully. I went to a couple of small freeride meets but didn’t ride very much. In fact, in 2015 I went mountainboarding fewer times than in any of the ten years I’ve been mountainboarding. I wanted to ride. I still loved the feeling of riding a board through leafy woodland, but more and more life just got in the way.


Summer is competition season. This year’s comps followed the same format as the past few years; four boarderx, four freestyle and four downhill, so that’s twelve comps over six weekends, four of them at centres and two at other locations.

We did one of the downhill comps at the Fruit Farm in Gloucestershire. We chose it because it was a good track, it had camping, uplift track, etc., but also because it was near to where lots of mountainboarders live. We thought that would encourage more riders to attend. Turns out we were wrong. The comp had low attendance, and even though most of the riders who did go enjoyed it, it showed us yet again what we’ve known for a while, that there isn’t very much the ATBA-UK can do about people having other things got on in their lives.


The continual decline in the number of riders competing (because existing competitors drop out and because we don’t get very many new riders) meant we had some difficult decisions to make about the future of the competitions and the ATBA-UK. We had three options; carry on regardless and run twelve comps in 2016 knowing the entry figures would be low, pull the plug and accept that not enough people want mountainboard competitions to do any for 2016, or find some middle way and downsize the ATBA-UK and the competitions so that we can still continue in some limited capacity.

We went with option three: the UK Mountainboard Championship 2016, a single event featuring all three disciplines over a long weekend in August. It may look like an easy and obvious choice but it was actually a very difficult decision to make because it has such a huge impact on everything else the ATBA-UK does. With so few riders there was no way we could pursue our plans for recognition of mountainboarding as a sport (which has a real impact on the future of mountainboarding), there was no longer any reason to continue to offer paid membership as the only reason most people bought it was for discounted comp entry fees. No membership fees, along with drastically reduced income from only one event, means we’re at risk of not making enough money in 2016 to buy insurance in 2017, which means the ATBA-UK would have to close. I don’t want it to happen but I think it’s the most likely outcome.


With the competitive season out the way, and decisions about what next year’s season made, I had some time to better analyse the problem of not enough mountainboarders and come up with a solution.

It became clear that the reason there aren’t enough mountainboarders to maintain a community, warrant a governing body, justify competitions or make mountainboarding a sport is that there there isn’t sufficient infrastructure. Mountainboard Clubs, of which there were eight or so when I started, are almost non-existent now, and the number of Mountainboard Centres across the UK has halved in the last five or so years. With no one to ride with and no where to learn, no one gets into mountainboarding and so we see the decline of the past few year’s and get to where we are today.

Knowing the problem is half of the solution. The solution was to build new infrastructure. The solution was grass roots clubs that had a focus on providing instruction and accelerating the learning of new riders. These new kinds of clubs wouldn’t need to be big, they would only need three or four experienced riders and maybe three or four new riders. The new riders would be carefully selected to give the club the best chance of success. They would be in their twenties, have a job and a car, and would probably already be into snowboarding. These new ‘Top Gun’ clubs would offer free lessons and kit to be borrowed, and would be all about getting the new riders to sufficient standard for them to enter next year’s competitions. A few small clubs in as few different areas could surely produce five new competitors, and that is all we need, just five or so new riders each year. They would represent a ten percent increase in competitors and be enough to keep the entry figures steady.

So I created Thames Valley Mountainboard Club, built a website, and started to advertise. I bought boards, helmets and pads. I identified three likely new mountainboarders. And I organised fortnightly freeride meets across the Thames Valley. We had three meets and things were going well when the other pressure’s on my time became too much and I couldn’t go any further with TVMC. I’m still confident that it’s the right approach to getting more people into mountainboarding and onto competitions, and I wish I could have proved the theory and then roll out the model to create other clubs in other areas, but things don’t always work out the way you want them to.


As winter came around the amount of time I spent mountainboarding decreased even more. So when Mark from Team Dad needed a Secret Birthday Ride somewhere he’d never ridden I suggested Wendover Woods. This “secret” (actually it was only secret from Mark, more of a surprise) ride turned into the most well attended freeride meet of the past few years. Fourteen riders rode Truffler, Ripper’s Gash, Backbone, Painkiller and Tarantula (mountainboarders come up with some interesting names for tracks).


Tarantula is one of my favourite tracks. It starts with a drop, goes onto tarmac, through a narrow gap, along a leafy track, down some steps, and then into a steep narrow footpath, so has a lot variety. And on this day I rode it best I ever have.

A couple of weeks later and another Team Dad secret birthday ride, this time for Clayton. After lots of texting post codes, messaging directions, and picking up people from the train station, we all met at a new spot I had recce’d the week before. It had plenty of long fast tracks that could keep brake and non-brake riders entertained all day. We rode each of the tracks in turn, and went back to ‘Toy Box’, a steep leafy hillside for a second go. It’s a fun area to play in and we spent about half an hour finding new lines. Having talked about which tracks to ride next we all headed for the bottom. Mark, Clayton, Matt and me, and then Smilie. He came flying off the first drop, didn’t line up for the second drop and hit a tree. With that much speed, and with his feet in snowboard boots and firmly strapped into his board the force of the impact went through the next weakest part, his leg just above the boot. I ran over to Smilie, carefully got his feet out of his board, and stabilised his broken leg while I called an ambulance. A hour or so later, and with plenty of morphine, Smilie was in the back of a 4×4 ambulance on his way to A & E.

