Quick and Easy Explanation of Dreamlining

First things first—Happy New Year! If you’re like most people out there, you’ve got a few resolutions in mind for 2011. Things you’re finally going to do once and for all or things you’re going to stop doing once and for all. Whatever it is you’re planning, my advice to you is break out a pad and pen and start writing those resolutions down. Until you get your ideas down on paper, they’re not goals—they’re wishes. Most wishes do nothing more than float around in the air without ever being granted.

Speaking of goals and wishes, today I’m going to discuss dreamlining. The principle is explained in depth by Tim Ferriss in his book The Four Hour Work Week, but—lucky for you!— I’m going to give everyone an abbreviated version of dreamlining right here and now.

Dreamlining: Ask Yourself 3 Quick Questions

In short, dreamlining is the best method I’ve found to record everything I want to have, want to be and want to do in the next six to twelve months. I actually got the original idea for my mini-retirement trip to Europe as a result of dreamlining. It’s a method that helps people define their goals and prioritize them. It’s a way to help you obtain the results you desire out of life. To get going, you’ll need to ask yourself:

“What do I want to have?”

“What do I want to be?”


“What do I want to do?”

Now for the hard part. You have to come up with answers to these questions for the next six months and the next twelve months.

Think Big! It’s Fun!

When we’re kids, we think that we can do anything or be anything as long as we put our minds to it. Sadly, most of us lose that mindset as we grow older. While you’re dreamlining, get out of your mind’s comfort zone. Forget about thinking realistically for once (that you want to buy a couple of movies in the next 6 months) and think big (that you want to buy the latest and greatest jumbo flat screen TV to watch Blu-Rays on in the next 6 months.)

I’ve found that the easiest way to keep track of things while dreamlining is to create a chart. It can be as fancy as you’d like it to be. Create a spreadsheet on your computer or draw three columns on a piece of paper, jot down your 6-month answers on one side of the page and your 12-month answers on the other side. Once these goals are written down, you can start working on ways to achieve them. Start making plans! (Yes, it really is possible to save up enough money to buy a great new TV in six months. You’d be amazed at the things you can cut out of your budget if you get creative.)

So before I leave you today, remember this. If I hadn’t told myself to think big while I was dreamlining, I wouldn’t have had the chance to travel through Europe, see some spectacular sights and meet a ton of great people. A few people in my life thought I was nuts when I initially started making my European plans, but they were envious—almost spiteful—when I got home and described all the great experiences I had. Hey, maybe I should have recommended dreamlining!

Take Action. Get Results.

28 thoughts on “Quick and Easy Explanation of Dreamlining”

  1. Hi Steve,

    I feel the power of dreamlining comes from making your goals tangible by writing them on paper.

    When a goal is held in mind we tend to play mental games with it. Our little destructive voices say “You can’t do that” and before the dream is allowed to take seed it scatters to the wind. When written down on paper the idea seed has found purchase. The only way to lose the dream is to lose the paper.

    Another benefit? The dream stares back at you. You feel fully responsible for owning the dream so when you make choices that don’t move you in the direction of your dreams the inevitable result will be feeling bad about making low energy choices. The paper is a great accountability partner.

    Sit, ask these questions and wait for answers. Put your deepest desires in writing and go about making them a reality now.

    Thanks for sharing your insights into dreamlining.


  2. Ryan,

    You make some great additional points about dreamlining. writing down goals does make it more concrete and less ephemeral. Your phrase about dreams scattering in the wind is a perfect example of this is very true. Without having a concrete goal written down is very easy to simply convince yourself that dream is impossible or decided is not something that you really want. It’s a lot harder to do this when you have taken the time to write down concrete goals.

  3. Writing things down really helps me align what I want my future to be.

    My main point regarding dreaming, of course, is it only stays be a dream until said dream gets manifested by concrete actions. And that, alas, can be quite the 800 pound gorilla rub…. 🙂

    • Barbara,
      YOu are, of course right. Even having a dream down as a goal is a little bit ephemeral until you take those first concrete steps. I would make an argument that having the steps listed along with the real “plan” of implementation does make a goal and not a dream. As a steps are actionable and relatively immediate. Nothing like, “six months from now I will start __________.”

