All of us have goals we want to accomplish in life. Maybe you want to do your taxes yourself for the first time or lose weight. You may also have a really big goal, such as starting a successful business or remodeling your kitchen. But to achieve your goals efficiently and effectively, you must have an action plan. An action plan is a tool that lists the tasks you need to finish to achieve your goal by a certain date.
The length and complexity of your action plan will depend on the complexity of your goal. If you just want to change your oil, your action plan can be a simple, half-page document. On the other hand, if you want to build that new kitchen, your action plan will consist of many pages and will likely have diagrams and drawings.
In this article, I’ll explain why an action plan is important and how to create one to help you achieve your goals.
Why Is an Action Plan Important?
An action plan is critical in accomplishing goals because it will help you stay motivated and ensure that you’re on track to complete your goal in a reasonable amount of time.
Have you ever planned to do something but procrastinated? Having an organized action plan will help you overcome procrastination by keeping you motivated with a visual map of exactly what you need to do and when you need to complete each task. It’s easy to put off that big project when you don’t have a solid plan to get it done.
You may lose motivation because it feels overwhelming. But after you create an action plan, you may find that you aren’t overwhelmed anymore because all of the tasks are laid out in an organized, step-by-step manner.
The action plan will help you monitor your progress. You’ll have an official start and end date, and you’ll know approximately how long it will take to finish each step. It can also help ensure that you’re staying within a certain budget and if you need to make adjustments to your time or resources.
How to Create an Action Plan
Here are the 6 steps you should follow in creating an action plan.
1. Define Your Goal
If you want to create an action plan, you first need to know your goal. To do this effectively, make sure you create a SMART goal, which must be:
- Specific – you must clearly identify the goal. An example is weight loss.
- Measurable – define the metrics or measures you’ll use to make sure you’ve completed the goal. An example is “I want to lose 70 pounds.”
- Attainable – make sure your goal is realistic. Losing 70 pounds in two months isn’t attainable, but losing 70 pounds in 7 months is something you can do.
- Relevant – make sure the goal is very important to you. This is a critical part of the process. Why are you doing this? Why is it important to you? Make sure your goal is aligned with your values and is authentic to you. Don’t do something just because of peer pressure or because of a reason that conflicts with your core values.
- Time-bound – you must have a specific start and end date. If your goal has a lot of steps, you’ll also want to know how long each step will take.
In our weight loss example, the goal can be: “I want to lose 70 pounds in 7 months because I want to be in good physical and mental health. I want more energy and I want to set a good example for my kids. I want them to know that health is very important.”
2. Pick a Tool to Create Your Action Plan
The tool you use to create your action plan will depend on the complexity of your plan. If you have a large, complicated plan, you may need specialized software to aid you.
Most action plans can be done with readily available software, such as Microsoft Excel or Word. I use Excel or Word for all of my action plans. A very simple action plan can even be written on a piece of paper.
3. List and Weigh Your Options
Now that you have your goal, list all of your options and the costs and benefits of each one. Continuing with our dieting example, you’d research the different dieting options and then list the pros and cons of each one.
Maybe the Mediterranean diet is the best one for you. Perhaps the keto diet would work well. Or maybe you want to create your custom diet. If necessary, get help from experts in the area in which you’re doing research.
4. Define Your Budget and Identify Resources
Not all goals require a defined budget, but many do. Define your budget up front. Then, identify the resources you need to complete each step of the plan.
The main resources you will need to achieve your goals are time, money, people, and technology. There may be certain technologies you want to use, but you don’t have enough money to buy them. If you have more money, you can buy more technology and hire more people to help you complete certain steps, which decreases the amount of time it will take to finish your project.
If you have fewer resources, it will take more time to reach your end date. Find the ideal balance for your goal.
5. List the Steps You Need to Take
Just like what I did in this article, you should list the steps you need to take in your action plan.
First, create a detailed, prioritized list of steps you must take to achieve your goal. Start with the very first step and end with the last one. Some steps will involve a series of other steps. Finding a good nutrition specialist may involve doing internet research, checking your current health plan for nutrition specialists, and talking to friends to see if they have specialists they can recommend to you.
Next, make sure you document all of the steps and, if applicable, all sub-steps involved in achieving your goal. Also indicate who is responsible for performing the steps, if necessary. And include what tools, technologies, and other things you need to finish the steps, along with the price of these things.
Then, ensure that you’re operating within your budget.
Finally, Document how long it will take to finish each step. If you have people helping you, make sure you work with them to determine exactly how long it will take to finish each step.
6. Monitor and Adjust Your Plan
Once you execute your plan, you have to closely monitor and adjust it to make sure you’re staying within your budget and that you’re completing each task on time. If some things cost more than your original estimates, you may have to use more economical options. Another way to cut costs is to learn how to do more tasks yourself instead of hiring others to do them.
I saved a lot of money creating my website for my life/business coaching and speaking website. You have to make sure you have enough time to learn new skills and technologies, which can sometimes require a big-time investment.
You may find that some tasks will take less or more time than you first estimated, so you’ll have to adjust your timeline as needed.
Creating an action plan gives you a clear direction. It’s a visual guide that will help you achieve your goals in an effective and timely manner.
A well-crafted action plan will help you stay motivated and committed to your goal. It will allow you to track your progress and make adjustments that will keep you moving toward that very important goal.
Always remember to start with a strong “why.” Make sure your end goal is something that’s aligned with your values and who you are. A lot of people procrastinate or fail to achieve their goals because they don’t have a strong reason to achieve them.
Your action plan will help you achieve those goals and when you’re done, you’ll feel extremely proud.
More Tips on How to Create an Action Plan
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