Smilie’s injury bothered me. It bothered me for two reasons. One, I very nearly hit that same tree minutes before Smilie did, and two, it made me realise how much responsibility I take on with organising freeride meets, being a first aider, working with the ATBA-UK, and not having the time to give to growing mountainboard clubs when I know that’s the solution to the situation mountainboarding is in at the moment.

Responsibility kills freedom…

40 things I’ve learned in my 40 years

1. Rule number 1
Don’t panic. Whatever is happening around, you take a breath and get a grip of yourself. Whatever it is, you can deal with it. You’ve dealt with everything up to this point and you’ll deal with this too.

2. Winning
Nice guys finish last. But it’s not always about finishing first, sometimes it’s about how you run the race.

3. Change
Life is a dynamic situation, things change, get used to it.

4. Karma
Karma’s a bitch. Especially if you’re counting on it to right some wrong done to you.

5. Behaviour
There is no such thing as good people and bad people, there are just people with both good and bad behaviours.

6. Planning
Nothing beats having a plan. If you want something, make a plan, make it happen. And have a back-up plan.

7. Consequences
You can’t have your cake and eat it. There are always consequences to every decision and action. There are always benefits and costs, positives and negatives in everything.

8. Choices
Make choices that give you another choice another day. This doesn’t mean procrastinate, just that limiting your options is a bad idea.

9. Need
It’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it. But you don’t need much.

10. Money
Thing about money is, you always have less than you want and more than you need.

11. Reading behaviour
Behaviour is communication. People will tell you how they feel, what they think, if they’re lying or telling the truth. All you have to do is learn to read their behaviour.

12. Driving
Three things you need to do to drive safely on a motorway; look as far ahead as possible and react now, always maintain your braking distance, and don’t change lanes into someone else’s blind spot.

13. Love
Love is an emotional attachment to someone or something that overwhelms reason. We develop these attachments as a means of fulfilling emotional needs within ourselves. Those needs can be about getting something from someone else, or about giving something of ourselves. There’s a big difference between love and loving. Love is a passive thing, loving is active. Loving someone means putting them first, above everything else, whether it feels good or hurts like hell. Someone might not be loving you how you want them to, but it might be all they are capable of. It’s up to you whether that’s good enough or not.

14. Health.
Being healthy means something different for each of us, but drinking water, eating fruit and vegetables, and getting regular exercise is probably a good start.

15. Experience.
Experiences are a good thing, especially when you’re young. They make you more interesting when you get old. Seek out new experiences, take on new challenges, do as many different things as you can while you can. Some of them you’ll look back on as mistakes and wonder what the hell you were thinking, and some of them you’ll consider defining moments, but all of them get you to where you are going.

16. Attitude
Life happens to all of us. The only difference is the attitude with which you approach it.

17. Learning
The most important thing you can learn is how to learn. We think (because schools told us) that everyone learns the same way and some people are good at it and some people aren’t. It’s not true. Everyone is just as capable of learning, you just need to find out what learning style fits you best (are you a watcher, a talker, or a doer), and then you’ll be able to suit the lessons to your style and learn whatever you want to. I’ve seen kids go blank when trying to learn about triangles from a book, but get them modeling plasticine or drawing big triangles on the floor and they get it straight away.

18. Self-improvement
Improving ourselves mentally, physically, and emotionally should be a high priority for all of us. Unfortunately it rarely is. If you can motivate yourself to learn new things, read books, talk to clever and/or interesting people, get regular exercise, spend time with friends, be on your own, meditate, pray, etc., you’ll see benefits over and over again. Self-improvement is different for us all so do whatever works for you.

19. Negative people
Some people feel so weak and powerless that they need to hurt others in order to make themselves feel better. Some people need to experience their life vicariously. Some people are just miserable. Get rid of negative, destructive people from your life. Do it now.

21. Footwear
Get a good pair of boots. They’ll take you a long way.

22. Skills
Robert Heinlein said, “Specialisation is for insects”, and he was right. Being a generalist is far more useful. Learn to do as many different things as possible. Have as a broad a range of skills as you can. Learn how to tie a shoe lace properly (you’d be surprised how many people can’t), learn to programme a computer, play a musical instrument, swim, use a compass, drive a tractor, saw a piece of wood straight, brush long hair, etc., etc. The list is endless and you never know when some random skill is going to come in handy.

23. Managing yourself
Learn how to manage yourself. Learn how to organise yourself, set goals and objectives, prioritise, manage your time effectively, communicate, and negotiate. Learn how to listen, how to speak clearly, how to lead and how to follow. Self-management skills are vital for success in whatever you do.