  4. Writing Things down and having a vision board, not in the sense a vision board is supposed to be, but in the form of Reminder. a displayed report card that can your progress in each goal. Now whenever you glance the vision board you will know what to do. Also first thing is to create a burning desire of your goals, and think as you are living them. This brings more action and more motivation.
    Nice post at the right time when everyone wants to think that way.

    fran A

    • Fran,

      You make a good point about vision boards -And_ having something to write things down on. I think a vision board is important and can give you something to strive for your goals. More importantly though I keep two whiteboards my my desk one for all my goals and one to jot down odd ideas. I think that having something like this is very important you need a way to keep track of your goals as well as as you say a place to put your ideas.

  5. Hi Steve,

    I’ve got to go back and re-read Tim’s book (and get the lastest one, too). I need reminders to dreamline and make sure that I am working on my priority goals for the year. It’s amazing how fast time goes by and although I did achieve some of my goals for 2010, some fell by the wayside and I was disappointed. But, it’s a new year with new possibilities and I’ve been re-energized to make overdue life changes this year.

    Thanks so much for being such a wonderful source of inspiration 🙂

    All the best to you and your family in 2011,

    • Karen,

      It is amazing how fast time goes by. It is already 2011 and that is something that both excites me and scares me because of the time that is passed.

      I feel you’re not reaching your goal I have exceeded some goals but missed the mark on a few also. That is life. It is important to set the goals high enough to have something the struggle towards but low enough that the lease most of that are achievable.

      The way I see dreamlining, though, is almost not being realistic with it. Obviously it’s not for deciding you want to make $10 million online in a year when you previously may lessen the thousand, but the goals should be tough to reach though doable. In my mind is a way to turn the unrealistic into realistic (though hard).

      I’m sure you are going to kick ass in 2011!

  6. Dreamlining – This concept is totally new to me. Man, I really need to read Tim’s book..I hear about it everywhere.

    Anyways, I totally agree that until you get your ideas down on paper, they’re not goals, they are plain old wishes.

    Great motivational share at the start of a new year Steve. Happy new year to you!

    • Even without reading it, you have the idea. The term dreamlining may be a new term, but the concept is old as the hills. A goal is just a dream until it is written down and a plan made to make it work.

      Happy New Year to you too Adam!

  7. Hey Steve, Happy New Year to you my friend!

    I sat down to set my priorities for 2011 last night, but totally forgot to set a few good dream lines. I will now revisit and set them tonight. Just wanted to say thanks for the reminder!

    • Happy New Year Josh!

      I hope everything went well with you and that you are ready to hit the ground running for this 2011. Streamlining is definitely worth a couple Minnesota takes I hope her money the idea gives you a little bit of a kickstart on setting up for great 2011.

  8. Great advice as ever Steve (oh, and Happy New Year!) I did something similar a couple of days ago although it looked different to how you did it. You know those annual newsletters that some families send out? I wrote one dated Decemeber 15th 2011 and in it I talk about all the awesome, cool stuff that has happened in the year past. Except of course right now it’s all still just dream stuff. It was such fun to write, hugely inspiring and something I plan on keeping close by for those days when I need a shot of motivation.

    • El,

      A very happy new year to you too! 🙂 I really like your idea of writing a list with the idea of it being a letter from next December. It is a little bit of dreaming, you will certainly need to nail them into goals, but something like that could be very inspirational and something I’ll be awesome for a vision board or even to simply taped above your desk or something.

      I certainly think such a letter can be incredibly motivational. I must’ve been great fun to write. I hope you had a wonderful holiday season. Best wishes


  9. I tried dreamlining and it doesn’t work for me. It’s writing down goals basically, but doesn’t give me the motivation, willpower, discipline, focus, knowledge, etc. to fulfill those goals. It’s on the right track though.

    • for sure you still need motivation to come from the inside. Simply writing it down is going to make the motivation. But it’s going to give you more motivation than having it simply as an idea in your head.

  10. Hi Steve,

    I like this concept dreamlining. Exactly our goals should be challenging. What I like to do is before I go to sleep, I like to focus on my goals, especially the most important one. I do this in the morning as well, when I go over my gratitude list. It helps to keep me focus on what I want to achieve. If each one of us spends, let say, an hour a day working on one goal, that is 30 hours a month. You will be suprise at how much a person can accomplish in a month. Big dreams do come true 🙂 Thanks for sharing

    • Dia,

      Makes really good points. Even just one hour a day every day toward your long-term goals adds up being significant amount time by the end of the month. The goal should be hard-to-reach. That makes it an accomplishment. of course it should still be reachable.

      by competition a little bit at a time, like you said slow and steady will win the race.

  11. Hi Steve

    I have written my goals for 2011. However, for the moment they are all do-able. Haven’t got to the next step yet of the tough stuff. Want to achieve some things that will push me through to that next level. Maybe then I’ll start dreaming of even more.

    Patricia Perth Australia

    • Patricia,

      keeping your goals doable first is perfectly fine strategy. After all they say that the road 1000 miles begins with a single step. Anyway even in that analogy you been a couple hundred miles. 🙂 I have no doubt my mind that you will reach your goals and exceed them in this coming 2011.

  12. First off – I LOVE that title. I was like
    “Dreamlining? What’s dreamlining?… OOOh look – a quick and easy explanation. Woo Hoo!”

    And What a post to start the year mate!
    Thanks so much for sharing this knowledge – I already have the questions written down and will be taking them to bed with me and dreaming, I mean dreamlining.

    On a side note – I just watched Scarface so I thought dreamlining was something completely different.
    On a tangent off of the side note – I didn’t really just watch Scarface – I blatantly lied to you in a vain attempt to reference drugs.

    Have an awesome year bro – not that I wont see you again soon 🙂

    • Alex,

      I hope it was quick and easy enough! you certainly should dream, dream line, drum line, dream linger or whatever you want to call it. The important part is harnessing dreams that are stretch and make them into reality.

      on a side note I just watched Scarface to.

      On another side note I just lied to you about watching Scarface so that I would feel hip and cool 🙂

      Keep rocking on Alex, have a great 2011!

  13. Hey Steve,

    The concept of dreamlining definitely seems interesting. Giving an accurate answer to those three questions is everything but easy though. At least there’s a good time frame in place.

    Either way I really liked the point that no matter what the answers, we should dream big. Certainly agree on that one – dreaming big is the only way to grow in whatever the direction. If there’s a proper plan in place, things get a lot easier. Acting upon that plan is what matters of course. Many people fail on that spot – they plan and plan but never really start working to make it a reality.

    So even though you might not achieve the dream you’ve set yourself, you will get a lot further than when setting too realistic and easy to achieve goals.

    Great article mate! Best wishes for the new year! Hopefully it will be a better one! 🙂

    • Daniel,

      you got it. Dreaming big is the best way to go. The most important step isn’t how big or not they give you enough is that you take whatever your goals are and make concrete steps out of them. You could have a small stream in the world or the biggest but without actionable steps to get there real plan chances of it happening is unlikely.

      I dream I win the lottery all the time, fortunately I’m smart enough that I almost never buy tickets. Of course understanding the odds also inhibits the minimal chance that such a dream dream could actually come true.

  14. In reply to Alex, I really have watched Scarface (for the third time). It’s got a great over-the-top ending, that I wanted to admire again.

    Steve, I’m jealous of your office, TWO whiteboards – that’s great. 8) I have a notice-board where I pin up reminders and goals, but I’d love to have something like a whiteboard which is easy to change.

    I prefer my targets and goals written down on paper, where I can see them. I then draw up little charts and diagrams in my diary, which I take great satisfaction in completing. I always have a weekly target which I record, and I certainly don’t want to fill in any zero’s here. that keeps me motivated. 😉

    I keep seeing this Tim Ferriss book mentioned on blogs, I shall read it next time I come across a copy.

    Leamington Spa, England

    • John,

      I have to say that when I was traveling not having a whiteboard was one of the biggest things I missed. Funny huh.

      You should certainly get one for your, “command center”. It certainly helps with goals and ideas. Having them someplace we can always see them.

      A diary is fine too, of course, I don’t have a diary per se, I write notes and even charts and graphs like you talking about all the time in a notebook, which is pretty similar to a diary.

      on the practical side of things (how to go about creating the “internet lifestyle”) Ferriss is a little bit thin in his book in my opinion. I would almost skip those sections. On the other hand, for inspiration purposes, his book really is good and worth reading.

      As a matter fact I am currently reading his new, “exercise” book, “the Four Hour Body”

  15. Steve,
    I started using the spreadsheets at Tim’s website. I expected to read more about what you do with them in later chapters. Still waiting. I need a notebook to capture thoughts. Without one, each day is like the movie Momento and I have to reconstruct where I am.

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