24. Managing others
Learn how to manage others. Learn how to develop shared goals, how to get buy-in, and how to work with people you may not even like. Learn how to manage people’s expectations, how to be clear about your expectations, how to work with people who work in very different ways to you, and how to deal with other people’s failures. Managing others is a vital skill for success in whatever you do.

25. Overrated
Intelligence is a great thing, but it’s overrated. Stupid people achieve amazing things all the time. Health is a great thing, but it’s overrated. Unhealthy people live long happy lives.

26. Systems
Everything exists in systems, all kinds of systems interconnected, working together, and working against each other. Understanding how systems work is very useful, and very important for feeling empowered to be in control of your life and make changes to the world around you. Fighting against systems that don’t even care if you exist is completely futile.

27. Happiness
Happiness is an acceptance of the status quo, and the pursuit of happiness is about trying to get to some idealised version of your life and then keeping it the same. But life doesn’t work that way. Things change (I may have mentioned that before), and so trying to keep things the same is never going to work and will only cause more misery. Ironic perhaps, but the pursuit of happiness is the cause of unhappiness. Not seeking happiness, but instead accepting a constantly changing life will make you far more… well, not happy, but maybe something else that is ok.

28. Challenge.
Life is full of challenges. I wish I could say ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’, but that isn’t true. Some of the challenges make you stronger and some of them knock you down. Some should be faced head on and some of them are best avoided. The better you get at knowing which are which, the better you will get at choosing which challenges to take on. Pick your battles.

29. Education
Education isn’t about learning a piece of knowledge, it’s about learning how to think in a specific way. Kids ask why they should learn about things like poetry when they’ll never need it when they grow up, but what they don’t understand (and the teachers don’t tell them or maybe understand themselves), is that being able to think metaphorically, read between the lines, grasp fuzzy concepts, communicate persuasively, and get across ideas in interesting and engaging ways is something they are going to need as adults. Studying poetry teaches that way of thinking, just as maths teaches a different way of thinking, and biology teaches a different way still. Learning to think in different ways is what education is really about (and I mean education in the purest sense of the word, not edu-exam-passing-qualification-getting-cation).

30. It’s not about you
It’s not personal. Whatever it is, it really isn’t personal, however much it feels like it. If someone is doing something negative to you, you need to understand that it’s because of what’s going on in their head, but it isn’t about you. If some catastrophe takes place, and you just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, it isn’t about you.

31. Know the facts
Evidence wins arguments. Proof trumps opinion. Facts beat guessing. Whatever the topic of discussion or decision to be made, knowing the facts and being able to provide the evidence means you are more likely to make the right decision and reach the right conclusion. Know the facts.

32. Contribute
Find something outside yourself that is important to you, something that you believe in, and contribute to it. Do something that makes it better and stronger. Whether it’s the life of an individual, or a charity, or doing random things to make the world a better place. It doesn’t have to be big bold gestures, sometimes it’s the small, behind-the-scenes things that have the biggest impact.

33. Complications
The more you look, the more you see. Things are always more complicated than they seem.

34. Work in progress
It’s all a work in progress. You, me, your life, my life, everybody else and everybody else’s life, every company, every government, the planet, and the whole entire universe.

35. Saving money
For most of my life I didn’t think about the future, always lived day-by-day and didn’t save any money. I’ve always thought that money is a representation of energy but it took a while for it to occur to me that I could store that energy by saving money. Saving money is a way of storing effort, enthusiasm, knowledge, skill and experience, and all those other non-physical things that only exist in the moment, so that you can spend them later. Saving money is a really good idea. And keeping an Emergency Fund topped up and ready for those rainy days when things go wrong is another good idea.

36. Confrontation
Learn how to deal with confrontation. Learn how to keep yourself calm in difficult situations and think clearly so that you can diffuse situations rather than make them worse. If someone is being aggressive towards you, the quicker you can understand their motivations and what is really going on for them (especially as they probably won’t understand it themselves), the quicker you’ll know what are the right things to say and do to resolve the conflict.

37. Expectations
People will never meet your expectations. They will hurt you, help you, make you smile, let you down, surprise you, and shock you, but never in the way you expect.

38. Return On Investment
Return On Investment is an important concept to learn. It’s important in business, and it’s important in personal life. If the time, effort or money you put into something is less than what you get out then you have a negative return on investment. A negative ROI will quickly drain you, your energy and/or your bank account. So, you should aim to have as many things as possible in your life with a positive ROI, things which give you more than you put in, things with more benefits than costs.

39. Focus
I try to do too much. Always have. Sometimes it works for me and I get loads done. Sometimes it doesn’t work for me and I get behind. But, when I focus on just a few things and put everything else aside I always achieve more. Learn to compartmentalise all the things going on in your head, to block out the things that get in way, and to concentrate on the things that matter. Learn to focus.

40. Uniqueness
Everyone is unique. I don’t mean that we are all precious snowflakes, but that each of us has our own set of skills, and while others may have the same skills, if you can bring together two or more skills in a niche arena, you can make yourself unique, and very valuable.